Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms and their intensity depend on the type of drug from which an individual is detoxing, as well as the individual’s physiology.

Several factors impact the severity of withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Duration of addiction
  • Combination of drugs and/or alcohol that was abused
  • Tolerance an individual has developed when they enter drug detox
  • Co-occurring physical and/or mental disorder
  • Half-life of drugs

The duration of an individual’s addiction can affect symptoms and their intensity because frequently using a drug over an extended period of time can lead to an individual developing a high tolerance, which leads to more severe withdrawal symptoms. When an individual has built a high tolerance, there is a high likelihood that they will abuse higher doses of a substance. The higher the dose, the more likely that the withdrawal symptoms will be more intense. 

Each drug has its own unique set of withdrawal symptoms. However, these symptoms can be exacerbated if multiple drugs are abused.

Drug abuse is often accompanied by pre-existing mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety as well as physical conditions such as chronic pain or tension. During withdrawal, the symptoms of these mental and physical afflictions can be more apparent making the drug detox process that much more difficult or uncomfortable.

And lastly, the half-life of the drug plays an important role in the quality and quantity of withdrawal symptoms. The half-life of a drug is the time it takes for the concentration of the drug to reduce by one-half in the body; if the drug is short acting, the effects will come on and wear off relatively quickly, and the withdrawal symptoms will subsequently arrive more immediately. If the drug is long-acting, the effects will take more time to come on and wear off and the withdrawal symptoms are delayed a few days.

Common and general withdrawal symptoms that frequently develop during drug detox include:

  • Mood disturbances
    • Mood swings
    • Irritability
    • Agitation
    • Elevated mood of mania
    • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
    • Insomnia
    • Shifted sleep schedule
    • Chronic fatigue due to chronic, nonrestorative sleep
  • Physical issues
    • Chills
    • Sweating
    • Tremors
    • Flu-like symptoms
    • Headache
    • Vomiting
    • Nausea
  • Cravings

Along with the common drug withdrawal symptoms, each drug can bring about unique and substance-specific withdrawal symptoms.

Let’s take a look at some commonly-abused drugs and the withdrawal symptoms that are associated with them.

Withdrawal symptoms common to opioids (prescription and illicit) include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Bone and joint pain
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Delerium
  • Disorientation

Drugs that are considered stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines have withdrawal symptoms that include:

  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

Symptoms that are specifically from alcohol and benzodiazepines withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

Synthetic cathinones, known as ‘bath salts’ for their appearance, are recreational designer drugs that gained popularity in 2009 through 2011 despite the adverse properties and side effects.

Withdrawal symptoms from bath salts include:

  • Paranoia
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tremors
  • Intense cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression

Withdrawal symptoms from chronic or heavy marijuana use include:

  • Irritability
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Low appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Tremors

Withdrawals from ketamine, which has street names including ‘Special K’ and ‘K’ include:

  • Loss of hearing
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Diminished coordination
  • Depression
  • Double vision

Regardless of the drug or severity of the addiction, it is critical to find a professional medical drug detox facility to effectively manage withdrawal symptoms and prevent the possible development of serious complications.

For example, the combination of co-occurring mental health and physical disorders can exacerbate withdrawal symptoms experienced during drug detox and can lead to complications and serious health issues that require immediate medical attention.

Patients generally have two options for detox: inpatient addiction treatment for severe addiction and withdrawal symptoms and outpatient addiction treatment for more mild addiction and withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient care includes general inpatient substance abuse treatment centers as well as inpatient drug abuse treatment centers, inpatient drug detox centers, inpatient alcohol addiction treatment centers and inpatient alcohol detox centers. Inpatient care offers ongoing, carefully monitored, around-the-clock care by a professional medical staff.

Outpatient addiction treatment and detox takes less time to complete and can be done while easing back into a normal life and daily routine. Outpatient detox and treatment require that the patient be responsible for visiting a professional facility for emotional and physical checkups.  That includes attending social groups where, under the guidance of a professional addiction counselor, recovering addicts who utilize outpatient treatment services can support each other through their withdrawals, cravings and recovery.

Alleviating withdrawal symptoms with medication-assisted treatment

Opioid detox is unique from detox options commonly provided for other substances of abuse and addiction.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain medications solely to treat opioid addiction include naltrexone, buprenorphine and methadone. Whether heroin or prescription painkillers are the opioids of choice, inpatient care or medication-assisted treatment is often recommended for optimum comfort and safety.

The goal of medication-assisted treatment is helping patients achieve full recovery. Research has pointed to medication-assisted treatment contributing to lowering an individual’s risk for getting HIV and/or hepatitis C through lowering the risk of a relapse.

The FDA-approved drugs, used to manage opioid dependence, help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and stabilize the patient. Methadone and buprenorphine act as partial and full opioid agonists and can be highly addictive and require gradual tapering so as not to experience withdrawal symptoms. Naltrexone, on the other hand, blocks the opioid receptors, which prevents the high that many opioids can produce.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, drug detox is the first step toward recovery. Knowing the symptoms of withdrawal is important because it provides some insight into the experiences one may have during drug detox. Although each individual’s physiology and severity of substance use disorder are different, certified, qualified drug detox facilities are available to help ease the pain of withdrawal symptoms and help get you back on the road to recovery. Call (877) 262-6566 today to speak to one of our specialists to find the best drug detox facility for you or a loved one.

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