What Happens During Substance Withdrawal?

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Withdrawal is the set of physical and mental symptoms a person experiences after they abruptly stop or reduce their use of alcohol and prescription or recreational drugs. The severity of these symptoms varies based on the type and dosage of the substance, the duration of misuse, and the person’s genetic make-up.

Symptoms of withdrawal can be life-threatening especially for people who attempt to go through the process on their own after long-term substance dependence. This is why it’s crucial to consult a doctor first before halting or reducing your drug or alcohol intake. The best drug rehab centers can provide you with a safe and comfortable withdrawal through medical detoxification and medication-assisted support.

Common symptoms of substance withdrawal

Symptoms depend on the type of substance you become dependent on. Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine typically trigger psychological effects, while heroin, alcohol, and prescription drugs can result in different physical and psychological symptoms. Most drug withdrawals can last a few days to several weeks while psychological withdrawal characterized by depression or dysphoria may last longer.

People undergoing substance withdrawal may face the following symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Dehydration
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Hallucinations
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Tearing eyes
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal symptoms are typically the opposite of the effects of the substance. For instance, alcohol is a depressant, which means if a person stops consuming alcohol, they might experience anxiety or restlessness.

Ways to cope with withdrawal

Withdrawal is a challenging process and is best handled with medical supervision and social support. It’s important to tell a trusted friend or close family member so that they can keep you on track throughout the process.

Apart from having a support group, practicing self-care allows you to be in your best form. Eating nutritious, well-balanced meals will keep you strong and help you endure intense symptoms. Consuming fried, fatty, or sugary foods may leave you feeling weak and unwell.

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It’s also important to get even 15-30 minutes of physical activity each day. Walking, stretching, swimming, sports, and other exercises can help control weight and reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as heart attack and diabetes. Exercise is also a great way to boost energy, improve mood, and enhance memory and concentration. It will help you stay focused on your goals and distract you from urges or cravings.

Staying hydrated is crucial as you go through withdrawal. Drink plenty of water especially if you are experiencing nausea, vomiting, and other flu-like symptoms.

People undergoing withdrawal may sometimes have difficulty falling asleep. Try to get as much rest as you can. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule and limit your caffeine intake.

One way to alleviate or reduce withdrawal symptoms is to take over the counter medications that are only approved by your doctor. Some doctors may recommend medicine for diarrhea or headaches if necessary. Follow their recommended dosages and don’t skip your intake schedules.

The role of detox in safe withdrawal

Professional drug and alcohol detox can reduce the risk of complications from withdrawals. They often take place in a controlled medical space and often involves the use of medications.

Some drugs like alcohol, painkillers, and heroin can be particularly dangerous to withdraw from. People who have developed a dependence on these substances can prevent overdose or death by seizure by receiving detox.

If you or a loved one have been struggling with substance use disorder, it’s best to seek professional help as soon as possible. Overdose and withdrawal are unpleasant experiences that can have life-threatening effects on the mind and body. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness and can make all the difference towards a safe and healthy recovery.

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