Withdrawal: What To Do and How To Handle It

09/13/19: Addiction \ Addiction Recovery
Withdrawal is something that all people who have been addicted to a substance must go through during the detox process on their journey to become sober. But due to the chemical makeup and general nature of various kinds of addictive substances, withdrawal symptoms will present differently depending on which substance(s) the person has been misusing. A person’s experience will also vary from person to person, dependent on things like sex, weight, height, amount of the substance used, length of time used, etc. So if there are so many different factors that affect a person’s experience with withdrawal, how can one know what to expect? The truth is, you can never really be completely prepared for the withdrawal period. It is just something that you have to go into blindly, with the will to come out on the other side a new and improved person. However, there is general information on what symptoms you may experience, how long it will take, etc. The best thing you can do to prepare for going through withdrawal during detox is to set yourself up for success. And in reading this article, you are already taking a big step in doing this, so keep reading to learn how you can make the withdrawal process go as smoothly and successfully as possible.

What is Withdrawal?

addiction recoveryWithdrawal is the first step on the road to recovery from addiction, and often the most difficult part of the process because of the physical effects it causes on top of the mental toll. A person begins experiencing withdrawal when they either decrease or completely cut off the use of an addictive substance. At this point, the person may have developed a psychological dependence, physical dependence, or both. When one decreases or ceases to use the substance, it causes the body to go into shock in a sense. This leads to some uncomfortable and sometimes painful symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms a person can experience during the withdrawal period can vary in severity depending on:
  • how long you’ve been using for
  • what drug(s)
  • age
  • physical health
  • psychological characteristics
  • method of detoxing
In general, according to American Addiction Centers, some of the symptoms one might experience are:
  • tension
  • panic attacks
  • tremors
  • difficulty concentrating
  • short-term memory loss
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • disturbed sleep
  • headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • muscle pain and stiffness
  • hypertension
  • irregular heart rate
  • craving for the drug(s)
As you might guess, these symptoms can create a lot of discomfort for the person detoxing. And as we mentioned, it can be difficult to anticipate which symptoms you might experience during your own process or a loved one’s. Here are a handful of lists of some of the symptoms associated with the more common substances that cause addiction:

Alcohol

  • sweating
  • tremors
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • difficulty sleeping
  • seizures or fits
  • delusions and hallucinations
  • death.

Amphetamines

  • cravings for amphetamines
  • increased appetite
  • confusion and irritability
  • aches and pains
  • exhaustion
  • restless sleep and nightmares
  • anxiety, depression, and paranoia.

Benzodiazepines

  • headaches
  • aching or twitching muscles
  • dizziness and tremors
  • nausea, vomiting, stomach pains
  • bizarre dreams, difficulty sleeping, fatigue
  • poor concentration
  • anxiety and irritability
  • altered perception, a heightening of senses
  • delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia
  • Seizures.

Nicotine

  • cravings
  • irritability, anxiety, and depression
  • restless sleep
  • eating more and putting on weight
  • trouble concentrating
  • headaches
  • coughing and sore throat
  • aches and pains
  • upset stomach and bowels.

Opioids

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • muscle aches
  • increased tearing
  • insomnia
  • runny nose
  • sweating
  • yawning
  • abdominal cramping
  • diarrhea
  • dilated pupils
  • goosebumps
  • nausea
  • Vomiting
Keep in mind that there are many other symptoms related to other substances not listed here. For a more complete list, visit the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s website.

How long does the withdrawal period last?

Again, the time of the withdrawal period will depend on many different factors. Here are some estimated time frames for withdrawal for a few different substances: Alcohol: 1–3 weeks. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Alcohol withdrawal usually occurs within 8 hours after the last drink but can occur days later. Symptoms usually peak by 24 to 72 hours, but may go on for weeks.” Amphetamines: 1 month. Some symptoms may persist through the end of the first month, but by this time, the amphetamines should be completely out of one’s system. Benzodiazepines: ~10 days. Many people who stop taking these medications experience increased anxiety or restlessness, which is referred to as the rebound effect. The rebound effect typically lasts around 2–3 days. Nicotine: 3–4 weeks. Withdrawal symptoms typically peak after 1–3 days, and then decrease over a time frame of 3–4 weeks. After around the month mark, the body has expelled most of the nicotine, and the withdrawal effects are mainly psychological. Opioids: ~1 week. Symptoms will usually become noticeable within 6–30 hours (sooner for short-acting opiates, longer for long-acting ones) and peak at the 72-hour mark.

Why You Should Never Do an At-Home Detox

Many people, when they first decide to quit, will simply attempt to just stop the drug cold turkey without any sort of preparation or knowledge about what they are doing. And while it’s amazing that they’ve made this decision, it’s the unfortunate truth that most people who attempt to detox at home usually don’t succeed. This is because the effects of withdrawal are mentally and physically taxing, and attempting to pull it off in an environment full of distraction and temptation is not ideal. In fact, it can become even more serious and even life-threatening or damaging to you and those around you. When you’re going through the beginning stages of recovery, you will be harsh, irrational, irritable, and downright mean at times. Detoxing in the presence of your family isn’t a good idea, because it will put unnecessary stress on everyone involved. You could say or do things that you will regret once you are finally free of active addiction. And though your family may want to help you, they do not have the training or licensure required to fully address all areas of the recovery process. During detox, there is a likelihood that you could experience frightening and even life-threatening symptoms, such as seizures because your body is put under so much stress. You’ll probably experience aching, muscle cramps, and there is a good chance that you will feel extremely nauseous, among other things as you detox. Aside from physical symptoms, there are many issues that can arise with your mental health during the detox process as well, and oftentimes these can be even more dangerous than the physical effects. It’s common for someone who is detoxing from drugs to become depressed, delirious, and even suffer from hallucinations. You can even become paranoid and lose your ability to think clearly. This can make it difficult to express yourself clearly and may also cause you to become very easily agitated.

How to Get Through It

If you’ve already made the decision to get clean, congratulations. You’re already well on your way to a life of sobriety! But you may be having feelings of fear and uncertainty with the looming prospect of withdrawal symptoms you are bound to experience during the detox period. This is one of the many reasons that we strongly urge you to consider going through a certified treatment center. When you go to a professional treatment facility to detox, you are given medications to help minimize the withdrawal symptoms. Your health is also monitored so that if any life-threatening issues arise, they can be dealt with in the appropriate ways to ensure you are as safe as you can be during the entire detox process. There are also professional counselors at a treatment facility that you can talk to during your entire recovery process to guide you through the mental trials and tribulations you will encounter. They will help you manage your emotions and find a place of solace within your mind to escape to when things get rough. Being able to talk things out with a professional counselor will allow you to confront past trauma and start down a path of increased psychological wellbeing and awareness. The staff at the treatment facility is well equipped to deal with all of the ugliness that comes with detox. They understand that it is a difficult time for you emotionally, and know exactly how to help guide you through this difficult time without taking things personally.

You CAN Get Through It!

Every day, hundreds, if not thousands, of people are making the commitment to getting clean. And though some may fail, many will succeed. We want you to be part of the success stories. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to help you get on track to a healthy, long life of sobriety and happiness!

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If you or someone you know needs help with addiction, contact 602-737-1619 or email info@arizonaaddiction.com to get the help you need. Our acclaimed recovery environment merges upscale, luxury accommodations with affordability, clinical expertise and an unwavering commitment to patient care and aftercare.

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