Coping With Drug Withdrawal Diarrhea, Stomach Pain, and Vomiting (2023)

Diarrhea isn't something many people feel comfortable talking about. Unfortunately, diarrhea and associated stomach pain can be symptoms of drug withdrawal, particularly opiates. It can also occur after a period of intense substance use.

Symptoms may range from mild to severe. This can often lead to distress, and can even be a major factor impacting the decision to quit drugs for many people.

This article explores strategies that can help minimize diarrhea and stomach pain caused by drug withdrawal. It also covers what causes these unpleasant symptoms and when you should see a doctor.

How to Cope With Withdrawal Diarrhea

While it may not be possible to completely avoid this symptom, you can take steps to minimize the problem and cope with it when it happens. The following strategies can help controldiarrhea, gastrointestinal spasms, stomach pain, and vomiting caused by detox and withdrawal:

  • Eat bland foods: White toast, white rice, and bananas may help. If you also suffer from withdrawal nausea and vomiting, you may prefer to avoid food intake until the initial acute withdrawal phase has passed.
  • Get plenty of electrolytes: You may have lost key electrolytes, especially if you've been vomiting. Drinking rehydration fluid, available from drug stores, can help avoid this.
  • Stay hydrated: One of the main risks of diarrhea is dehydration, so sip plenty of water.
  • Try over-the-counter medications: Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol (bismuth), or Imodium (loperamide) may help control diarrhea and slow the bowel process.
  • Eat probiotics: Yogurt with live/active cultures contains bacteria that, in some cases, can help reduce the severity and length of time that diarrhea lasts.
  • Avoid stomach irritants: Avoid hot drinks, acidic fruits, and spicy foods, which can induce spasms leading to diarrhea and related stomach pain.


Sticking to a bland diet, staying hydrated, eating yogurt with live cultures, and taking OTC medications can help when you are coping with withdrawal diarrhea.

How Long Do Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

The duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend on several factors. Physical withdrawal symptoms often last three to five days, however, the type of substance a person has been using can play a role. For some substances, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and long-acting opiates, withdrawal symptoms may last one to two weeks.

Along with diarrhea and stomach pain, you might also experience other physical symptoms such as chills, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, shakiness, sweating, and vomiting. While these symptoms often last only a few days or a week, the psychological symptoms of withdrawal can last much longer.

Causes of Withdrawal Symptoms

Substance use leads to changes in how neurotransmitters function in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that transmit signals and help regulate various bodily functions. When alcohol or substance use is halted, the brain is forced to readjust to its sudden absence. This leads to unpleasant physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.

Diarrhea, stomach pain, and vomiting are often experienced by people going through withdrawal from opioids and other drugs.

Although this can be a normal reaction by the body, the severity and discomfort you experience can be reduced by correct treatment. Therefore, it is a good idea to talk to your pharmacist or doctor for advice on over-the-counter medications.

However, it is important to be aware of other potential causes of diarrhea. For example, diarrhea can also be caused by viral and bacterial infections stemming from ingesting contaminated food, water, or drugs or by some sexual activities. Diarrhea can also be a side effect of some drugs or medications. It is essential to get the correct diagnosis and treatment.

Safely Treating Dehydration

Dehydration happens when your body loses too much fluid and electrolytes through urination, sweating, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. However, drinking only water, particularly in large quantities, can be harmful and lead to water intoxication,. Water intoxicatiob can be life-threatening, so it is important to take steps to avoid it.

If you have been experiencing severe diarrhea, drink rehydration fluid (available from drug stores) rather than plain water to replace lost fluids.

Make your own rehydration fluid inexpensively by adding 1 quart water, 3/4 teaspoon of table salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar. You can also add lemonade or orange-pineapple flavor sugar-free mix for taste.

Fruit juice can also help replace lost electrolytes but can exacerbate diarrhea. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice on the right way to replace lost fluids.

(Video) Drug Withdrawal Symptoms and How to Manage It During Detox

When to See the Doctor

If your diarrhea, stomach pain, or vomiting are severe or last for longer than a few days, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. While this withdrawal symptom is sometimes considered no more than a nuisance, for some people, it can be troubling enough that it derails their attempts at quitting. If a person quits a substance and then relapses, it can increase the risk of overdose.

You should consult a doctor sooner if diarrhea is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or dehydration.

Stomach symptoms can be an indication of an underlying, treatable infection, and they can lead to life-threatening dehydration. In an emergency, you can go to an emergency room where an IV drip can be used to quickly replace fluids and electrolytes.

One of the most severe consequences of alcohol withdrawal, called delirium tremens ("the DTs"), impacts about 3% to 5% of people who withdraw from heavy drinking. If left untreated, this condition can be fatal.

Medical Treatments for Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal from substances can be done at home or in a healthcare setting. Quitting substance use is often easier under medical supervision because medications can be used to make the transition easier and less uncomfortable. Different treatments are available for different substances.


If alcohol withdrawal symptoms are moderate to severe, you may need to be in a supervised clinical setting. Whether you seek treatment as an inpatient or outpatient, you may be given sedatives to help make the transition to complete withdrawal in a medically safe way.

Treatment with B vitamins is also critical for someone withdrawing from alcohol. It can prevent Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (or alcohol dementia), a set of neurological conditions resulting from athiamine(vitamin B1) deficiency.


Because of the potential complications from stopping barbiturate use, withdrawal should always take place under medical supervision. You may be givenphenobarbital to help make the transition.


Treatment for stimulant withdrawal will likely involve psychotherapy but may also include antidepressants or other mood-affecting medications.


Treatment may include clonidine, which helps with anxiety, sweating, irritability, muscle cramping and aching and runny nose, and/or buprenorphine or methadone, both of which can decrease the amount of time it takes to detoxify and also help withdrawal symptoms.

Gabapentin can help with several symptoms, including diarrhea. Antispasmodics like Bentyl may also help ease gastrointestinal symptoms.


While detox and withdrawal can often be done at home, there are also medications that can help ease symptoms. The type of medication your doctor will prescribe depends on the substances you have been using, so talk to a healthcare practitioner about your options.

How Long Does Withdrawal From Tramadol Last?

A Word From Verywell

Diarrhea can be a distressing and unpleasant symptom of substance withdrawal. However, there are strategies that can help you cope and minimize the effects of diarrhea and associated stomach pain. Because the physical symptoms of withdrawal typically last for a few days to a week, you may find relief by sticking to a bland diet, staying hydrated, and utilizing OTC diarrhea remedies.

If you are experiencing severe diarrhea that isn't getting better or is causing symptoms of dehydration, contact your doctor. They can determine if something else might be contributing to your symptoms and determine if you need prescription medications or IV fluids to avoid serious complications.

(Video) Opioid Withdrawal

11 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. World Health Organization. Withdrawal management. In: Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Management and Treatment of Drug Dependence in Closed Settings.

  2. American Academy of Family Physicians. Vomiting and diarrhea.

  3. Greenberger NJ. Diarrhea. Merck Manual Professional Version.

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Diarrhea: Management and treatment.

  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse.Treatment approaches for drug addiction.

  6. MedlinePlus. Low blood sodium.

  7. University of Virginia Health Systems. Homemade oral rehydration solutions.

  8. Cleveland Clinic. Diarrhea.

  9. Schuckit MA.Recognition and management of withdrawal delirium (delirium tremens).N Engl J Med. 2014;371(22):2109-13. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1407298

    (Video) Nursing Simulation Scenario: Opioid Withdrawal

  10. MedlinePlus. Alcohol withdrawal.

  11. Salehi M, Kheirabadi GR, Maracy MR, Ranjkesh M. Importance of gabapentin dose in treatment of opioid withdrawal. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2011;31(5):593-596.doi:10.1097/JCP.0b013e31822bb378

Additional Reading

Coping With Drug Withdrawal Diarrhea, Stomach Pain, and Vomiting (1)

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.

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(Video) Severe Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms


How long does diarrhea last when withdrawing? ›

The total time for alcohol withdrawal will vary depending on the severity of alcohol addiction, underlying health conditions, and more. Diarrhea is one of the first symptoms that a person in detox will experience, typically starting within the first 12 hours and lasting up to 48 hours.

Does withdrawal hurt your stomach? ›

Diarrhea, stomach pain, and vomiting are often experienced by people going through withdrawal from opioids and other drugs. Although this can be a normal reaction by the body, the severity and discomfort you experience can be reduced by correct treatment.

Is vomiting a side effect of withdrawal? ›

Symptoms of withdrawal can be scary and dangerous. Mild symptoms include nausea and vomiting, sweating, shakiness, and intense worry. Severe symptoms include being confused and irritable, feeling things on your body that are not there, seeing or hearing things that are not there, and trembling.

What are most severe withdrawal symptoms? ›

A more severe withdrawal syndrome may include hallucinations, depersonalization, sensory sensitivity, numbness to extremities, and seizures that may even have life-threatening consequences.

What settles upset stomach and diarrhea? ›

  1. Sports drinks.
  2. Clear, non-caffeinated sodas such as 7-Up, Sprite or ginger ale.
  3. Diluted juices such as apple, grape, cherry or cranberry (avoid citrus juices)
  4. Clear soup broth or bouillon.
  5. Popsicles.
  6. Decaffeinated tea.

What stops stomach cramps and diarrhea? ›

For cramping from diarrhea, medicines that have loperamide (Imodium) or bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol) might make you feel better. For other types of pain, acetaminophen (Aspirin Free Anacin, Liquiprin, Panadol, Tylenol) might be helpful.

Why does my stomach hurt when detoxing? ›

Detox teas commonly cause abdominal pain and discomfort. Cramps, bloating, gas, and nausea are also common while consuming detox teas. The high levels of caffeine and laxative ingredients usually cause these symptoms, as they put stress on the digestive system.

What medication is best for withdrawal? ›

Opioid withdrawal management using buprenorphine

Buprenorphine is the best opioid medication for management of moderate to severe opioid withdrawal. It alleviates withdrawal symptoms and reduces cravings.

What drugs affect the digestive system? ›

Classes of medicines that may increase the severity of reflux include the following:
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs)
  • Nitrates.
  • Theophylline.
  • Calcium channel blockers.
  • Oral antibiotics.
  • Birth control pills.

What are 4 of the withdrawal symptoms? ›

Symptoms can include insomnia, irritability, changing moods, depression, anxiety, aches and pains, cravings, fatigue, hallucinations and nausea. The person may be hot and cold, have goosebumps, or have a runny nose as if they have a cold.

What is one of the first signs of withdrawal? ›

Common signs of opioid withdrawal include:
  • Anxiety.
  • Goosebumps.
  • Restlessness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Yawning.
  • Runny nose.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Widened (dilated) pupils.
21 Aug 2022

What are the 5 stages of the addiction cycle? ›

What Are the Five Stages of Change? The five stages of addiction recovery are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.

Which drug is responsible for the most severe withdrawal symptoms? ›

Prescription Drugs Can Lead To Withdrawals Too

Creating its own epidemic, prescription opioids are responsible for quick but severe withdrawal symptoms. The painkilling and euphoric effects are similar to that of heroin which means breaking away from use can be extremely difficult.

What are the 4 levels of addiction? ›

There are four levels of addiction: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. We will discuss each level in-depth and provide tips for overcoming addiction. Most people who try drugs or engage in risky behaviors don't become addicted.

What drugs physical withdrawal symptoms include? ›

Physical symptoms of drug withdrawal include:
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Muscle and bone pain.
  • High temperature and/or chills.
  • Fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Restlessness.
  • Vivid, unpleasant dreams.
  • Flu-like symptoms.

What can I take for vomiting and diarrhea? ›

There are over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications available for vomiting and diarrhea. While generally safe for adults, OTC medications should not be taken without first consulting a doctor. OTC medications include: bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate)

What does it mean when you have diarrhea and vomiting at the same time? ›

If nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea occur together, it could be due to gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the digestive tract. It is also known as the “stomach flu.” Fever or abdominal cramps may also be present if you have gastroenteritis.

How should I lay when my stomach hurts? ›

The best overall position to aid digestion is on your left side. This position uses gravity to help waste make its way through the digestive tract. Left side sleeping can also reduce heartburn because this keeps stomach acid lower in the esophagus. The next best position is on your back with your head elevated.

How long should stomach pain and diarrhea last? ›

In children, diarrhoea will usually pass within 5 to 7 days and will rarely last longer than 2 weeks. In adults, diarrhoea usually improves within 2 to 4 days, although some infections can last a week or more. While waiting for your diarrhoea to pass, you can ease your symptoms by following the advice outlined below.

What drinks help diarrhea? ›

Water, Pedialyte, fruit juices, caffeine-free soda, and salty broths are some good choices. According to the Cleveland Clinic, salt helps slow down the fluid loss, and sugar will help your body absorb the salt.

How long does detox flu last? ›

How long do detox symptoms last? Almost as soon as you start a detox, symptoms may begin to appear, and these can usually last between 24-72 hours. In some cases, it may even be a little longer.

How do you detox your stomach? ›

The Most Common Ways to Detox
  1. Fasting for 1–3 days.
  2. Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, water, and tea.
  3. Drinking only specific liquids, such as salted water or lemon juice.
  4. Eliminating foods high in heavy metals, contaminants, and allergens.
  5. Taking supplements or herbs.

What to avoid while detoxing? ›

Most detoxification programs recommend removing highly processed foods and foods to which some people are sensitive, such as dairy, gluten, eggs, peanuts and red meat. They also recommend eating mostly organically grown vegetables, fruit, whole non-glutenous grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein.

What are three things that can help with withdrawal symptoms? ›

In addition to seeking medical support, there are also things that you can do that may help you feel better as you go through the withdrawal process:
  • Ask for help. ...
  • Eat well. ...
  • Exercise. ...
  • Drink plenty of water. ...
  • Relieve symptoms with over the counter (OTC) medications. ...
  • Sleep.
26 Jul 2022

What is a withdrawal syndrome? ›

Withdrawal syndrome, also known as discontinuation syndrome, occurs in individuals who have developed physiological dependence on a substance and who discontinue or reduce their use of it.

Whats the difference between withdraw and withdrawal? ›

When you withdraw something, the item you withdrew is a withdrawal. It's pronounced the same way as withdraw, but with an "l" at the end (with-DRAWL). Like all nouns, withdrawal can be the subject or direct object in a sentence.

Can drugs cause gastritis? ›

Causes. The most common causes of gastritis are: Certain medicines, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen and other similar drugs. Heavy alcohol drinking.

What is a ghost pill? ›

A ghost tablet contains only the outer shell of a pill without active ingredients. When this happens a person may worry the medication did not dissolve and did not work. Finding a pill in the stool is entirely normal for long acting medications.

Can drugs cause stomach pains? ›

Abdominal pain may be associated with the use of a medication or other drug. Drug-induced abdominal pain is characterized by a sense of discomfort in the abdomen presenting soon after beginning a medication. Drugs that cause abdominal pain can also typically cause nausea, emesis, constipation, and diarrhea.

Why do I feel like withdrawing? ›

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.

Why does the body have withdrawal? ›

What Causes Drug Withdrawal? Withdrawal symptoms are the result of dependence, which is the body's normal physiological adaptation to the sustained presence of a substance. A person who develops dependence may feel like they need the drug to think and function normally.

How long does emotional withdrawal last? ›

Unlike physical withdrawal symptoms, which typically last three days to a week, psychological withdrawal symptoms may linger for up to two years. Despite the potentially long-lasting symptoms of psychological withdrawal, it's important to know that the severity of these symptoms dramatically diminishes over time.

What are moderate withdrawal symptoms? ›

Common symptoms of withdrawal may include:
  • Trembling and tremors.
  • Muscle pain or aches.
  • Hunger or loss of appetite.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sweating.
  • Irritability and agitation.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.
14 Sept 2022

Is gabapentin an opioid? ›

While gabapentin and opiate drugs share some minor similarities, they are very different drugs. Gabapentin is not an opiate drug and not considered to be a dangerous drug of abuse like most opiate drugs.

What are the side effects of oxycodone? ›

Common side effects
  • constipation.
  • feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting)
  • stomach discomfort.
  • feeling sleepy or tired.
  • feeling dizzy and a sensation of spinning (vertigo)
  • confusion.
  • headaches.
  • itchiness or rash.

What is the last stage of addiction? ›

Stage 4: Addiction

Once the final stage is reached, you have entered addiction and complete dependency upon the substance. It's no longer a question about whether or not you're addicted to drugs or alcohol.

What are the 4 stages of recovery? ›

The 4 Stages of Complete Rehabilitation
  • Rest and Protect the Injury. The first stage of recovery is all about minimising further damage and letting the body begin the healing process. ...
  • Recover Your Motion. ...
  • Recover Your Strength. ...
  • Recover Your Function.

How long does it take to break the addiction cycle? ›

Break the cycle and restore balance

Take a 30-day break from whatever it is that you rely on for pleasure: social media, sugar, video games, sex, pot, booze – anything, really.

Do you poop alot when you detox? ›

In addition to pooping more, you should find it much easier to do so, especially if you are used to some constipation. When you go on a cleanse, you tend to dramatically increase the amount of water you take in — both through liquids and the plant foods you juice or include in your healthy meals.

How long is too long for diarrhea? ›

If diarrhea lasts more than 2 days it may mean you have a more serious problem. Diarrhea may be either: Short-term (acute). Diarrhea that lasts 1 or 2 days and goes away.

How long does it take to get over diarrhea? ›

Treating diarrhoea

In children, diarrhoea will usually pass within 5 to 7 days and will rarely last longer than 2 weeks. In adults, diarrhoea usually improves within 2 to 4 days, although some infections can last a week or more.

How do I still have diarrhea when I haven't eaten? ›

Diarrhea caused by parasites, food sensitivities or allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal diseases and medications may be intermittent or ongoing and often requires medical treatment to get better.

How do I get rid of toxins in my stomach? ›

The Most Common Ways to Detox
  1. Fasting for 1–3 days.
  2. Drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, water, and tea.
  3. Drinking only specific liquids, such as salted water or lemon juice.
  4. Eliminating foods high in heavy metals, contaminants, and allergens.
  5. Taking supplements or herbs.

Does diarrhea get rid of toxins? ›

Diarrhea is when you have an increased number of bowel movements or you have bowel movements that are watery or loose. It's caused by attenuated water absorption or inappropriate water secretion by the intestines. It is your body's way of quickly clearing viruses, bacteria, or toxins from the digestive tract.

What does a detox feel like? ›

Physical symptoms of withdrawal

Common physical reactions include muscle tension, racing heartrate, difficulty breathing, and tightness in the chest. Other common symptoms include profuse sweating, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms can put the individual through tremendous stress.

What does it mean when you have diarrhea and vomiting at the same time? ›

If nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea occur together, it could be due to gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the digestive tract. It is also known as the “stomach flu.” Fever or abdominal cramps may also be present if you have gastroenteritis.

Is it better to let diarrhea run its course? ›

Since diarrhea is your body's way of getting rid of toxins, it is best to let it run its course. However, you may use over-the-counter antidiarrheal remedies for convenience, including: Attapulgite (Kaopectate) Loperamide (Imodium)

What drinks help diarrhea? ›

Water, Pedialyte, fruit juices, caffeine-free soda, and salty broths are some good choices. According to the Cleveland Clinic, salt helps slow down the fluid loss, and sugar will help your body absorb the salt.

What settles an upset stomach quickly? ›

Home treatments to settle an upset stomach may include consuming small amounts of clear liquids, drinking plenty of fluids, small sips of water or sucking on ice chips, sports drinks, clear sodas, diluted juices, clear soup broth or bouillon, popsicles, caffeine-free tea, and the BRAT diet.

How long does diarrhea and vomiting last? ›

How long diarrhoea and vomiting last. Diarrhoea caused by gastroenteritis usually starts to improve within 3 days but can last up to 7 days. Vomiting usually lasts 1 to 2 days. This is the same for both adults and children.

What is explosive diarrhea a symptom of? ›

Share on Pinterest Causes of explosive diarrhea can include viral infections, bacterial infections, and food allergies. The viruses most often responsible for diarrhea include norovirus, rotavirus, or any number of the viruses that cause viral gastroenteritis. This condition is what many people call the “stomach flu.”

Why is my diarrhea like water? ›

Watery diarrhea is commonly caused by a viral infection or food poisoning from eating undercooked meat or rotten foods. It can be serious if it causes dehydration. Keep an eye out for blood in the stool, and be sure to drink water and fluids with electrolytes.

What is the dumping syndrome? ›

Dumping syndrome is a condition in which food, especially food high in sugar, moves from your stomach into your small bowel too quickly after you eat. Sometimes called rapid gastric emptying, dumping syndrome most often occurs as a result of surgery on your stomach or esophagus.

Should I not eat if I have diarrhea? ›

You should avoid certain kinds of foods when you have diarrhea, including fried foods and greasy foods. Avoid fruits and vegetables that can cause gas, such as broccoli, peppers, beans, peas, berries, prunes, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables, and corn. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks.


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