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Narcotic Withdrawal

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What do I need to know about withdrawal?

Withdrawal is a response to a sudden lack of narcotics in your body. Withdrawal happens when you suddenly decrease or stop taking a narcotic you are dependent on. Dependence means you feel you need the narcotic to function mentally or physically. This happens after you have used the narcotic regularly for a long time. Withdrawal can happen with an illegal narcotic such as heroin, or a prescription narcotic such as oxycodone or fentanyl.

What are the signs and symptoms of withdrawal?

Withdrawal signs and symptoms may start within 6 to 16 hours after you stop using the narcotic. Signs and symptoms usually last 7 to 10 days, but can continue for months.

How is narcotic withdrawal treated?

You may need to stay in a hospital or drug treatment facility while you go through withdrawal so healthcare providers can help you. This depends on how long you have used the narcotic and how much you have been taking. Your age and general health are also factors. You may need any of the following to treat narcotic withdrawal or manage your symptoms:

What can I do to manage withdrawal?

What can I do to prevent withdrawal from a prescription narcotic?

The best way to prevent withdrawal is to prevent tolerance. You may need to take a different kind of pain medicine after a surgery or injury. You can also talk to your healthcare provider about ways to manage pain without medicine. If you do need to take a narcotic medicine, the following can help prevent withdrawal:

What do I need to know about narcotic safety?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US), or have someone else call if:

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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