The Withdrawal Timeline for Commonly Abused Drugs

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What Is A Withdrawal Timeline?

Are you attempting to get through withdrawal after suffering from drug addiction? Perhaps you are watching a friend, family member, or loved one journey through this process. It can be a difficult time filled with complications and, depending on the drug, withdrawal can take months to complete. Even after the drug is fully removed from your system, there is always the chance of a relapse. In this article, we’re going to explore the withdrawal timeline for each commonly abused drug and how the withdrawal symptoms can impact you.



Alcohol is often mistaken for a stimulant because we use it on social occasions and at celebrations. In reality, alcohol is actually a depressant. It essentially numbs the mind and slows down the nervous system. Consuming alcohol lowers your inhibition and reduces reaction times significantly. This is why, after taking alcohol, you are in no condition to drive a car or complete any task that could put your life or another person in danger. Over a significant period of abusing alcohol, you may notice permanent changes to brain function and a key sign of this would be slurred speech.

During withdrawal, it’s likely that you will experience sudden and severe mood swings. You may also experience typical withdrawal symptoms such as shaking and vomiting depending on the period you have abused alcohol for. Anxiety and sweating are also common and these will last for roughly the first eight hours after you stop drinking.

By 24 hours, it is possible you may experience hallucinations. These hallucinations can be anything and may seem quite surreal. It’s possible that this will continue for several days. Through the withdrawal timeline, individuals can experience both delirium tremens and seizures. As such, it’s important to understand that professional assistance will typically be necessary.

Full alcohol detox can be completed in roughly one to three weeks. However, the risk of relapse remains for months or even years after. As such, it is important that there is a firm support system in place.



Benzodiazepines (AKA “benzos”) are commonly used to treat different issues with anxiety as well as other psychological conditions. However, users can become addicted to these drugs. Those who take benzos and have had issues with drug abuse beforehand are far more likely to experience a perceived high. Using the drug for several months will significantly increase the chance of an addiction developing.

Abusing the drug will put users at risk of both mental and physical side effects. These can be quite serious and include changes in speech, periods of confusion, shaking, slowing of the heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and extreme levels of weakness. For long-term effects, it is more likely that those individuals who are abusing the drug to develop issues with dementia. This illness does impact the brain and causes memory loss over time as well as problems with language and motor skills. These drugs also make the possibility of an overdose increasingly likely.

Through withdrawal, the severity of the symptoms will depend on how and in what quantity the drug was taken. Those who were taking high doses of the drug or had been using the drug in the long term are more likely to develop severe issues. Symptoms can include:

  • the trouble with anxiety and difficulty sleeping
  • restless, irritable
  • anything from blurred vision to nausea or malaise
  • sweating
  • issues with muscle coordination 
  • spasms or twitching of muscles.

More psychological symptoms may include hallucinations or serious delusions and constant or continuous ringing in the ear. It is important that treatment is sought out immediately as the condition through withdrawal can be life-threatening.

The time it takes to withdraw from this drug will depend on the type of benzo that was abused and the way it was taken. Family history and mental conditions may also lead to distinct differences.

There are two phases of withdrawal from benzodiazepine.

The first can be seen as acute. This can last anywhere from one week to ninety days. The second is post-acute, also known as PAWS (Post-acute withdrawal syndrome) and this may last months or potentially years.

Signs of withdrawal begin within eight hours for shorter-acting forms of the drug. This includes Halcion, Xanax, and Ativan. If a longer-acting drug is taken such as Librium, Valium, or Klonopin, signs can start up to forty-eight hours after the drug was taken for the last time.

Within the first few hours and up to two days afterward, general withdrawal symptoms may include loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and nausea.

Through the first week, patients may experience physical discomfort, emotional issues, higher levels of anxiety, and insomnia. Risks of seizures also increase during this time.

Through the first two weeks, users may feel better but can revert back to suffering from anxiety or insomnia. This can occur consistently throughout this period. That’s typical because benzo can have a long half-life. This means it will be a while before it leaves the body.

Acute symptoms fade after fifteen days. PAWS symptoms can occur at any time after this. As such, it is essential that benzodiazepine detox continues to guide the patient through this difficult process.



Opiates can either be legal or illegal. Legal forms of the drug include morphine, oxycodone, and codeine.  Heroin is the most common form of an illegal opioid. There are various physical and mental impacts of abusing both legal and illicit opioids.

They do have a severe impact on your mood, leading to issues with general anxiety, euphoria, psychosis, depression, irritability, and a lower level of motivation. You may also experience temporary higher levels of self-esteem or delusions of being “great”. People using opioids often start to completely abandon key activities in their life.

Physical symptoms can be severe to acute as well. You might experience a higher sex drive, increased energy, and improved alertness. However, it can also cause trouble sleeping, high blood pressure, a high heart rate, constriction of blood vessels, and sensitivity to sensory issues.

When you are addicted to opioids, symptoms can be even more severe. This can include high levels of fatigue, depression, and feelings of confusion or nausea. You may also notice that you feel breathless and have severe pains in your chest.

While withdrawal can differ depending on specific traits of the individual, it does tend to follow a similar path for every patient.

The first phase lasts between one to three days. They can start within the first twenty-four hours and can be incredibly painful. The discomfort experienced will not last beyond this phase and as such, this is where relapse is most common. During this time, an individual can experience anxiety, insomnia, irritation, and increased levels of aggression. Stomach issues, sweating and muscle pain are also common during this time.

Phase 2 occurs between days three and five. Usually, at this time, many of the most severe symptoms will have subsided. You will not have to worry about issues with high levels of pain but some symptoms will still remain. Stomach cramps and slight muscle aches are common. You may also find that you struggle with shivering and experience higher than normal levels of fatigue.

It is important to once again note that everyone will experience the withdrawal timeline from opiates slightly differently. Certain individuals will experience severe symptoms that continue beyond five days. Other symptoms will disappear after about a week. Mild symptoms can continue for more time than we have mentioned here but this is quite rare. Opioid withdrawal can still be dangerous and the first couple of days are the most critical.



Commonly known as meth, this is typically in powder or crystallized form. It looks like bluish or white rocks and is quite similar to amphetamine. This category of drug (-amphetamines) can be used to treat ADHD as well as certain sleep disorders, but often these medications are made in a professional pharmacy lab. Meth known on the streets is often made at home with cheap, dangerous chemicals.

Meth has several effects on the brain because it increases the natural pleasure chemical, dopamine. Dopamine is involved in motivation and reinforcement of getting rewards from certain behavior as well as the movement of the body. This is why this drug is so addictive because just taking it reinforces the idea that you should be completing these actions.

The short-term effects of meth include rapid breathing and a change to your heartbeat. You may also find that appetite changes and experience significant switches in blood pressure or body temperature. Furthermore, you may find that you are more physically active when you are experiencing the ‘high’ this drug provides.

Long-term impacts can be more severe, altering judgment and increasing the likelihood of behaviors that one would consider risky. It can also trigger cognitive issues including changes in understanding and learning. Further impacts may include anxiety, depression, spouts of violent behavior as well as serious dental health issues. In terms of mental symptoms, one may experience both hallucinations and paranoia.

If meth use continues for years, one can experience changes to coordination and difficulty learning verbally. Studies have also shown issues with both emotion and memory that can be permanent. However, other symptoms and issues can be reversed after being off the drug for a significant period.

Out of all the drugs to withdraw from, meth is perhaps one of the worst. The withdrawal effects begin 24 hours after taking the drug for the final time and can last for up to forty weeks. This makes a withdrawal from this drug a long struggle but one that can ultimately provide incredible value.

Do be aware that like other drugs, various individual factors can impact how a withdrawal timeline progresses. For instance, if you were taking significantly high levels of meth, then the withdrawal will be far more difficult for you. The environment and psychological factors also have a part to play here as well. If you are trying to quit in an environment that is triggering, it will be rather difficult.

There are two methods an individual can know how to quit meth. Either, they can quit completely or they can slowly lower their levels until they are off it completely (also called “tapering”).

While the first option is beneficial because severe side effects are often greatly reduced, the latter ensures that the individual does not get addicted to another substance, pushing their recovery back significantly.

There are typically three main levels of the meth withdrawal timeline. These are the crash, craving, and finally, the recovery.

The crash lasts roughly ten days which is quite a short period of the total recovery. During this time, users will experience a significant decline in both cognitive function and energy. It’s quite common for individuals to feel depressed during this phase as well and experience problems with paranoia, anxiety, and hallucinations. While addicts do not typically want the drug at this time, they will eat enormous levels of food and then completely crash around the third day. This is when the most recent dose finally leaves the body.

The second stage causes cravings and will typically last ten days. It will often include both insomnia and depression. Once the crash is over, meth addicts will begin looking for the high that they gained from the drug once more. It’s important to understand the massive level of euphoria that this particular drug brings. It triggers a tremendous level of temptation. It’s common to feel completely powerless during this stage and seek out the drug to provide the lost feeling.

During the third stage, the recovery from the drug can finally begin. This can only occur once the cravings are less powerful and less frequent. This final stage takes the bulk of the withdrawal and can last for as much as thirty weeks. In some cases, it can be far longer than this. It is important during this time for addicts to exist only in a clean environment where people can hold them accountable for their potential sobriety.

It’s worth noting that throughout the withdrawal, the individual is losing a drug that provides high levels of dopamine and increased pleasure. As well as this, taking it for long periods can result in lower levels of dopamine receptors leading to people struggling to feel pleasure without it. The effects can last as long as two years after quitting the drug and can leave a serious chance of relapse. Mental issues will cause the majority of problems during withdrawal. However, painful headaches and severe levels of fatigue are common. It’s also possible for individuals to gain a lot more weight during this time.


Cocaine Withdrawal Timeline

Cocaine is an expensive stimulant drug. It costs not only a lot of money, but it comes with a cost to your life. All it takes is one try and the danger of addiction can already be there. Despite once being used in medicine, there are no benefits of cocaine from a health perspective. If you are worried that a friend or family member might be using cocaine, then you need to be able to recognize the signs. Similarly, if you are planning on withdrawing from cocaine, you need to make sure that you are prepared for the symptoms you will experience if you go through the cocaine withdrawal timeline.

The first signs and symptoms of taking cocaine can be quite minor but as the habit grows, so to will the symptoms. The first signs may include hyper-alertness, anxiety, and a short attention span. Emotional mood swings and long periods of insomnia can also be an issue. A person with a serious cocaine habit may also become irritable or even experience hallucinations.

Physical symptoms can range from severe to minimal but do highlight some of the issues and effects this drug has on the body. Those using cocaine may complain of headaches and suffer from high body temperature. They may also have trouble with stomach pain and nausea. Noticeable signs can include changes to the voice, twitching, constantly sniffing or even a bloody nose.

After significant or long periods of use, sexual dysfunction and issues with fertility are common. Seizures and difficulty breathing, as well as extreme weight loss, may also be apparent and an individual may even experience trouble moving around.

The withdrawal timeline for cocaine is about seven to ten days. Unfortunately, even after withdrawal is complete, it’s quite common for cravings to still occur. These can develop weeks, months, or even years after the withdrawal process. The good news is that cocaine has a short half-life compared to other drugs. This means that even ninety minutes after taking the last dose the withdrawal timeline begins.

The withdrawal process is somewhat similar to that of meth. Most people will go through a crash, a craving, and an extinction phase. During the first phase, symptoms can be quite severe and can start just three hours after the last hit. Those going through this stage will be anxious, irritable, and depressed. There is no craving for the drug during this time and the crash occurs quite quickly.

After this, individuals will start craving the drug. They experience a need for cocaine and can feel increasingly irritable while struggling with concentration. The timeline is the same for meth and will typically last about ten weeks. However, those suffering from a lower addiction can recover far more rapidly.

By thirty weeks, most people have made it through withdrawal and the drug addiction is considered to be extinct. Between ten and thirty weeks it’s common for people to experience less severe yet still problematic cravings for the drug. It’s usually due to environmental factors and variables which can be removed completely.



You might have heard that marijuana is not a particularly addictive drug. Despite this, people who have been using the drug for a significant period will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop.

Symptoms of withdrawal from this drug are quite varied. There can be changes to the body temperature including fevers or chills and extreme sweating. It’s possible that you will feel tired during the day or even depressed. You may be more irritable than normal and restless even when you feel exhausted. This will lead to trouble sleeping and during this time you could also struggle with stomach pain as well as a loss of appetite.

Even with this drug, there is still a withdrawal timeline. Through the first two weeks after you stop taking the drug, you will notice issues with your mood and physical discomfort like the pain we have mentioned. After the two weeks have passed, the drug will be likely be gone from the system and physical symptoms will cease completely. Unfortunately, psychological symptoms can last significantly longer.

withdrawal timeline

Brain receptors known as cannabinoid 1 receptors will return to their original state after just a couple of days. Within 4 weeks, they resume functioning completely and begin to stop craving marijuana drugs. Beware that most of the symptoms of marijuana withdrawal have psychological causes. You may crave it due to being in similar environments where you used it before.

It is also important to understand that marijuana DUI is not the same drug that it used to be. The cannabis plant, where marijuana comes from, contains a chemical compound referred to as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The more THC marijuana products contain, the more powerful the drug is and the more severe the withdrawal timeline will be. Studies have shown that THC has increased over the years because of its cultivation for recreation use. Indeed, the average amount of THC in marijuana today has risen from over 3 percent in the ’90s to over 12 percent by 2014. This will make withdrawal more difficult because people who regularly smoke weed are used to getting really high.



Ambien is typically used as a drug to treat forms of insomnia. However, like any substance, it can be abused. Ambien helps put the user in a position where they can fall asleep rather than forcing them to go to sleep.

There are various signs and symptoms of an Ambien addiction. It is important to recognize that if you take the drug for more than two weeks there is a significant chance that you could become addicted. Once Ambien has been taken even once, it can lead to a belief that you need it to sleep. That is what tends to cause addiction.

Symptoms and effects will typically include dizziness and walking unsteadily. You may have issues concentrating, feeling drowsy, or confused for significantly longer periods. Some people who are abusing the drug seem as though they are drunk, due to slurring their speech and a slow level of breathing. The drug can even cause issues with insomnia if you take more than the recommended dose.

Furthermore, withdrawal symptoms for this drug include changes to your mood such as higher levels of aggression. You may also find that you are more agitated, anxious, and easily confused. People can suffer from further spouts of insomnia and develop depression which may even lead to some suicidal thoughts.

A typical timeline for withdrawal symptoms from Ambien will be between one to two weeks. Acute withdrawal timeline for Ambien will usually occur only within the first three to five days. However, psychological symptoms may continue for significantly longer. These psychological issues can last for at least a couple of weeks. In rare cases, the psychological impact of taking the drug can last for months after an individual has stopped taking the drug.

Be aware that there are various factors that can change and alter the withdrawal timeline of this drug. For instance, taking it for a shorter time will lead to a short recovery while a high dose of the drug will lead to a longer period of withdrawal. Some individuals may also have been using the extended-release version of Ambien. This provides a higher dose of the drug. So, the medication is slowly released into the system and it allows individuals to take a high dose of the drug all at once if it is abused.



The drug Vicodin is used as a painkiller but can be abused recreationally and even misused by patients. It’s especially possible to become addicted to Vicodin after extended periods of use. This can be the case when you are dealing with higher than normal levels of pain. For instance, those suffering from chronic pain due to a life-changing injury may be prescribed Vicodin by their doctor.

If you are addicted to Vicodin, then you may experience a variety of concerning symptoms. Some occur after short-term use while others are directly related to abusing the drug for longer periods. Changes in mood can cause euphoria, severe changes in how someone feels, and anxiety.

As well as this, behavioral symptoms may include problems with memory and potentially stealing or doctor shopping. Physical symptoms can be vast and will differ for each individual. It’s common for people using Vicodin to struggle to focus and feel significantly weak. Individuals may also feel dizzy and suffer from nausea or even vomiting. Individuals may also experience issues with constipation and trouble with ringing in the ears as well as headaches.

Psychological symptoms include a certain level of obsession over trying to gain more of the drug and potentially hallucinations. Hallucinations become more common based on how much the drug is used and abused.

Mapping out a set withdrawal timeline from Vicodin is potentially quite tricky. The reason for this is that there are multiple individual factors that can change and impact who long it takes you to get off the drug. However, acute symptoms tend to last for about seven to ten days. This starts to count down the day after you finish taking the drug. Acute symptoms are quite powerful and can be both psychologically and physically debilitating. After the first couple of weeks, most people will feel significantly better.

With Vicodin it is possible that you will experience PAWS, however, this is not guaranteed. Many individuals will get through the addiction without having to deal with these late side effects and symptoms. These symptoms can last anywhere between several weeks or months after passing through the acute withdrawal stages. It’s quite common to have difficulty coping with symptoms like this and professional treatment will typically be necessary to help those recover. It is possible to speed up recovering from Vicodin by ensuring that you are eating a healthy diet, staying productive, and getting plenty of exercises.



Ecstasy is often seen as a drug that is quick to work and use. By this we mean, ecstasy doesn’t tend to be linked to addictive behavior. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t experience withdrawal timeline symptoms when you are trying to quit or come off of this drug. Short-term effects of taking ecstasy and MDMA elevate your mood and may also cause hallucinations as well as a significant increase in mental clarity.

It can also trigger anything from sweating and chills to a rise in your blood pressure. Taking ecstasy for long periods may make you feel anxious and even trigger seizures. The impact of ecstasy can last for roughly eight hours before starting to wear off. After this time, you can experience anything from issues with memory to changes in sleep and depression. You may be more aggressive and impulsive with your behavior as well.

The long-term effects of taking ecstasy can include problems with memory, confusion, and a change in impulsiveness. You may also struggle to pay attention even for short periods and easily grow confused.

The withdrawal timeline for ecstasy will typically be quite short. However, be aware that if you have been taking ecstasy repeatedly for a significant period, then you could find that you progress through the same three stages of withdrawal as other drugs. After cleaning the drug from the system, the person then may experience cravings which can lead to mood swings as well as irritability. Be aware that the drug can leave the body immensely drained meaning that recovery time can be as long as 90 days. This could mean that you will experience issues with severe mood changes and periods of deep depression. Depression, however, is a sign that the person’s brain is returning to normal and getting used to life without the drug once more.

We hope this guide helps you navigate the withdrawal timeline of some of the Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs abused today. Remember, you cannot go through withdrawal alone. You need people by your side who can help you and guide you through this process. In most cases, professional help will be needed to avoid the danger of a relapse.

If you or a loved one needs help, call us at 949-625-4019.

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