The use of drugs and alcohol in our society remains a high health risk to millions of people. It’s very easy for young people to start taking drugs or drinking alcohol, yet it can be very difficult to ease off the addictions of each and recover from their dark effects.

The Challenges of Withdrawal and Detox

Long-term drug abuse leads to greater chances of irreparable, damaging effects on a person’s brain and body. A person addicted to drugs or alcohol often needs increasing quantities of substances to continue to feed the mental and physical need for a high. When a certain amount of a substance no longer feeds the high, the drug user finds a way to take more quantities of the drug. This increased usage contributes to a person’s addiction. As a result, a lengthier withdrawal and detox time is required to overturn the addictive effects of the drugs.

For those who choose to push through on the road to full recovery, the period of detoxification and withdrawal can be very challenging for a heavy user of drugs or alcohol. To overcome drug or alcohol addiction, withdrawal and detox are crucial parts of the road to recovery. Getting help from a medical practitioner or drug and alcohol treatment center is the best way to deal with the effects of withdrawal.

Withdrawal is Different for Everyone

Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can be different for every person through the process. The amount of pain, nausea and psychotic episodes in a common withdrawal scenario is wholly dependent on several factors. Doctors point to different variables that can affect a withdrawal—the type of substances used, the average dosage amount, the length of the addiction, and even the addict’s state of mental health even before taking dugs.

Some of the worst withdrawal symptoms occur with patients having alcohol, tranquilizer, and opiate addictions. These three substances are well-known for having the most severe withdrawal symptoms.

For alcohol users, withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Seizures and irregular heartbeat.
  • Convulsions and the shakes.
  • Headaches and mental confusion.
  • Vomiting.
  • Anxiousness and inability to sleep.
  • Hallucinations.

For benzodiazepine users, withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Hot/cold sweats.
  • Depression/confusion.
  • Numbness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Dizzy spells.
  • Memory loss.

For opiate users, withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cramping and muscle pains.
  • Hot and cold sweats, fever-like feelings.
  • Inability to sleep or restlessness.
  • Vomiting, stomach cramping/nausea, or diarrhea.

When detoxification starts for a drug user, that’s when the withdrawal symptoms can start to be felt. For frequent drug users, detox and withdrawal can be very painful and frightening. This period of detox and withdrawal can last anywhere from 10-21 days, depending on the severity of drugs.

The Case for Medication-Assisted Withdrawal

Going through withdrawal alone is not recommended by the medical and treatment communities. Drug users with an addiction should not try to quit a drug by themselves. Effects of withdrawal could come into play and cause a dangerous situation. Stopping the use of a drug, and undergoing medical detoxification under the supervision of a drug center or a doctor is the best possible method for an addict to start the road to recovery.

Goals of Detox and Withdrawal

Setting the stage for drug detox requires a treatment program that addresses both the physical addiction issues and the psychological issues that can arise. The following steps are focused on stopping the addiction:

Step 1: Patient Stabilization

When a patient arrives at a hospital, a drug detox center, or a recovery center, the first step is to stabilize the patient physically. The patient might be undergoing withdrawal symptoms of hallucinations, physical convulsions, seizures or more. In these cases, it’s critical to have a doctor or a drug detox staff ready to sedate the patient to prevent injuries, violence or any problems that may arise.

Step 2: Control Drug Cravings

Immediate cessation of drug use can be difficult and even dangerous for some patients. This is where medical detox comes in. For example, some doctors might prescribe certain medications for severe opiate addiction. In this scenario, alternatives medications would then take the place of the abused drug, and its use would taper down overtime to help the patient become drug-free.

Step 3: Monitor Withdrawal Symptoms

As the patient goes through detoxification, it’s important for the medical team to monitor withdrawal symptoms and make decisions based on the patient’s drug history and current detox practices.

Understanding how withdrawal and detoxification work, what the risks are, and how the process should be handled is a topic we know well. If you’re in need of help of a knowledgeable resource, reach out to our staff at The Recovery Village learn more our programs with chemical dependency, detox and withdrawal, and substance abuse issues.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.