What Does It Feel Like to Go Through Drug Withdrawal?

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You know that drugs and alcohol have destroyed your life and you are ready to take back control. But as much as you want to get sober, there is one thing holding you back: the fear of what withdrawal will be like. Not knowing what to expect is often the scariest part. When you suddenly give up drugs, your body and brain must work hard to return back to their natural balance before substances took hold. You’ll begin to experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms as your body fights itself. These symptoms are based on a variety of factors such as:

  • Types of substances used
  • Length of time drugs were used
  • Potency of the drugs
  • If substances were combined
  • Your overall physical and mental health

The most severe symptoms often occur when alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids are misused. Learn about the common withdrawal symptoms you may experience during detox and what you can do to alleviate the discomfort.

Here are a handful of common symptoms you can anticipate when detoxing from drugs.


We’ve all felt tired before, but withdrawal wipes all the energy out of you. It is likely that you will feel so fatigued that you will be unable to complete even the most minor tasks. And yet, because of the other withdrawal symptoms that you are likely to experience, you will probably be unable to get any rest.

How to Cope

Fortunately, there are natural ways to combat exhaustion. Meditation—the act of spending time in silence reflecting on a topic—can reduce tension, center your mind, and help you push through your low energy levels.

Extreme Physical Discomfort

Despite significantly low levels of energy, your body will feel like it’s fighting itself, perpetuating your exhaustion even more. Withdrawal causes the body to feel intense pain. You may even notice that it feels as though your body is burning—some say it feels like their body is on fire. Your eyes will burn, your nose will run. It will feel like your body is giving up. And on top of throbbing soreness, you may experience a pins-and-needles sensation prickling throughout your entire body. You may also experience radical, unpredictable shifts in body temperature. At one moment, you may be intensely warm and sweating. And a few moments later, you may feel severely cold and begin shivering.

How to Cope

While you can’t get rid of all your discomfort, going to a massage therapist can significantly help. Massage therapy, the practice in which pressure is applied to manipulate soft body tissue, can help decrease the aches and pains that come with detox. Positional therapy, which involves stretching and joint manipulation, can also alleviate physical withdrawal symptoms.

Sick Stomach

As your body removes the remnants of the substance, your stomach will be turning. Anticipate feeling terribly nauseous. As the abdominal discomfort persists, you may vomit repeatedly. It is also common to experience acute diarrhea.

How to Cope

Luckily, you can find some relief through acupuncture. Acupuncture, a Chinese medical practice in which needles penetrate the skin to stimulate targeted body areas, can help reduce nausea and alleviate your upset stomach.

Anxiety, Paranoia, and Irritability

Unfortunately, physical symptoms are not the only signs of withdrawal at play. You may feel heightened levels of anxiety while going through withdrawal. Your mind may go into overdrive to the point where you feel paranoid. As the stress continues to build, you may feel irritable or moody.

How to Cope

Because psychological symptoms can be just as debilitating as physical ones, it is important to address them. Yoga, which combines meditation, body positions, and breathing exercises, helps to alleviate the mental detox symptoms and promotes peace of mind. In addition, forest bathing, or the act of embracing nature, can also help improve mood.


Between the extreme mental and physical discomfort and your exhaustion, you may find that you cannot stay still for even a moment. Your body may shake beyond your control. You may even experience sleeplessness, and lots of tossing and turning, as you cannot sleep off the pain.

How to Cope

Turn on some music to help take your mind off your distress.  Research has confirmed that listening to music at certain slower tempos can impact brain activity to create a sense of calm as well as relax the body’s muscles.  There is a reason why they say “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast.”

Know that although symptoms of withdrawal are agonizing, there is hope for a more comfortable withdrawal experience. It can be highly dangerous to detox on your own, so detoxing with a medical professional ensures a safer detox experience. Doctors can provide you with medications to significantly reduce or even eliminate pain and discomfort.

Withdrawal symptoms are miserable, but you don’t have to suffer on your own while simultaneously putting your life at risk through solitary detox. After the physical withdrawal symptoms subside, you may still endure psychological and emotional symptoms for up to a few months or even years. If you’re ready to leave drugs behind, reach out for help and start your recovery journey in a safe and caring environment.

what does it feel like to go through drug withdrawal

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Mountainside can help.
Click here or call (888) 833-4676 to speak with one of our addiction treatment experts.

To find out the withdrawal symptoms for a specific substance, click here to visit our drug glossary.