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Drug Withdrawal Definition


Drug withdrawal is defined as the uncomfortable physical response that comes along with stopping the use of an addictive substance.

What is drug withdrawals? Drug withdrawal syndrome occurs when the body abruptly stops or slows the use of an addictive substance. Some types of withdrawal syndrome include physical and psychological symptoms, some of which can prove dangerous, even fatal if ignored. Medical detox is needed for more severe withdrawal symptoms

Drug withdrawal describes symptoms you're experiencing as an addiction that occurs when a person stops consuming alcohol or drugs. Symptom types vary depending on the substance, and physical dependence to the drug. When people start using prescription drugs or illicit drugs, physical dependence develops. Without any help, it becomes dangerous to stop taking medication that one has become dependent upon and may have adverse consequences. A drug rehab process may also be effective in helping patients be more at ease and get back into a more relaxed state with medication assistance.

Identification of Withdrawal

People who have stopped taking substances may experience withdrawal symptoms. What is an example of withdrawal symptoms? If a coffee-drinker misses a regular morning beverage, it can cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and irritation. The symptoms of withdrawal indicate dependency to the substance. Missing your morning coffee, while it may make cranky, is not dangerous. On the other hand, an addiction to specific substances such as alcohol or benzodiazepines, withdrawals can cause a fatal outcome if treatment is not introduced.

If you are having any problems with your prescription you need to speak with your doctor. If your symptoms aren't managing well and you are having unpleasant withdrawal symptoms you can ask your health care provider to help you.

Causes of Withdrawal

Why do we get withdrawal symptoms? The human body works for maintaining the equilibrium that is homeostasis. A substance alters the balance of the body, and it must take measures for this adjustment. The substance acts upon your reward system (feel good system) triggered by chemicals in your brain. In the long run, you can develop tolerance to certain substances and become dependent on them. Tolerance implies that you need to take a higher amount of a substance to have the effect of your initial experience, and dependence implies that your physiology is dependent upon the drug to feel normal and avoid withdrawal symptoms. You cannot simply stop taking specific substances at that point because of a physical dependence to them.

Acute Withdrawal Symptoms


Depending on the drug used, withdrawal symptoms can differ. Physical and psychological side effects of drug abuse can occasionally coexist. Mood swings, elevated blood pressure, flu-like symptoms, runny nose, sleep issues, profuse sweating, headaches, depressed mood, muscle spasms, faster heart rate, nausea, indigestion, anxiety, irritability, cravings, decline in appetite, and both cold and hot flashes are just a few of the symptoms that can range from mild to more severe.

Sometimes more severe symptoms like seizures and hallucinations are also common. How often you are taking meds can also affect how severe your symptoms become. While symptoms of withdrawal are generally just one day or two, the psychological withdrawal is usually longer lasting. The level of drug dependence will also affect the withdrawal period.

Many of these varying symptoms are harmless, while others can be serious, 911 is the best way to help someone in an emergency situation. In some instances withdrawal symptoms differ. All humans are distinct, and substances can have different affects from one another. When the body returns to normal, increased appetite should return, the symptoms of withdrawal can be varied.

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome - (PAWS)


Although withdrawal symptoms are seldom comfortable, they usually end after two weeks at the most. This is more true when a medical professional uses a medical detox. However, some drugs can lead to prolonged withdrawal symptoms, lasting for months and in limited cases, up to a year. This is why follow up treatment is so important as psychological symptoms including cravings linger the longest, to avoid relapse . People who consume a large amount of opiates for a long time are more likely to develop this condition, which is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome-(PAWS)

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome describes the multiple ongoing withdrawal symptoms, which are largely psychological and sleep-related. They remain long after acute withdrawal symptoms have gone away. It can be just as intense and still places a person at risk of relapsing because they may turn to drug use in an effort to alleviate the discomfort, despite the fact that it rarely involves discomfort such as sickness, vomiting, headaches, or other physical symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, and in some cases dangerous. If you, a family member or a loved one is experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is important that you seek medical treatment right away.

Drug Withdrawal


Often people drink alcohol and use other substances, and the mind will adjust to this substance. Then they might become physiologically dependent on their substance of choice and totally dependent on their functioning and to feel good or "normal." When individuals develop a severe dependence to certain substances, withdrawal can sometimes be inevitable. In some situations withdrawal symptoms are caused when people stop drinking alcoholic beverages or drastically reduce their intake of alcohol.

It is potentially dangerous to quit alcohol and requires medical assistance so complications such as heart attack don't occur. For your safety please DO NOT abruptly stop!

Types of Withdrawal

The exact symptoms of withdrawal depends on the type of drug you take. There are different types of drugs that can cause different withdrawals. The above list represented generic withdrawal symptoms of some commonly misused substances. It is especially difficult to determine specific withdrawal symptoms if you are mistreating several medications or are taking a combination of different drugs .

Although not a complete list, below shows what symptoms vary between different substances.

Heroin and Opiate Withdrawal


Heroin has been classified into the class of opioids. Opioids interact with and activate receptors in inflammatory cells. Opium receptors activate the dopaminergic system, which reinforce the use of the opioids for its pleasurably good effects by enhancing the brain activity and enhancing the reactivity. Opiates have a high addiction and abuse rates as many people develop an opioid dependence. It is possible that opioid addiction will develop even if taken on opioid is taken as pain medication or prescription medication. Opioids can relieve pain in a patient with a medical condition or injury.

Anxiety, irritability, muscular aches, increased tearing, sleeplessness, nasal congestion, perspiration, and yawning are some of the milder withdrawal signs.

Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dilated pupils, goosebumps, sadness, stomach pain, and throwing up are some late withdrawal signs.

Shakes, clammy skin, tingles, and feeling cold are other examples. Muscle pains and spasms are seen when withdrawing from drugs like opiates or muscle relaxers, some individuals even say their bones hurt. Despite being extremely uncomfortable, these signs are not life threatening. Inside of 12 hours of the last use of heroin and inside 30 hours of the last exposure to methadone, symptoms typically appear.

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Over 100,000 people died in 2021 from drug overdoses in the United States.

Alcohol Withdrawal


People with significant alcohol dependence have an increased likelihood of experiencing withdrawal symptoms and should avoid stopping cold turkey, as it could result in heightened seizures. Some individuals find alcohol withdrawal painful but they can sometimes be life-threatening unless they have a medical detox. The use of alcohol can lead to physical dependence and abrupt discontinuation may cause damage in your health as the body restores equilibrium to its underlying systems. Withdrawal effects are often seen with the sudden absence of drinking for several hours.

Early signs of alcohol withdrawal include minor hand tremors, vomiting, night sweats, anxiety, anxiety, cravings for alcohol, decreased energy, and feelings of gloom or depression. Sleep disturbances are probable.

Seizures, a dangerously elevated heart rate, and elevated blood pressure are late withdrawal signs. The riskiest time for the most severe withdrawal effects is now!

Patients are urged to contact a drug and alcohol service or other substance abuse treatment program as dangerous withdrawal symptoms may be life threatening. Home based withdrawal is not recommended and should be done under medical supervision!

Cocaine Withdrawal


Cocaine and other stimulants has a highly addictive action that inhibits dopamine removal from synapses and affects brain functions. It reinforces cocaine consumption and establishes a potential habit of using it as an alternative drug. The result could be physiological dependence to drugs. When people stop using cocaine abruptly it can affect mood or behavior. Dependents may be feeling withdrawal symptoms on their first day after stopping using cocaine.

Strong cravings for more cocaine, exhaustion, a lack of enjoyment, anxiety, restlessness, and drowsiness are some of the early withdrawal signs. Psychological effects like agitation, extreme suspiciousness, or psychosis can also occur.

*Cocaine withdrawal often has no visible physical symptoms, such as the vomiting and shaking as seen from heroin or alcohol.

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal


Benzodiazepines are commonly used in the treatment of anxiety, panic disorders and seizures. They are neuro depressants that work with brain receptors to stimulate gamma-amine butyric acid. This GABA-activating boost inhibits brain activity which causes relaxation or drowsiness and may prove useful for the patient's mental health. When used for a long period they cause drug addiction and sudden cessation can be serious and may be life threatening. Benzodiazepine prescriptions include: Alprazolam (Xanax), Clonazepam (Klonopin), Chlordiazepoxide (Librium), 

Other examples are: Clorazepate (Tranxene), Diazepam (Valium), Estazolam (Prosom), Lorazepam (Ativan), Flurazepam (Dalmane) to name a few.

Early withdrawal symptoms include:sweating, irritability, tension and anxiety, sleep disturbances, hand tremors, panic attacks, difficulty concentrating, dry heaving, nausea, and some weight loss.

Late symptoms include: heart palpitations, headache, muscular pain and stiffness, perceptual changes and seizures.

According to the national institute on drugs seizures may prove fatal depending on the severity. You should contact a physician, health professional or treatment facilities for treatment of alcohol and drug problems promptly.

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Final Thoughts

Withdrawal symptoms may vary according to how much of the drug one is dependent on and there are various types of withdrawal symptoms. Typically, the withdrawal symptoms associated with some medications are different from those experienced during withdrawals from an illicit drugs. When you use Vicodin for example, patients might experience diarrhea or other symptoms that can indicate an overactive gastroenterological system, including cramps and nausea and require a diagnosis to treat it.

Drug detox for substance use disorders can affect mental health and you should always seek support from a loved one during treatment and recovery.

The Importance of Detox

Detoxing from drugs is often more dangerous than using the substance. Heroin, pain relief medications, Benzodiazepines and other drugs are among the most dangerous for a developed addiction. If a person addicted to drugs receives treatment for an addiction they should be supervised by a drug detox facility or hospital. Some people think withdrawal symptoms from some substances will kill you. While this is rarely true, drug detox can lower the fatality risk and help ease symptoms.

Drug Abuse


What is an addict? Substance abuse is when you use legal or illegal substances in ways you shouldn't and develop substance use disorder. You might take more than the regular dose of pills that you were prescribed or use family members medication. You may make a self diagnosis and abuse drugs to treat mental disorders, ease stress, or avoid reality. But regardless of the reasons, once you're unable to change your unhealthy habits or stop using altogether, you are addicted.

Drug abuse causes withdrawals once the patient tries to stop. A doctors diagnosis is required for treatment, especially from opiates. Medications may aid in the prevention of withdrawals and help in coping.

How Long Do Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

Depending on how much time the person takes to withdraw is determined by how many different drugs they are using and how much dependability on the substance their body has. It may take days or weeks, in some cases, to get the symptoms resolved, depending on the severity of the symptoms. An overview of the withdrawal process from certain drugs should be made by a medical diagnosis and performed in a drug detox center.

Check with your insurance provider in the instance you should require counseling following detox.

Can Withdrawal Be Fatal?

Depending if the withdrawal symptoms are not properly treated it can lead to fatalities. However, that happens very rarely. Occasionally severe alcohol withdrawals may result in delirium tremens. When not properly managed, delirium tremens is characterized by severe seizures or death. Some estimates say alcoholics with severe alcoholism have a problem with relapse. According to the world health organization almost 15 percent of severe alcohol withdrawal cases are fatal, benzodiazepines can also prove deadly.

Withdrawal symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable at the very least, and always require a diagnosis and should be performed in the presence of a health care provider.

Withdrawal Treatment Options


Some people can stop drug use completely without any medical treatment. This can also sometimes not be true and some may require a medical diagnosis help when withdrawal symptoms are present. Different withdrawal symptoms treatment methods are available.

  1. Medical Detox Program

  2. Support Groups

  3. Holistic Medical Detox Methods

  4. Counseling

  5. Twelve Step Groups

  6. Family Therapy

  7. Residential Treatment

Is Detoxing Necessary?

The reasons for seeking medical detoxification are various. Withdrawal may seem difficult and sometimes deadly when someone first becomes sober. For people considering getting sober it is recommended you get medical advice and have the doctor make a diagnosis and suggest a detoxification plan for you. If withdrawal symptoms have been experienced, it is a good idea to get a diagnosis by trained medical personnel to handle this problem. Withdrawing management has a major impact on detoxification procedures.

How Can I Prepare?


You should expect to feel unsure about entering a program, this is normal but should be considered. Focus on completing the program, as this would help reduce relapse and improve the effectiveness of treatment.

After making the decision to enter recovery, the first thing to think about is how you will pay for the treatment. If you don't have insurance, you should verify with state and federal programs or call your insurance provider. Having money shouldn't be a barrier to receiving assistance. You have a number of payment choices for your drug detox, including insurance, self-pay, and publicly funded services.

You may not want to inform your employer about your upcoming stay in rehab. However, any good employer will want you to get better. If you’re going to achieve the healthiest version of you, let your employer know about your recovery period, so that you may take a medical leave. If you are a parent, make sure your loved ones will have someone to take care of them while you are away. Knowing that your loved ones are safe will hep to put your mind at ease.

If you have bills that must be paid while in rehab, sign up for automatic payments or talk to a trusted family member or friend to pay them for you.

Take with you only the things you really need. Keep in mind while packing, your rehab center will have rules on allowed items. Make sure you use their recommended checklist. Only pack the essential items that you may need. Some of the things to pack include: Medicines, cloths, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant and a notepad.

Of all the things you must do before entering detox, spending time with your loved ones is very important. Your family and friends will reassure you that you made the right decision. Although you may be the one to reach out, let them know of your move to seek help, remember recovery is possible.

Plan What To Do If You Use Drugs During Withdrawal

Sometimes relapse happens, and it is an important step in the course of therapy to understand that. Do not see it as a failure and go ahead with your life. The withdrawal process is hard, but it is important that the you learn how to deal with it. Some addicted people will not even get treated, remember you have a problem and are seeking help for it. The hardest part is admitting that you have a problem. Helping someone cope with relapse if they begin taking drugs again is vital. Do not view them as a failure, and make sure you’re there to help them even when the situation changes.

Do Not Forget That When You Use Regularly, Your Body Gets Used to the Drug

Even after stopping for a few days your tolerance may be drastically eroded. Therefore the doses the are needed to produce the desired effect are much less. When taking drugs there's a serious chance that you'll overdose. Keep it safe. Going back into the old dosage can put the patient in danger of overdose. You may want to prepare yourself by knowing what to do if someone overdoses. Please do everything possible to avoid an accidental overdose.

Call 911 immediately if overdose is suspected!

Talk To Your Doctor, or An Alcohol and Other Drugs Treatment Service

Always have support in place when you withdraw. Support from family and friends is crucial. Try staying positive with your friends or loved ones. If you've been having an ill-founded idea about someone you love, get rid of the idea you have. Contact a doctor or other similar alcohol and other drugs treatment center as your first step.

Write Down Your Personal List of Reasons for Withdrawing

List some of its benefits this journey has to you. It helps you stay motivated when you feel that things are not that easy. Please read this list when you feel frustrated or are wondering whether withdrawal is the correct option for you.

Practice Stress Management and Distraction Techniques


Consider stress management techniques to help manage your pains and discomfort. Craving happens and is often caused by many different circumstances. Learning to control your cravings is crucial to success. It is often hard to believe but simple things such as breathing exercises or stretching can have a great affect. Try something.

Stay Busy So You Don't Have Time to Think About How You're Feeling

Your focus probably will take longer to come back, but it's possible your brain won't stop thinking "bad thoughts". Staying busy during this time, and even beginning new hobbies can help take your focus off the negative and put you in a better place mentally. Start off slow and try easy things like: exercise, reading, cooking, exploring, hiking, or take a trip........remember to always stay hydrated.

Get help now!

If you a family member or loved one is experiencing a problem, please connect with someone to get support. The road to recovery is often not easy and the road is long. We would like to be able to help guide you through recovery.

For details finding a detox or rehabilitation facility near you please contact:


You have come this far, now you need to believe in yourself as others believe in you.

Remember you are not alone and recovery is possible!


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Institute of Mental Health

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse

National Institute on Drug Abuse