Withdrawal is used to describe the physical and psychological symptoms people can experience when reducing, or stopping, alcohol and other drug use.

If you would like some individual support or advice on getting through withdrawal you can chat to counsellors on the phone by calling the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 or on Counselling Online anytime.

Be prepared

The first thing you should do is talk to your GP or other health professionals, for advice about whether it is safe for you to go into withdrawal at home, or if it is better that you attend an inpatient detox facility.

If you are withdrawing at home, rally your support people to be there for you if you need them and let them know when you will be going into withdrawal. Take leave from work, don’t plan on doing too much, limit visitors (support people are fine), eat well and turn off the phone. You're likely to be tired and irritable so give yourself plenty of personal space and remember to rest as much as you can when stopping your drug use. Practise lots of ways to manage cravings and stick a list on the wall of the ones that work for you. Remember that withdrawal typically lasts no longer than a week and be reassured that you will feel better with time.

If you attend a detox facility for withdrawal you will receive supportive care and guidance from trained staff.

You can also read our getting through withdrawal factsheets (links at the bottom of this page), for more information about what to expect in withdrawal from specific drugs.

Be kind to yourself

Withdrawal is understandably difficult and it is okay to find it hard. Call on support people when you need to - it can be hard to do this alone.

Remember that you can talk to a counsellor through Counselling Online or the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline 1800 250 015 at any time.

Watch your mental and physical health

Watch for symptoms of depression and anxiety and if symptoms hang around, become severe or you start to think about hurting yourself in any way get professional help straight away. You can speak to your GP to have your mental health assessed and get a mental health care plan.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts please call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, and remember your life matters.

If you are finding withdrawal intolerable at home, or if your mental or physical health is suffering, seek medical assistance for more support.

Remember why you're stopping

Remembering your motivation for stopping can keep you focused when things seem tough:

  • Remind yourself why you want to stop using alcohol or other drugs in the first place, and the goals addiction is holding you back from achieving.
  • Remind yourself of the benefits of not using alcohol or other drugs.
  • Remind yourself of the things you don’t like about using alcohol or other drugs.
  • Put a picture of yourself at your worst in a prominent place, you don’t have to be that person anymore.
  • Do whatever you can to maintain your commitment so you can get through this.
  • Get specialist help from an addiction treatment service if you need it.

After withdrawal

Consider ongoing counselling to help you stay abstinent and maintain your positive changes. Remember that you can speak to a counsellor on the phone 1800 250 015 or on Counselling Online anytime - it’s free, confidential and available 24/7!

What can I do next?

Find some additional tools to help yourself while making a change, this could include:

  • Read more about withdrawal and support options on Counselling Online

  • Read our Getting through Alcohol Withdrawal factsheet [PDF 129KB] [DOCX 21KB]

  • Read our Getting through Benzodiazepine Withdrawal factsheet [PDF 121KB] [DOCX 21KB]

  • Read our Getting through Cannabis Withdrawal factsheet [PDF 120KB] [DOCX 20KB]

  • Read our Getting through Opioid Withdrawal factsheet [PDF 122KB] [DOCX 21.97KB]