The Duration of Withdrawals for a List of Drugs

Sitting right next to the bed in almost every home in America is a small, ticking clock. It’s the first thing people see in the morning, and all day long, the moving hands indicate when some activities should start and others should stop. In time, adults become conditioned, and they watch the clock throughout the day. Knowing when things should take place becomes comforting, and it seems to give the days rhythm and predictability. Unfortunately, not everything runs right on schedule. Drug withdrawal, for example, progresses at different speeds in different people, and while guidelines can indicate how long things typically take, the individual cases can vary widely.

This article will outline how long the withdrawal process typically lasts for different kinds of drugs. It’s important to remember, however, that the rates can vary dramatically from person to person, so these timelines should be used for estimation purposes only.


Hard drugs like heroin and prescription drugs like Vicodin all work on the same sets of receptors within the brain, and as a result, they cause the same kinds of withdrawal symptoms and the discomfort tends to last for a similar amount of time. In general, opiate withdrawal isn’t considered life-threatening, but it can be quite uncomfortable to endure without some kind of medication management. Whether the person obtains help for the discomfort or not, the symptoms tend to persist for about 30 hours, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.


It was once assumed that people who were addicted to marijuana could simply stop taking the drug at any time they’d like to do so, and when they stopped their abuse, they wouldn’t feel any symptoms of withdrawal at all. It’s likely people made this assumption because the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal tend to be rooted in behavior and mood, rather than in physical discomfort and pain. People with marijuana withdrawal can feel:

  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Angry
  • Unable to sleep

A study in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology suggests that symptoms are the most pronounced during the first 10 days of abstinence, but some people can have symptoms lasting for 28 days or even longer.


The sedating power of alcohol can persist, even when the person no longer feels impaired by the last drink. In time, all of the sleepy brain cells begin to awaken, and sometimes, they move into overdrive, emitting too many signals at too rapid a pace. The person begins to feel overwhelmed with information, jumpy and shaky, and nightmares can impair sleep. These mild symptoms tend to take hold within five to 10 hours of the last drink, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and the symptoms can get worse within 48 to 72 hours. At this point, people might develop shaking hands or jittering teeth, and they might even develop seizures. Some people retain these symptoms for weeks, although medications can help to soothe distress and help people to feel more comfortable.


The powerful sensation of euphoria and energy that cocaine brings can leave within mere minutes, but people addicted to this drug can develop feelings of depression when they withdraw, and those feelings can persist for months. People with this addiction may not discuss their feelings with others, so the people around them may not know that depression is at play, but the sensation of grief and loss can be profound, and it can make life seem as though it’s not worth living. Medications can soothe the chemical imbalances that lie beneath this depression, allowing people to feel more at ease and comfortable, so they can participate in their addiction therapy programs.


Drugs like Valium can help people deal with anxiety and insomnia, but they can also cause persistent changes within the brain that can lead to sedation. The withdrawal symptoms are similar to those experienced by people who abuse alcohol, beginning with nervousness and possibly ending with seizures. The whole withdrawal process can take weeks to complete, although most people work with their doctors on a slow taper of these drugs, so they don’t endure life-threatening complications.

If you’re ready to leave drug addiction behind, please call us. We are adept at helping clients to develop detox programs, so they can wean away from drugs without experiencing serious complications in the process. We’d like to help you too. Please call to get started.