Dimenhydrinate is a common non-prescription medication that is abused. Knowing what to expect can help people manage the withdrawal and detox process.
Dimenhydrinate is a medication that is used to prevent and treat motion sickness. It helps decrease nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. Dimenhydrinate may also be used to treat inner ear problems that cause balance issues.
Dimenhydrinate is an antihistamine that is purchasable without a prescription. It is sold under the brand name Dramamine and as a generic medication. When someone takes more of the drug than recommended, dimenhydrinate can cause psychotropic effects including hallucinations and euphoria. Other people may take it to get the calming effect that happens due to the drowsiness caused by the drug. As the body gets used to the drug, higher doses are required to achieve the same effects. Repeated use and increasing doses can lead to dependence and addiction developing.
Stopping dimenhydrinate use after the body becomes used to the drug can cause undesirable effects. Similar to other drugs that are abused, when people stop taking dimenhydrinate they can experience withdrawal symptoms. The severity of the symptoms depends on how long the person was taking it, how much they were taking and if they stop cold turkey or gradually decrease the amount taken.
Dimenhydrinate withdrawal symptoms are similar to other drugs of abuse. Depending on how long the person was taking dimenhydrinate for and how much they took determines the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. Not every symptom will be experienced by every person going through dimenhydrinate withdrawal. The most common withdrawal symptoms are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach cramps
The length of dimenhydrinate withdrawal is not well known. Some people can experience withdrawal symptoms for up to 7 days. How long the withdrawal symptoms last also depends on how long someone has been taking it and how much they have been taking.
Medications that are used to treat dimenhydrinate withdrawal can only help manage the symptoms. Nausea and vomiting can be treated with several different medications. Some of the medications that may be used are ondansetron, promethazine, or metoclopramide. These all require a prescription, so seek medical attention if they are needed. These medications may help decrease the severity of nausea and vomiting and in some cases may stop it completely. If the symptoms are severe, fluids may need to be given through a vein.
Death from dimenhydrinate withdrawal has not been reported. Deaths related to dimenhydrinate overdose have been reported. People who overdose on dimenhydrinate may experience fatal heart rhythms or seizures. Death from overdose is very rare if treated within the first 24 hours after taking the drug.
Stopping dimenhydrinate cold turkey is a common way people try to stop using it. People who stop cold turkey are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. This method is not recommended unless a person is under medical supervision.
Managing the symptoms of dimenhydrinate withdrawal is difficult and should be done with the help of a medical professional. Understanding why the person is addicted to dimenhydrinate is an important part of managing withdrawal. If they started taking it to treat motion sickness or an inner ear problem, there may be a medical need for the drug. The original medical condition may need to be treated once dimenhydrinate use is stopped.
Supportive care or managing the symptoms of withdrawal is the standard of care for dimenhydrinate detox. As with all detox, it should be done under medical supervision. Once the symptoms of withdrawal are gone, therapy should be considered to help the person stay off of dimenhydrinate.
If going to a healthcare facility is not an option, the person experiencing withdrawal should be surrounded by people who are supportive and can recognize when additional help is needed. Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration. Try to maintain good fluid intake, preferably water, during the withdrawal period.
People who are withdrawing from dimenhydrinate need to be in a supportive environment. Individuals in recovery are more likely to maintain their sobriety when family and friends are supportive and understanding. Unlike other medications that are abused, medications to help prevent relapse are not available for dimenhydrinate addiction. Supportive care and therapy are the only options available currently.
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