Precipitated withdrawal

What is precipitated withdrawal?

Precipitated withdrawal is a rapid and severe onset of withdrawal symptoms that can occur when an opioid antagonist or partial agonist, such as naloxone or buprenorphine, is administered to a person with an active opioid dependency. It happens because the medication displaces opioids from their receptors, causing a sudden drop in opioid effects.

Symptoms of precipitated withdrawal

Symptoms of precipitated withdrawal can be severe and include both physical and psychological effects. Physical symptoms may include:

  • Sweating 
  • Racing heart 
  • High blood pressure
  • Body aches
  • Excessive yawning
  • Insomnia 
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils

Psychological symptoms may include:

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Intense cravings for the substance


Precipitated withdrawal has been a concern in opioid addiction treatment since the introduction of antagonist and partial agonist medications. Proper induction protocols and patient education help mitigate the risk of precipitated withdrawal.

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