Prescription Drug Detox And Withdrawal

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 11, 2021

Prescription drug detox is the first step for getting off a prescription drug of abuse. The safest way to detox from a prescription drug is to begin a drug detox program.

How To Detox From Prescription Drugs

Millions of people in the United States each year report misusing medications that are prescribed for medical and mental health conditions.

Like illicit drugs, many medications that are legally prescribed by a doctor, or are taken without a prescription, may cause physical dependence and withdrawal with stopped use.

Detoxification, or detox, is the body’s way of getting rid of chemical substances like prescription drugs or alcohol. For safety purposes, this should only be done under medical guidance.

Learn more about detox programs near you

Who Needs Prescription Drug Detox?

Prescription drug detox is a type of treatment program that is recommended for people who have been taking a habit-forming drug for an extended amount of time.

Prescription drug detox may be suitable for people who:

  • have taken a prescription drug for a long time
  • misuse prescription medications
  • have a history of drug abuse
  • are addicted to a prescription drug

Detox programs for prescription drug dependence and addiction can offer several benefits for people. Namely, medical supervision during the detox process and treatment for withdrawal.

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Side Effects And Symptoms Of Prescription Drug Detox

Drug withdrawal can look and feel different for each person, depending in part on the type of drug you’re detoxing from. However, many prescription drugs share common symptoms.

For instance, withdrawal symptoms commonly reported include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • fatigue
  • tiredness
  • anxiety
  • muscle twitching
  • sweating
  • involuntary shaking
  • mood swings
  • insomnia

Taking multiple drugs, or having co-occurring health issues, may affect the symptoms experienced during withdrawal, as well as how long they last.

Is Prescription Drug Withdrawal Dangerous?

Some prescription drugs, such as benzodiazepines and other sedatives, can cause severe withdrawal symptoms if they are stopped suddenly.

Potential risks of this include:

  • seizures
  • thoughts of suicide
  • psychosis
  • convulsions
  • panic attacks
  • palpitations

Furthermore, some people can be at higher risk for experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms compared to others.

Risk factors for severe withdrawal include:

  • older age
  • a long history of drug use
  • having a substance use disorder
  • having a co-occurring mental illness
  • poor overall health
  • detoxing without medical support

Prescription Drug Detox By Drug Type

There are a variety of prescription drugs that can cause physical dependence and withdrawal with stopped use. Here are examples of some prescription drugs that may require detox:

Flexeril Detox

Flexeril, a brand name for cyclobenzaprine, is a muscle relaxant that can cause mild symptoms of withdrawal, such as headache, nausea, and general discomfort with sudden, stopped use.

Read more about detoxing from Flexeril

Trazodone Detox

Trazodone is a sedative and antidepressant medication. Taking it for some time and stopping it suddenly may result in side effects such as anxiety, agitation, and insomnia.

Read more about detoxing from trazodone

Gabapentin (Neurontin) Detox

Gabapentin, also known as Horizant and Neurontin, is a seizure control medication that can cause withdrawal if it is taken regularly for some time and stopped suddenly.

Withdrawal symptoms of gabapentin may include:

  • anxiety
  • pain
  • nausea
  • sweating
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep

Read more about gabapentin detox

Modafinil (Provigil) Detox

Modafinil is a prescription stimulant. Also known as Provigil, it is prescribed for narcolepsy and other sleep disorders.

Withdrawal is not a common occurrence with Provigil use. Mild symptoms, such as drowsiness, low mood, or fatigue may occur.

Read more about how to detox from Provigil

Prescription Drug Detox FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions about prescription drug detox and withdrawal.

❓ Which Prescription Drugs Can Cause Withdrawal?

✔️ Many prescription medications that are legally prescribed for medical and mental health conditions can cause dependence and withdrawal.

Some of the most commonly prescribed include:

  • benzodiazepines (e.g. Ativan)
  • barbiturates
  • sleeping pills
  • prescription stimulants
  • opioid pain relievers

❓ How Long Does Prescription Drug Withdrawal Last?

✔️ Drug withdrawal lasts five to seven days on average. Various factors, including the type of drug, the drug formulation, and how long you’ve been taking the drug can affect this timeline.

❓ What Does Prescription Drug Withdrawal Feel Like?

✔️ Drug withdrawal can make a person feel physically sick. Many common prescription medications, with stopped use, can cause nausea, vomiting, and other flu-like symptoms.

Withdrawal can also affect a person’s emotional and mental state. You may feel restless, anxious, depressed, or more irritable than usual.

Prescription Drug Detox Programs

Trying to detox from a prescription drug alone can be highly uncomfortable at best, and dangerous at worst—particularly if you’ve been taking this drug for a very long time.

Seeking out a drug detox program can help prevent severe withdrawal and may offer a referral for further treatment if you’re demonstrating signs of a substance use disorder.

Types of prescription drug detox programs include:

  • outpatient detox programs
  • medical detox programs
  • social detox programs

If you don’t have a history of substance use issues, seeking help through your prescribing doctor may be enough to help you slowly wean off a drug.

If you have a history of substance abuse or addiction issues, however, a doctor will likely recommend that you seek support through a drug detox program.

Find Prescription Drug Detox Today

Thousands of people seek help for prescription drug misuse each year. If this describes you or a loved one, you’re not alone.

Call our helpline today to learn more about prescription drug detox and how to find drug detox options near you.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on October 11, 2021
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