Word of the Week: Withdrawal

illustration of scientist looking into microscope - word of the week

Alex Dos Diaz / Verywell

Each week, Verywell explains a term from health, medicine, science, or technology.


How to say itWithdrawal (with-DRAWL)

What it means: In medicine, the term "withdrawal" can mean a few things. You'll often hear it used in relation to stopping a substance, medication, or treatment. The term "withdrawal" can also be used to describe the symptoms that a person has when they stop taking something.

Where it comes from: From the Middle English, drawen, "to pull toward" something.

A solitary green and gray pill on a sage green background.

Nataliya Vaitkevich/Pexels

Where you might see or hear it: If you are taking a medication and your doctor wants you to take less or stop taking it altogether, they might explain that you will start gradually taking less and less (referred to tapering) to help avoid symptoms of withdrawal that can happen if you stop taking the medication abruptly.

When you might want to use it: When someone stops using a substance like alcohol or drugs, they may experience symptoms as their body adjusts to no longer having it. This is sometimes referred to as "going through withdrawal."

Was this page helpful?