Detoxing from Prescription Medications: What Can I Expect?

guy on dock

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

The process of recovering from prescription medication abuse can feel like an overwhelming and daunting task, but it is something that happens gradually through different stages. One of the most important steps to beginning recovery from prescription medication abuse is being able to effectively detoxify from any drug that an individual has become physically dependent on.

Depending on the severity of the prescription drug addiction and the type of drug being used, the physical effects and changes that may be observed in the body as a result of the drug abuse can vary by nature.

Detox with Professional Help

Physical dependence on a prescription drug is something that should be treated carefully and under the discretion of a specialized medical team. Many rehabilitation units and addiction treatment centers will offer a detoxification unit, in which a person can safely detox from prescription medications and is gradually weaned of the substance on which they have become dependent.

If you are ready to begin this step in your recovery, it is important that you do not attempt to do this alone. Many adverse side effects can result if a person weans off a medication too quickly, which can complicate the process of addiction recovery.

Common Side Effects Experienced During Detox

Common side effects that may be experienced in the process of detoxing from prescription medications include:

  • Agitation
  • Muscle discomfort
  • Sweating
  • Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Gastrointestinal distress, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps
  • Severe flu-like symptoms

descent-841413_640Going through the withdrawal process gradually rather than abruptly quitting the drug can help lessen the intensity of these symptoms.

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

Your doctor may prescribe certain medications, such as buprenorphine, which may be effective in lessening the intensity of prescription medication withdrawal symptoms as well. Other withdrawal symptoms can be effectively managed with over-the-counter medications, which should be advised by your doctor’s discretion.

The process of going through detox and withdrawal from prescription medications can be physically uncomfortable and emotionally challenging, but this step is absolutely crucial to helping you overcome your addiction. Be sure to work closely with a treatment team to make this process as effective and safe as possible.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What has been your experience in detoxing/withdrawing from prescription drugs and medications?

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions and co-occurring disorders.  These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.  We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.  If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.  

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 29th, 2015
Published on