Addiction information: Understanding Withdrawal
Treatment for alcohol or drug addiction may be one of the most difficult challenges an individual can face. It requires patience and diligence to continue while the human body cleanses itself of the substance. The symptoms of withdrawal can leave a person feeling lifeless and may even pose serious risks if not handled with care. To avoid a negative reaction to withdrawal from alcohol or drug addiction, seek professional help instead of attempting to undertake the challenge on your own. It could very well mean your life.
Withdrawal and Detoxification
Withdrawal occurs when someone suddenly stops drinking alcohol or using drugs. Withdrawal can be extremely dangerous if someone does it on their own without the supervision of a medical professional. A carefully administered plan for detoxification will help individuals overcome their addictions. Attempting to detoxify at home can lead to serious consequences, especially if living alone. Everyone who has become addicted to a substance will have to go through detoxification at some point if they want to have a long life. The question arises of when it becomes medically dangerous and when it requires medical oversight.
Withdrawal from drugs can bring many symptoms, such as agitation, sweating, high blood pressure, and an inability to sleep. Opiate and narcotic addictions can be some of the most difficult to treat. Opiates and narcotics are a class of drugs that include heroin, Demerol (meperidine), OxyContin (oxycodone), and codeine. People abuse these drugs to achieve a sense of euphoria. Other substances that need careful attention due to severe withdrawal symptoms include alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines. Many medical professionals agree that people experiencing withdrawal from these substances should seek the help of a hospital.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): What Is Withdrawal? How Long Will it Last?
- Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal
- Detoxing from Drugs and Alcohol
- Detoxification and Withdrawal Management
- Opiate Withdrawal
Symptoms of Withdrawal
People addicted to various substances may experience different withdrawal symptoms. For instance, alcoholics may endure constant sweating, anxiety, tremors, high blood pressure, fluctuations in heart rate, seizures, and psychosis. Delirium tremens may be the most severe manifestation of alcohol withdrawal. People with delirium tremens may experience an extreme state of agitation, hallucinations, hyperactivity, tremors, and confusion. People who experience severe alcohol withdrawal should seek the help of a medical professional immediately. It could be life-threatening.
People addicted to opiates and narcotics may experience anxiety, dilated pupils, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, inability to sleep, nausea, and vomiting. Withdrawal from stimulants usually results in excessive tiredness and depression. For barbiturates addiction, sufferers may experience nausea, fast breathing, tremors, increased heart rate, inability to sleep, muscle pain, hallucinations, delirium, and convulsions. It is highly advised for those addicted to barbiturates to seek the aid of a hospital for constant oversight. The same applies for those withdrawing from benzodiazepines. Sufferers of “benzo” addiction may experience delirium, muscle spasms, hallucinations, light sensitivity, ringing in the ears, tingling, numbness, and an inability to sleep.
- Mayo Clinic: Drug Addiction: Treatment and Drugs
- Treating Opiate Addiction, Part I: Detoxification and Maintenance
- What’s it Really Like to Withdraw From Heroin and Painkillers?
- Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal (PDF)
- Opiate Withdrawal
Coping Through Withdrawal
The withdrawal period can last from a week up to a month or more, depending on how well the patient responds to detoxification. A competent treatment center will also focus beyond stabilizing a patient mentally and physically by preparing the patient for the work that lies ahead in therapy. A patient would not want to spend the time detoxifying only to relapse again in a few weeks. In some cases, a medical professional may prescribe antidepressant or anti-psychotic medication in the event there are co-occurring issues of depression or an underlying mental health disorder. Finding a stable dose coupled with therapy may help pinpoint the issues driving the addiction. Some patients may not complete detox on the first try. In some cases, multiple efforts may be needed before sobriety takes hold. If this happens to a patient, then the medical professional handling the treatment program may advise them to try again until the patient fully recovers. Patients with a support network around them may have the best chance of recovering. Therefore, family members and friends should remain supportive throughout the treatment regardless of how erratic the patient may get during rehab. It’s also important that family and friends remember to take care of themselves and their own needs throughout this process, as helping a loved one get through withdrawal can be very stressful.
- Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Training Manual (PDF)
- How Do I Know if I Need Alcohol or Drug Detoxification?
- Withdrawal from Alcohol, Cocaine, and Heroin (PDF)
- Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (PDF)
- Coping with Alcohol Withdrawal (PDF)
Medication to End Alcohol and Drug Addictions
Medical professionals can administer medication when withdrawal symptoms worsen, which makes it easier for the patient. Ironically, sometimes the prescribed medications fall under the same class of narcotics as those being abused. For instance, a medical doctor may prescribe long-acting benzodiazepines to counteract withdrawal symptoms in alcohol patients. For opiate withdrawal, a medical professional may prescribe buprenorphine to help lower the chances of recurrence in patients. Barbiturate or benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms can be treated with phenobarbital or with a step-down approach of using the sedatives themselves. Doctors may prescribe reboxetine for those suffering from amphetamine withdrawal. And a medical professional may prescribe anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications to combat stimulant withdrawal symptoms. Patients cannot get the medication that may help them the most during their withdrawal without a prescription, which makes going to a rehab center imperative to recovery.