Drugs and alcohol addiction issues cost the U.S. more than any other neurological disease, and the price to families, communities, and the overall economy is steep. Substance abuse symptoms and withdrawals are often the first signs that something is wrong. When drugs wear-off or addicts suddenly quit, withdrawal symptoms follow. These can be painful and sometimes deadly. The severity and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms also increase the risk of relapse. Today we take a look at the many questions one may have about addiction withdrawal, where to find treatment, and what to expect along the way. 

Addiction Withdrawal | What To Know

How do you define addiction? 

Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. Addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders, and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances. 

Over time, addictions can seriously interfere with your daily life. People experiencing addiction are also prone to cycles of relapse and remission. This means they may cycle between intense and mild use. Despite these cycles, addictions will typically worsen over time. They can lead to permanent health complications and serious consequences like bankruptcy.

What are the signs? 

Most signs of addiction relate to a person’s impaired ability to maintain self-control. This includes changes that are:

  • social, such as seeking out situations that encourage a substance or behavior
  • behavioral, such increased secrecy
  • health related, such as insomnia or memory loss
  • related to personality

Someone with an addition won’t stop their behavior, even if they recognize the problems the addiction is causing. In some cases, they’ll also display a lack of control, like using more than intended. Some behavior and emotional changes associated with addiction include:

  • unrealistic or poor assessment of the pros and cons associated with using substances or behaviors
  • blaming other factors or people for their problems
  • increased levels of anxiety, depression, and sadness
  • increased sensitivity and more severe reactions to stress
  • trouble identifying feelings
  • trouble telling the difference between feelings and the physical sensations of one’s emotions

What is addiction withdrawal?

When someone drinks alcohol or uses certain drugs on a repeated basis, their brain adjusts to the presence of this substance. They become physiologically dependent on their substance of choice and utterly reliant on it to function and feel “normal.” In people who develop significant levels of dependence, withdrawal from drugs is often an inevitable response to the sudden absence of a drug’s declining concentration. Withdrawal symptoms may develop when a substance-dependent person quits a substance “cold turkey” or substantially reduces how much they are using. During withdrawal, the body is attempting to reach a new state of homeostasis as it dispels the user’s drug of choice. This can result in large fluctuations in brain chemicals and may accompany significant mental and physical health repercussions.

What are the symptoms of withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the type of drug you were taking. The truth is that not many people actually understand what happens to the body during the process of withdrawing. Addiction withdrawal symptoms largely relate to the addicted drug, so the symptoms can be either physical or psychological. That means that a person might experience changes in the way they think, feel, or act

Drug Withdrawal: Phase 1. During the first 24 hours or so, you can expect to experience the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches
  • Runny nose
  • Tearing eyes
  • Restlessness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Excessive yawning 
  • Excessive sweating

Drug Withdrawal: Phase 2. As you continue your withdrawal, you’ll likely experience:

  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Dilated pupils (and possibly blurred vision)

No question, you’ll be uncomfortable during this time. But don’t give up!

Drug Withdrawal: Phase 3. As you “settle in” to your withdrawal experience, you may also experience some long-term withdrawal symptoms or, more properly, withdrawal issues, since they tend to be expressed by emotions and behaviors. While the physical symptoms of withdrawal might last only a few days or a week, the psychological withdrawal, such as depression or dysphoria, can last much longer.

What causes addiction withdrawal? 

When a person’s body is exposed to any type of substance for a regular period of time, the substance throws off this sense of balance or homeostasis. When the person stops using the drug, the state of homeostasis in the body that has been developed as a result of regularly getting the drug is suddenly thrown off. This results in a state of imbalance that includes a number of issues with levels of hormones, neurotransmitters, and imbalances in other systems that result in what most people think of as withdrawal symptoms. People feel sick, psychologically thrown out of balance, and may even develop severe and potentially dangerous symptoms, such as seizures, depending on the type of drug they were using.

How long does it last?

The timeline for withdrawal syndromes varies depending on the drug used. Other factors influence the timeline of withdrawal too:

  • How much of the drug you typically took
  • The manner in which you took it (snorting, injection, etc.)
  • Whether you combined it with other drugs
  • How long you abused the drug
  • Individual factors like your genetic profile, your metabolism, and your weight

Addiction withdrawal timelines are generally broken down into three stages: acute, protracted, and post-acute. It’s important to understand what these phases look like because knowing what to expect will help you—and your loved ones—put the right treatment and resources in place.

What is Medical Detox for addiction withdrawal?

To rid your body of drugs, you must go through the detoxification process. When you stop using drugs or alcohol, your body naturally gets rid of those substances, but this doesn’t mean it’s safe to detox on your own. Detoxing in a medical facility is the safest option. A physician-supervised medical detox program doesn’t speed up the process, but it helps you through safely and as comfortably as possible. It also addresses the symptoms of withdrawal that may cause you to relapse.

Medical detox is highly recommended for anyone with a substance use disorder. If you are addicted to alcohol and benzodiazepines, it’s necessary. We highly recommend it for the other types of addiction because it gives you the best chance possible at a healthy, sober life.

What should you expect during addiction treatment? 

Of course, any person can attempt a “cold turkey” approach to withdrawal. In some cases, such as with alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal, this could lead to a potentially dangerous situation. Given the current advances in medicine and the understanding of substance use disorders, there is no reason for anyone to attempt this approach these days.

While the attempt to quit is commendable, detoxing at home is not the safest or most efficacious option. Negative influences cannot be kept away from the recovering individual, and withdrawal symptoms, if not deadly, are unpleasant and uncomfortable.

Drug withdrawal can be scary, painful, and life-threatening. Fortunately, there are detox methods that can help prevent you from having any symptoms at all so you can experience a safer, more comfortable recovery.

People who suffer from heroin and painkiller addiction can receive medications in drug detox that relieve drug cravings and other opioid withdrawal symptoms. Methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are FDA-approved medications for use in treating opioid dependence and addiction. These drugs can be prescribed as part of medical detox or medication-assisted treatment — the latter of which is combined with counseling and behavioral therapy.

Addiction Treatment with Daylight Recovery Center

At Daylight Recovery Center, we provide a warm and compassionate environment designed specifically for patient comfort during the medical detox process. We understand that you’ll be living with us for a short period of time during your recovery process. Although three to four weeks doesn’t sound long, we feel it’s imperative to provide a space that feels like your home-away-from-home. It is our sole commitment to you or your loved one’s recovery from addiction. We do whatever it takes to get our clients safe, healthy, and on the road to a recovery that’s satisfying to them. We welcome the chance to serve you. Contact one of our counselors today!

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