Drug Withdrawal and Detox

Even after you have decided to overcome your substance use disorder, you might still be concerned about having to go through withdrawal. This condition can cause you great discomfort. This is why it is recommended that you enroll in a medically managed detox program to get help with your withdrawal symptoms.

Understanding Withdrawal

Withdrawal occurs when you stop drinking alcohol or using intoxicating and mind altering substances. When this happens, the drug effects will cease. Additionally, your body will start clearing out the substances and their resultant toxins from your bloodstream and other bodily organs. This process refers to detox.

Due to the working mechanism of drugs in the body and mind, detox can lead to some adverse psychological and physical symptoms. Most of these withdrawal symptoms tend to be uncomfortable and painful. Taken together, they comprise the withdrawal process.

According to the WHO - the World Health Organization - withdrawal refers to the psychological and physical symptoms that you will experience during detox. These symptoms occur because your body would be trying to get rid of the intoxicating and mind altering substances that you used to abuse.

That said, the withdrawal and detox process will largely depend on a wide variety of factors. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • How long you have been abusing drugs
  • The amounts of drugs you used to take
  • The existence of co-occurring mental health and medical disorders over and above your addiction
  • The types of intoxicating substances you were taking

Why Withdrawal Symptoms Develop

When you use intoxicating substances, they will act on the brain's chemical processes and pathways. It is for this reason why you will develop a substance use disorder, or an addiction.

On the other hand, if you are using a prescription medication exactly as your doctor recommended, it will supplement your brain's chemical pathways. On the other hand, if you abuse it, there is a high risk that it could take over these pathways.

Eventually, substance abuse will lead to the development of tolerance. This effectively means that you will have to increase your dose or frequency of substance abuse to experience the pleasurable effects that you desire.

Over time, tolerance could give way to physical and psychological dependence. When this happens, you could be said to have developed a substance use disorder, also known as addiction.

At this stage, your body will no longer be able to function normally unless you take the intoxicating substances that you are addicted to. As a result, your body might stop producing dopamine - a natural chemical - in adequate amounts.

Instead, it will start depending on these substances to be able to produce this chemical that is essential to some life-forming and sustaining activities. This means that if you stop abusing drugs, your brain will send signals all through your body informing it that you need the drugs.

Up until you get to a stage where your body is producing dopamine and other essential chemicals on its own, you will continue experiencing withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings.

During this period, your brain will send messages to your body to look for drugs and use them. As a result, you could experience great discomfort, pain, and other adverse effects.

This is because your brain and body will no longer be able to naturally complete these essential chemical pathways. As a result, you will start displaying some serious withdrawal symptoms, some of which could prove to be fatal.

Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

When you get into an addiction detoxification program, you are highly likely to experience the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Cravings for the substances that you are dependent on
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle trembling
  • Shakiness

Even so, you should keep in mind that different substances of abuse lead to different sets of withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms might also occur in varying degrees and intensities depending on you as an individual, the severity of your substance use disorder, and the amounts of drugs you have been taking, among others.

It is essential that you are always aware of drug and alcohol withdrawal and its effects on you as a person. In many cases, withdrawal can prove to be uncomfortable without resulting in death or injury. In other cases, your withdrawal syndrome might be dangerous or even deadly.

Consider the following commonly abused substances and their resultant withdrawal effects:

a) Alcohol

  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Difficulties focusing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muddled thinking
  • Nervousness
  • Pale skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shakiness
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

b) Benzodiazepines

  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychotic reactions
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Upset stomach
  • Weight loss

c) Heroin and Other Opioids

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Goose bumps
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Teary eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Yawning

Getting Help

Due to the various complications that might arise from your drug withdrawal symptoms, addiction treatment specialists recommend that you only go through detox after checking into a professional detox program.

By so doing, you can receive a wide variety of medically managed detox services. These services will include the monitoring of your vital signs and symptoms, the provision of essential medications to ease these symptoms, and tapering methods to reduce your physical dependence and drug cravings.

Additionally, a medically managed detox program might be able to protect you from self-harm, severe withdrawal, and any other life-threatening effects that will occur when you give up your favorite intoxicating and mind altering substances of abuse.

Additionally, the program might provide you with other treatments to ease your withdrawal, reduce your risk of relapse, and deal with your drug cravings. These treatments might include:

  • Aversive agents so that taking drugs causes you to feel uncomfortable
  • Group, family, and individual therapy to support your existing relationships
  • Participation in mutual and self-help groups to improve your outcomes in treatment
  • Supportive agents to manage withdrawal and prevent cravings
  • Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to teach you essential craving management skills

Following the medically managed detox program could increase your chances of achieving full stability as well as overcome your physical dependence. After the drug detox program has been deemed successful, you should continue with treatment through a drug rehab program.

CITATIONS

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/drugtreat-pubs-front6-fa-toc~drugtreat-pubs-front6-fa-secb~drugtreat-pubs-front6-fa-secb-10~drugtreat-pubs-front6-fa-secb-10-1

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00142896

https://news.stanford.edu/2016/02/03/opiates-reversing-withdrawal-020316/

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/evidence-based-approaches-to-treating-adolescent-substance-use-disorders/addiction-medications

https://www.madinamerica.com/2019/04/withdrawal-symptoms-routinely-confound-findings-psychiatric-drug-studies/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1272349/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3071736/

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