Most Dangerous Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug withdrawal symptoms can cause a huge number of physical health problems. These might range from mild flu-like symptoms to severe seizure-like activity. With this in mind, we’ve devised an overview of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms.


Another aspect to consider for withdrawal symptoms are the more protracted withdrawal symptoms. These can lead to health issues, including anxiety and depression. This is why withdrawal is best managed in a medical detox program. This has been proven to reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms.

A hand reaches out for a drug spoon, amongst drug paraphernalia and powders

Symptoms of Drug Addiction


  • Having an urge to consume drugs often.
  • Increasing the number of drugs in order to get the same effects.
  • Spending more money on drugs even though you cannot afford it.
  • Neglecting your responsibilities such as work, and family.
  • Stealing in order to purchase drugs even if you cannot pay it back.
  • Spending hours to obtain drugs in order to have enough at home.
  • Feeling that you want to stop consuming drugs because it causes negative effects, but still not being able to quit.

Common Causes of Drug Addiction


Typically substance abuse disorders develop due to social, personal, and environmental causes. Despite this, many of these causes prevent you from regaining control without help. Some of the most common causes of addiction include environmental and genetic factors.


Environmental Factors


  • Having peers who use drugs
  • Peer pressure is a common cause of substance use and alcoholism
  • Young people are reported to have started consuming drugs for the first time due to peer pressure
  • Family’s view towards substances or drinking
  • Lack of family support or being ignored by parents
  • Witnesses as a child of drugs or alcohol use



  • Your genetics can greatly affect your addiction
  • Genetics play a vital role in increasing or decreasing the speed of the progress of addiction
  • Family history of any addiction is a factor in increasing the risk of addiction


In addition, early use as a child with drugs or alcohol leaves the ability to become addicted later in life. This is because changes in your brain development will occur, and make you defenseless to addiction to a specific drug or alcohol.

Close-up of fist smashing pills to illustrate stopping drug use

What is Withdrawal?


Drug withdrawal is a term that describes the set of symptoms your body experiences when you suddenly stop or reduce chronic use of drugs. These symptoms vary in both the type you use and the severity of your use. It also depends on the lifetime of your use. Among the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms or circumstances are alcohol or benzodiazepine detoxification alone, or even in a non-medical setting.


  • Some symptoms can be dangerous and life-threatening.
  • If you attempt to withdraw from drugs on your own after becoming dependent and addicted it may go worse.
  • Drug rehab can help you experience a safe, comfortable withdrawal.
  • Using treatments like medical detox and medication-assisted treatment is your best bet.


What Happens to Your Body During Withdrawal


As you become physically dependent on drugs, your body adapts to the presence of drugs in your system. This occurs with alcohol as well. When you suddenly stop using drugs, your body can become incredibly ill. At this point, your body will show a host of withdrawal symptoms as it tries to adapt to the sudden absence of drugs.


Opioids like heroin and painkillers act on a brain neurotransmitter called dopamine. This leads to a feeling of extreme happiness and euphoria. After using opioids long-term, it will stop producing dopamine without the help of drugs. This is why the body relies on the effects of the drugs.


At this point, your brain ends up producing symptoms of anxiety and depression.


Common Withdrawal Symptoms


Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the type of drug you become dependent on. Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine typically produce psychological symptoms. Alcohol, prescription drugs, and heroin typically provide a whole host of physical and psychological effects. Drug withdrawal can last anywhere from several days to several weeks depending on the substance.


Common drug withdrawal symptoms include the following:


  • Sweating
  • Tearing eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Tremors
  • Increased appetite
  • Dehydration
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

A person sits slumped under a hooded sweatshirt, undergoing the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms drugs have to offer

Symptoms of Acute Withdrawal for Various Substances


Symptoms of acute withdrawal will differ between substances, but they are known as providing the opposite effect of the substance. Drug withdrawal and detox symptoms are often dangerous for individuals. This is why it is essential to have them managed by medical professionals.




  • Hyperactivity
  • Anxiety and tremors
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens, very rare




  • Double or blurry vision
  • Headache
  • Body pains
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Disorientation and dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever or chills
  • Decreased muscular control
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hallucinations




  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety and tension
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Nightmares or strange dreams
  • Headache




  • Cravings
  • Irritability and irrational rage
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches




  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever or chills
  • Sweating
  • Runny nose
  • Teary eyes




  • Depression
  • Hypersomnia
  • Increased appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Slow thoughts
  • Slow, or lack of, movement


It is possible that other symptoms will appear depending on the individual. Each case of withdrawal is different, and also depends on factors such as the existence of other diagnoses and the rate at which use of the substance was stopped. In short, the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on an individual’s condition, intake, history of usage, pre-existing conditions, and more.


It is common during the acute withdrawal phase for medication to be prescribed. This is done to assist with withdrawal symptoms, but this is not always the case. It is recommended that this phase be overseen by a medical professional, and never be done at home by oneself. Especially in cases of severe addiction, these symptoms can become extremely dangerous. In cases of alcohol, benzo, or opiate detox, medical detox is always required.


Symptoms of Protracted Withdrawal


Most of the symptoms of protracted withdrawal are psychological. This is because long-term substance abuse can alter the brain in many different ways. Addictive substances actually work on the reward circuit in the brain, which causes a flow of feel-good chemicals, like dopamine.


During the early stages using a substance causes overstimulation of the system. This overproduction of dopamine results in euphoria. Over time the brain can lose its ability to produce these chemicals. Individuals who struggle with this will then need more of the same substance to experience similar feelings as they did before


Symptoms of protracted withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Reduced enjoyment of previously pleasurable activities
  • Depression
  • Problems with sleep
  • Increased fatigue
  • Reduced libido
  • Substance cravings
  • Impaired executive control
  • Physical symptoms with no explanation


Easier to Relapse


These symptoms make it easy to relapse due to how long they last. They can last anywhere from months to a year, and sometimes even longer. Most often when transitioning from inpatient recovery to outpatient recovery, it can be helpful to create a plan.

This is not only relapse prevention but also for your own symptom coverage. Should symptoms occur after relapse you need to know how to handle them. You should not attempt to overburden or overstress yourself. This can make PAWS symptoms worse, and increase the desire for relapse. Other ways to combat PAWS symptoms include:


  • Developing a new system of positive coping mechanisms
  • Exercising regularly
  • Joining recovery groups


Dangers of Withdrawal


Going through the process of withdrawal can be extremely dangerous if you do so without professional help. Although some people think that quitting “cold turkey” is the best option, it definitely is not. It can be deadly due to acute withdrawal symptoms. Rapid alcohol detox can cause:


  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes


These are all dangerous and sometimes deadly. Because alcohol is known as a depressant, your body may adapt to relaxation mode. This means that sudden withdrawal will shock the body into overdrive and cause these symptoms.


Delirium Tremens


Specifically, delirium tremens are uncommon but also severe. You might experience the following symptoms:


  • Tremors
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Disorientation
  • Palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Hyperthermia


This condition is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately. The incidence of severe acute withdrawal symptoms can cause physical health problems and require hospitalization. Then comes protracted withdrawal which can lead to mental health problems.

Individuals previously diagnosed with mental health disorders can experience a reemergence of symptoms should the substance be used previously for the treatment of another condition.


Pre-Existing Conditions


One of the main issues that come with users of benzodiazepines is that the reason for using them in the first place is due to struggles with anxiety and depression. When used appropriately, they can help to manage that anxiety, but that can lead to abuse.


The struggle with getting sober and having pre-existing conditions is that anxiety symptoms will come back once the use of the medication is stopped. Even if you have obtained a mental health diagnosis needing the medication, once you become addicted, you have a larger problem. The coexistence of a mental health diagnosis can alter the withdrawal process, making PAWS symptoms much worse.


For this reason, withdrawal programs need to be specialized for each individual. Detox can be especially dangerous to undertake alone, and the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms those experienced without proper, professional supervision.


How to Avoid Withdrawal


If you are detoxing from drugs then you will have to go through some sort of withdrawal symptoms. Despite this, there are ways to avoid this. The main ways to avoid withdrawal are detox programs, exercise, and eating a balanced diet.


  • Attend a medical detox program: This is known as the best way to get help for withdrawal and avoid painful symptoms.
    1. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and emotional, and even dangerous. This is why proper treatment can ensure that you will be successful.
    2. Around three to five percent of people suffering from alcohol withdrawal will experience delirium tremens. These are potentially fatal, and it is essential to go to a detox program.
    3. Medical detox is a program that lasts 5-10 days most often and will provide around-the-clock supervision.
    4. Cravings and symptoms can be managed with medications, and emotional support is provided at all times.


  • Exercise regularly: This can ensure that your brain is triggered to release endorphins
    1. It is essential that you restore the chemical balance in your brain with exercise because it can provide a host of benefits.
    2. Exercise can also reduce tension and stress.
    3. It can also help a person to sleep better.
    4. Exercises work by enhancing self-esteem.
    5. Exercise can help to minimize relapse and decrease compulsive drug use and cravings.


  • Eat balanced and nutritious meals: Diet is a huge role when it comes to healing yourself
    1. Eating meals that are rich in proteins and essential vitamins and nutrients is essential.
    2. This can help to restore your brain and body function.
    3. Drugs and alcohol can deplete the body of what it needs to run efficiently.
    4. Stay away from caffeine, refined sugars, processed foods, oils, and saturated fats.


Acute Withdrawal Periods


  • Alcohol: 5-7 days
  • Benzodiazepines: 1-4 weeks, 3-5 weeks if reducing dosage gradually
  • Cannabis: 5 days
  • Nicotine: 2-4 weeks
  • Opioids: 4-10 days
  • Methadone: 14-21 days
  • Stimulants: 1-2 weeks


Symptoms that last beyond this period are considered protracted or “post-acute withdrawal.” Other names include:

  • Chronic withdrawal
  • Extended withdrawal


Protracted withdrawal is the lesser-studied of the two types of withdrawal. It can often be a major factor in relapse.


Long Term Recovery


There are many resources, whether you are in recovery, looking to get into recovery, or searching for ways to help a loved one. Especially if you are suffering from serious withdrawal syndrome from drugs or alcohol. The process of withdrawal may be difficult, and it is different for everyone, but symptoms do eventually subside. There is always support available. Contact us today at Find Addiction Rehabs to learn about your options.


Chances of relapse can increase during withdrawal phases, and that is why we are here to help you find healthy mechanisms that can assist with symptoms and foster success. Contact us today to learn more.

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