Drug withdrawal is your body’s response to using less or none of a substance it has grown dependent on. For many people, those substances are drugs and alcohol.
Some people manage their drug withdrawal symptoms on their own, while others require a helping hand. If you’re unsure about what drug withdrawal looks like or what you can expect, you can learn more about it below.
Help is available
One of the most important things to know about drug withdrawal is that help is available. You can join a substance abuse recovery program to receive support and help through what will likely be one of the most challenging parts of your life.
Drug rehabilitation facilities can provide a safe environment for detoxing while also helping you manage the many symptoms associated with this process. Once the detox process is complete, they can also provide residential addiction treatment, outpatient addiction treatment, and therapy services like 12-step programs, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more.
Why does drug withdrawal happen?
Many people have successfully given up bad habits without repercussions or side effects, but drugs and alcohol can be different. You may become physiologically dependent on them, and your body struggles to manage the decline of a particular substance in your body.
It reacts by trying to reach a state of homeostasis, which involves getting rid of the last chemical components of your drug or alcohol of choice. During this time, brain chemistry is disrupted, leading to possible physical and mental health repercussions.
Going through withdrawals on your own can be dangerous
If you’re not sure about booking into a rehabilitation center, you may be tempted to manage the withdrawal process on your own. However, it can be dangerous, depending on which substances you’re trying to quit.
Severe alcohol withdrawal has been linked to delirium tremens, a condition that may lead to seizures and, sometimes, death. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can also be uncomfortable, possibly causing you to use again just to experience relief.
Detoxing in a safe environment with medical professionals to treat symptoms like sleeplessness, nausea, and vomiting is an advisable option, especially for those with severe addictions and dependence issues.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms aren’t predictable, and not everyone will experience all symptoms or the same symptoms as someone else. However, your chances of severe withdrawal may increase with how much and how often you drink. Generally, people with alcohol abuse issues experience some the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Elevated blood pressure
Symptoms of opioid withdrawal
Symptoms associated with opioid withdrawal don’t tend to be life-threatening, but they can be physically and psychologically distressing. You may also have to go through them more than once on your journey to sobriety. Many of the symptoms of opioid withdrawal are flu-like, such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Body aches
- Runny nose
- Trouble sleeping
- Hot and cold flashes
- Excessive sweating
Cocaine withdrawal symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms of cocaine can last several weeks, and they may begin within one day of your last use. Many people notice symptoms, such as:
- Mood changes
- Increased appetite
Benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms
Physicians often prescribe benzodiazepines for a variety of medical conditions, but they can be addictive. You may become dependent on them and experience some of these symptoms below when you stop taking them.
- Sleep problems
Timeframe for withdrawals
Many people in the middle of experiencing withdrawal symptoms wonder how long it’s going to last. When you receive detox support in a substance abuse recovery program, medical professionals will be available to answer any questions you may have.
However, the timeframe for withdrawal symptoms can depend on what your body is withdrawing from. Alcohol addiction withdrawal symptoms can be present for up to eight days, while short-acting opioids such as heroin and long-acting opioids like methadone generally have symptoms lasting up to 10 days.
After you stop taking benzodiazepines, like Valium and Xanax, you may experience various withdrawal symptoms for months or even years after you become sober. However, symptom management is controllable with a support network and professional help.
What happens after drug withdrawal?
In a professional facility, drug withdrawal is the first step of your recovery. Behavioural therapeutic intervention and ongoing support in a residential facility or outpatient care can then be the next step in helping you become sober, stay sober, and get your life back on track.
Drug withdrawal can be scary, challenging, and dangerous. However, it’s all worth it when you come out the other side knowing you’re doing the right thing for your mental and physical health. When you’re ready to take the first step to sobriety, take a moment to think about whether booking into a drug rehabilitation facility will be the safest and best move for you.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.