Painkiller Withdrawal Symptoms

Learn about painkiller withdrawal symptoms, factors that affect the withdrawal timeline, and withdrawal drugs used to ease symptoms.

Table of Contents

What Is Drug Withdrawal?

Drug withdrawal is an uncomfortable experience that occurs when an individual stops taking a drug their body has become dependent upon to function. Drugs such as stimulants, opiates, prescription painkillers, nicotine, alcohol, benzodiazepines, and certain sedatives can all produce withdrawal symptoms when an individual abruptly stops taking them.1

This is especially true if the individual has been taking the drug for a long time or in high doses. Drug withdrawal can be lethal, especially for individuals who have co-existing conditions or are withdrawing from alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines.2

Contact Profound Treatment to Learn More

Our team is standing by to discuss treatment options with you. Your call is completely confidential and no obligation is required.

Why Does Withdrawal Occur?

Withdrawal occurs due to chemical imbalances caused in the brain and body from drug use. While prescription painkillers can be beneficial in injury recovery, prolonged use can lead to addiction and chemical dependence. This is because many prescription painkillers are opiates and have similar actions to heroin on the body and mind. Because of this, painkiller withdrawal symptoms can be just as severe as withdrawal symptoms of other opiates such as heroin and fentanyl.

Symptoms of Painkiller Withdrawal

Symptoms and signs of painkiller withdrawal can be both physical and psychological, and some can even be life-threatening if not addressed and managed properly. These symptoms may be experienced differently by each person, and to varying degrees of severity as well, which often depends on the length of usage.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical painkiller withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of the severe flu. These symptoms can be extreme and are one of the dangers of painkiller withdrawal, especially when withdrawal is done at home. These symptoms may include:

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

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Painkiller withdrawal symptoms can also be psychological. Psychological symptoms of drug withdrawal tend to last longer than the physical symptoms and can linger for months after initially quitting. These symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Strong drug cravings
  • Suicidal ideation and self-harm intent

"Am I an Addict?" Quiz

Factors That Affect the Severity and Timeline of Withdrawal

Painkiller withdrawal symptoms look different for everyone, with varying timelines and severity depending on a variety of factors. Type of pain killer, history of use, and prior mental and physical health will all affect each person’s severity and withdrawal timeline.

In severe cases, individuals may develop a condition known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, where withdrawal symptoms can last for months.

Type of Painkiller

Opiate withdrawal timelines vary depending on the type of painkiller used. Withdrawal symptoms for short-acting opioids such as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl usually set in within a day of an individual’s last use. Typically, withdrawal from short-acting opioids lasts four to ten days.

Withdrawal symptoms for longer-acting opioids, such as the extended release versions of the aforementioned drugs, usually set in within one to two days of the last use and can last ten to twenty days. Non-opiate drugs, such as gabapentin, can also cause withdrawal. The gabapentin withdrawal timeline begins around twelve hours after the last dose and can last for about a week.3

Length of Usage

The length of time that an individual takes painkillers greatly determines withdrawal severity. For individuals who have taken painkillers for prolonged periods of time, withdrawal can be extreme. However, individuals who have a shorter use history tend to have less severe symptoms. In addition to being directly related to severity, longer history of use is associated with longer opiate withdrawal timelines in general.

Dosage and Potency

Dosage and painkiller potency also play a role in withdrawal severity. Weaker painkillers and lower doses usually result in milder withdrawal symptoms. However, higher doses, or the use of highly potent painkillers such as fentanyl, is related to more extreme withdrawal symptoms.

Mental and Physical Health

The mental and physical health of an individual prior to detoxing can affect withdrawal timelines and severity. Healthier individuals can better tolerate the experience of withdrawal than those who are in poor health. Additionally, mental health conditions can be exacerbated by withdrawal and affect withdrawal timelines.

Medications Used In Drug Detox

Painkiller withdrawal and detox are both often managed with the use of medications. Drug withdrawal medications work by reducing or eliminating withdrawal symptoms, blocking the effects of opioids, and reducing or eliminating cravings. Additional withdrawal drugs may be used to help manage painkiller withdrawal side effects such as anxiety and insomnia.4


Clonidine is a common drug withdrawal medication used to treat symptoms of anxiety, irritability, sweating, and cramping. However, unlike other withdrawal drugs, clonidine does not reduce cravings.5


Lofexidine is a newer withdrawal medication that works similarly to clonidine to reduce symptoms. Lofexidine may not completely eliminate symptoms such as insomnia and aches, but it can greatly reduce withdrawal symptoms overall. Typically, this drug is taken multiple times per day for up to fourteen days.6


Buprenorphine, also known as Subutex, is one of the withdrawal drugs that works by blocking opioid receptors. Additionally, buprenorphine also works to alleviate symptoms of drug withdrawal and reduces cravings. Buprenorphine is also commonly combined with naloxone in the treatment of opioid withdrawal.

Valium (Diazepam)

Valium, also known as diazepam, is another withdrawal drug that has applications in treatment of individuals withdrawing from alcohol as well as benzodiazepines. However, diazepam is also addictive and is not the first choice of drug withdrawal medication for the treatment of painkiller withdrawal.


Methadone is another common withdrawal drug used to treat individuals with opioid and painkiller addiction. This drug treats withdrawal symptoms, alleviates cravings, and blocks opioid receptors. Because of this, even if individuals tried to get high using illicit substances, they would not be able to because of methadone’s agonist effects.

Get Treatment from Profound Treatment

Drug addiction withdrawal is uncomfortable and has the potential to be dangerous. You don’t have to go through it alone – help is available. Profound Treatment offers painkiller withdrawal treatment and supervised detox, to ensure you have the resources you need for recovery.

Additionally, we believe that treatment should be unique to the individual and offer personalized treatment plans. Come experience the Profound difference today. 

"Am I an Addict?" Quiz

Start your healing today>>
phone number (310) 929-9546