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If you have been abusing prescription drugs or have a prescription drug dependence, one of the biggest blocks to recovery can be the fear of prescription drug withdrawal symptoms.

If you suffer from a prescription drug dependence, do not stop taking the medication abruptly. Unmanaged prescription drug withdrawal at best can be extremely uncomfortable and at worst can be life threatening. Always seek medical advice first

Unmanaged withdrawal from prescription drug dependence carries an increased risk of developing life threatening complications and Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

If the fear of prescription drug withdrawal symptoms is preventing you from stopping prescription drugs, then a medical detox may well be the answer you have been looking for.

Call our Delamere team to find out how we can help you to stop taking prescription drugs safely and comfortably with a full medical prescription drug detox.


What causes prescription drug withdrawal symptoms?

Prescription drug withdrawal symptoms occur when a person who is physically dependent on prescription drugs tries to reduce or stop them completely. Withdrawal symptoms are caused by the brain reacting to a reduction in the drug that it has become accustomed to.

Commonly abused prescription drugs can quickly cause tolerance and dependence. Even if you have not been abusing prescription drugs, withdrawal symptoms will still occur if you have developed a physical dependence to a prescription drug with additive properties.

If you have been taking or abusing any of the following types of prescription drugs for a period of more than 2-4 weeks, it is likely you will suffer some withdrawal symptoms:

  • Opiate and opioid painkillers
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Sleeping medications (Z List prescription drugs)
  • Gabapentinoids
  • Stimulant prescription drugs

The longer you have been taking the drug and the higher the dosage, the more severe the prescription drug withdrawal symptoms will be. Chronic abuse and long term use of these drugs can result in life threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Opiates and Benzodiazepines in particular, quickly cause physical tolerance and dependence. They are also notoriously the most difficult to stop due to the severity of the withdrawal symptoms they induce and the associated risks.


The effects of prescription drug withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawing from a prescription drug dependence or addiction can be both physically and mentally challenging.

Each individual prescription drug will have a list of withdrawal symptoms specific to that drug.

Physical prescription drug withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Palpitations
  • Muscle cramps
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures

Severe physical prescription drug withdrawal symptoms can cause coma and death if not promptly treated

Psychological prescription drug withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Aggression
  • Brain fog
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dysphoria
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Suicidal ideation and self-harm intent

Severe psychological withdrawal symptoms can also be life threatening if not promptly treated. This is especially true of those that develop severe depression, suicidal thoughts and ideation.

Withdrawal symptoms of prescription drugs are nearly always the exaggerated opposite of the prescription drugs pharmacological effects. Because symptoms are exaggerated, they can be very uncomfortable to tolerate. This leads many to relapse during the withdrawal process.

Serious complications and life threatening withdrawal symptoms usually only arise during an unmanaged prescription drug detox (ie stopping too quickly, without medical supervision or going ‘cold turkey’)

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Factors that affect withdrawal symptoms from prescription drugs

Prescription drug withdrawal symptoms, their duration and severity, depend on a number of factors. Some of these factors will be personal to you.

Factors that affect the severity and timeline of withdrawal symptoms include:

  • The type of prescription drug you are taking
  • How long you have been consistently taking the prescription drug
  • The dosage and potency of the prescription drug
  • Whether you undergo a medical detox or attempt to self detox
  • Your general mental and physical health
  • Other medications that you are taking
  • Whether you have been mixing prescription drugs with alcohol or other drugs
  • Whether you undergo addiction treatment/counselling or attend mutual aid groups to support withdrawal

Undergoing a medical detox and addiction treatment will reduce the severity of drug withdrawal symptoms and the timeline of withdrawal. It is also proven to vastly increase success rate.


Prescription drug timelines of withdrawal

As a guide, the following common types of addictive prescription drugs have the following timelines of withdrawal.

Opiate and opioid prescription drugs withdrawal timeline

The withdrawal timeline from opiate prescription drugs such as codeine, morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl, physically becomes easier after approximately 1 week of abstinence.

Psychological and emotional withdrawal symptoms can however go on for weeks, even months after stopping the drug. Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) are much more likely to occur if professional detox and treatment is not undertaken.

drug withdrawal timeline


Benzodiazepine withdrawal timeline

The withdrawal timeline for benzodiazepines such as diazepam, alprazolam, chlordiazepoxide, temazepam and lorazepam causes withdrawal symptoms to peak at around two weeks after the last dose.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can last for months and even years (PAWS) after stopping a long term chronic benzodiazepine dependence, if a professional medical detox and addiction treatment is not undertaken

Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms timeline


Sleeping pill withdrawal timeline

The withdrawal timeline from sleeping pills (Z -list prescription drugs) such as Zopiclone and Zimovane peaks between 2 to 10 days after stopping the medication.

Physical withdrawal symptoms from sleeping tablets can last for up to 18 days. Psychological symptoms can go on for much longer if professional treatment is not sought.


Gabapentinoid withdrawal timeline

The withdrawal timeline from gabapentinoids such as neurontin, gabapentin and pregabalin generally presents the worst of the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms for the first 5 days after stopping the drug.

However as with all prescribed drugs the more severe the dependency, the more protracted withdrawal symptoms will be.

Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) from gabapentinoids can last for many weeks and months after stopping if professional treatment is not sought.


Stimulant prescription drug withdrawal timeline

The withdrawal timeline for prescription stimulant drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall physically and mentally peaks between 4 and 7 days.

Withdrawal symptoms generally last for up to 4 weeks, after which PAWS can last for 3 to 6 months if professional treatment is not undertaken.


Help for prescription drug withdrawal symptoms

If you or a loved one have a long standing, chronic prescription drug dependence or have been abusing prescription drugs, withdrawal symptoms can be severe, long lasting and very dangerous.

In order to make detoxing from prescription drugs more comfortable, safe and avoid developing PAWS, a full medical detox is clinically recommended.

At Delamere we specialise in all manner of prescription drug detoxes. Our elite team of medical professionals are experienced in facilitating complex detoxes where there is a dependence to more than one prescription drug or a combination of prescription drugs with alcohol or illicit drugs.

We also provide bespoke addiction rehabilitation programmes to give you the best chance of staying free from additive substances and behaviours.

If you or a loved one need help withdrawing from prescription drugs call and speak with one of our addiction experts who will be able to talk you through our inpatient detox and rehabilitation programmes.

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Further information & guides about prescription drugs

Struggling with prescription drug addiction? Take action today…

For more information speak to our team about how we can help you grow beyond addiction and find residential treatment programmes today.

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