What Is Painkiller Withdrawal? What Are Its Symptoms And Treatment?

Painkiller withdrawal is an uneasy experience that arises when a person stops taking painkiller drugs their body has become dependent upon to process. Drugs such as opiates, stimulants, nicotine prescription painkillers, alcohol, benzodiazepines, and specific sedatives can all produce withdrawal signs when a person abruptly stops taking them. This is particularly true if the person has been taking the drug for an extended time or in high quantities. Painkiller withdrawal can be fatal, particularly for people who have co-existing situations or are withdrawing from opioids, alcohol, or benzodiazepines.

Why Does Painkiller Withdrawal Occur?

Withdrawal happens due to chemical imbalances resulting from drug usage in the brain and body. While prescription painkillers can be helpful in injury recovery, extended use can lead to addiction and chemical dependency. This is because numerous prescription painkillers are opiates and have identical actions to heroin on the mind and body. Because of this, painkiller withdrawal symptoms can be just as severe as withdrawal signs of other opiates like heroin and fentanyl.

Symptoms Of Painkiller Withdrawal

Signs and symptoms of painkiller withdrawal can be physical and psychological, and some symptoms can even be life-threatening if not handled and managed adequately. These signs may be experienced differently by each person and to differing degrees of severity, which frequently depends on the length of usage.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical withdrawal symptoms are identical to those of the severe flu. These signs can be severe and are one of the threats of painkiller withdrawal, mainly when the withdrawal is accomplished at home. These signs may include:

  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Aches and pains in muscles and joints
  • The rise in body temperature

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Painkiller withdrawal signs can also be psychological. These drug withdrawal symptoms last longer than the physical signs and can stay for months after initially quitting. These signs include:

  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Suicidal ideation

Factors Affecting The Severity And Timeline Of Painkiller Withdrawal

Painkiller withdrawal signs look distinct for everyone, with differing timelines and severity relying on various facets. History of use, type of painkiller, and prior physical and mental health will influence each person’s severity and withdrawal timeline. In extreme cases, people may develop a condition called Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, and the withdrawal signs can last for months. These factors are:

Types Of Painkiller

Painkiller withdrawal timelines differ depending on the type of strong prescription painkiller utilized. Withdrawal signs for short-acting opioids like hydrocodone, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl generally occur within a day of a person’s last use. Usually, withdrawal from short-acting opioids lasts 4-10 days. Withdrawal signs for longer-acting opioids, like extended-release versions of the drugs, generally occur within 1-2 days of the last usage and can last 10-20 days. Non-opiate drugs, like gabapentin, can also result in withdrawal. The gabapentin withdrawal timeline starts around 12 hours after the last dosage and can last for about a week.

Length Of Use

The length of time that a person takes a painkiller prescription strongly specifies withdrawal severity. For people who have taken painkillers for extended periods, withdrawal can be severe. Nonetheless, individuals with a shorter usage history tend to have less intense symptoms. Also directly related to severity, an extended history of use is related to longer withdrawal timelines in general.

Dosage And Potency

Dosage and painkiller power also play a part in withdrawal severity. Weaker drugs and lower doses result in milder withdrawal signs. Nonetheless, higher doses, or the use of potent painkillers such as fentanyl, are associated with more extreme withdrawal signs.

Physical And Mental Health

A person’s physical and mental health before detoxing can influence withdrawal timelines and severity. Healthier people can better accept the encounter of withdrawal than those in bad health. Besides, withdrawal and influence withdrawal timelines can worsen mental health conditions.

Painkiller Withdrawal Treatment

When coming off prescription painkiller drugs, people often aid from physical and psychological assistance. In addition, treatments can ease signs and help prevent a return to opiate use.


Individuals will go through a detox period while the drug is leaving their system. In some instances, this occurs under regular medical supervision. In this case, a person will generally experience symptoms for five to seven days. Painkiller withdrawal and detox are both frequently managed with the use of medications. Common prescription painkiller withdrawal drugs work by lessening or eliminating withdrawal signs, blocking the consequences of opioids, and decreasing or eliminating cravings. Different withdrawal drugs may be utilized to help manage painkiller withdrawal side effects like anxiety and insomnia. In addition, a doctor will monitor how the person’s body is coping with coming off the drug by monitoring the body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.

Painkiller Withdrawal Medications

In some instances, a doctor may prescribe methadone. However, methadone is also an opioid, which is a long-acting medication. Using methadone may lessen the intensity of painkiller withdrawal signs. A doctor will then slowly reduce the dose of methadone over a while. People can proceed to take some methadone for a continuous period or wean off slowly.

Buprenorphine is another partial opioid agonist, meaning it works the same way as other opiates but doesn’t completely activate the opioid receptors. This mechanism of action can assist a person in avoiding coming back to the medication they were dependent on and lessen the probability of cravings. However, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently declared buprenorphine that a doctor administers by putting it under a person’s tongue may result in tooth decay. This can also influence people who have never had problems with their teeth.

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