What Are Withdrawal Symptoms and What Helps Them Stop?

Published On: January 9, 2024|Categories: Recovery|
Worried man sitting on couch at home

When one has been using drugs and/or alcohol for an extended period, the body and brain adjust to the presence of these illicit chemicals in their system. The brain begins to rely on these chemicals instead of producing its own, and when drug/alcohol consumption stops, there is a sudden depletion of feel-good chemicals in the body. 

The result?

Withdrawal symptoms. 

As the brain and body readjust themselves back into a natural state without the presence of drugs and alcohol, withdrawal symptoms arise. These unpleasant, flu-like symptoms often cause relapse, meaning proper withdrawal procedures are important to avoiding increased illness and potential relapse and overdose. 

What are common withdrawal symptoms?

When the body is deprived of the substance on which it had been relying, it takes time for the body to readjust and heal in the absence of drugs and/or alcohol. While the body needs to detox itself to properly heal, the experience can be unpleasant. Many withdrawal symptoms are uncomfortable and intense, and often require medical intervention. 

While certain substances present some specific withdrawal symptoms, the most common effects of withdrawal include: 

  • Gastrointestinal problems, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea
  • New or worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Trouble regulating sleep, including periods of intense fatigue and acute insomnia
  • Fever-like symptoms, including shivering, sweating, and muscle aches and pains
  • Lack of appetite or increased hunger
  • Mood swings, including out-of-character agitation and irritability
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

For the majority of men and women who withdraw from drug or alcohol use, the symptoms they experience – while acutely uncomfortable – are not fatal. That being said, there are small percentages of people who do experience life-threatening effects. 

For example, withdrawing from alcohol can result in experiencing delirium tremens which, if left unmanaged, can escalate into seizures that may be fatal. While approximately less than 5 percent of those withdrawing from alcohol abuse have delirium tremens, 15 percent of those who do not seek medical treatment during alcohol detox do experience fatalities.

The highest risk is that of overdose as a result of relapse. Those who do not seek medically assisted detox may be tempted to return to drugs or alcohol when the severe withdrawal symptoms set in. This can quickly cause overdose, especially if the body is in the process of detox. What once was the “appropriate” dose to stimulate an effect might, at this point, push a body over the edge.

What helps with addiction withdrawal?

To prevent significant harm from withdrawal from occurring, there are several steps to take to ensure detox and withdrawal are done safely, effectively and with long-lasting results.

Seek out medically assisted detox

While detoxing “cold turkey” (without a tapering schedule or any medications to help ease one into sobriety) is possible, it’s not recommended due to the risks, including the risk of overdose. Addiction treatment centers provide resources for those recovering from addictions, including medically assisted detox.

Medically assisted detox offers around-the-clock care and treatment plans which include medication administration to help mitigate withdrawal symptoms. By easing the effects of withdrawal, recovery may feel more achievable and less painful. And through the use of medication, you can successfully wean off substances.

Incorporate healthy lifestyle choices

Your body is in an intense stage of recuperating after the negative, rewiring effects that drugs and alcohol have on your brain and body. Recovery from substances doesn’t mean just ceasing substance use – it means working healthy routines and habits back into your life. To help with detox, consider incorporating: 

  • Regular exercise to help build immunity, boost mood and increase overall physical wellness;
  • Invigorate the mind through reading, journaling and meditation;
  • Heal the body with good food, including fruits, veggies, lots of protein and whole grains, to increase GI health and brain functioning with needed vitamins and minerals;
  • Time outside, including hiking, walking and biking to breathe life and a sense of connectedness into your mind. 

There is so much you can do to enhance recovery through little lifestyle changes and healthy habits.

Seek professional treatment 

Addiction is challenging for so many reasons, and oftentimes it is best to face recovery with professional help in hand. Therapists with training in addiction recovery can help you process the thoughts, feelings and emotions that arise during this time of transition. 

Additionally, reach out to friends and family for support. The more you feel connected with the community during this time, the greater success you will see in recovery.

Addiction detox resources

If you need a safe environment in which to detox or need additional support for yourself or a detoxing loved one, Pyramid Military Therapy is here to help. Contact us to learn more about our services by calling 814-631-5676 today.

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