Withdrawal symptoms are the physical and mental changes that the body undergoes when it is no longer receiving the heavy dose of drugs or alcohol that it is used to consuming on a regular basis. Symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal can last from 1 to 2 weeks if the drug user has a history of moderate drug abuse or as long as a few months if the user is a longtime, heavy drug abuser. Withdrawing from drugs or alcohol may include one or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, sweats, chills, shakes, and feelings of panic or anxiety.
Health care professionals at addiction rehab services are available to assist users in kicking the drug habit by supplying medication, such as clonidine for opiate withdrawal, which alleviates some of the most severe withdrawal symptoms. However, having a support structure, such as those offered through substance abuse rehabilitation centers, is generally considered the best way to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal and recover from drug or alcohol addiction.
Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal
Symptoms of substance abuse withdrawal can be severe and, in some cases, can be life-threatening. As the body goes through withdrawal, it loses its tolerance to the drugs it once consumed regularly. Therefore, a person who relapses on the same dosage that they were using previously runs a greater chance of dying from a drug overdose. Even a much smaller dose than they are used to take can have devastating effects on the body. The intensity of withdrawal symptoms varies based on the type of drug the user has been consuming, the dose they were regularly using, and how long they have been abusing the drug. One example is withdrawal from opiates; an individual who uses opiates such as heroin, morphine, oxycontin, or others for several weeks or longer, then decides to kick the habit, will experience severe withdrawal symptoms lasting longer than an individual who discontinues drug use after a shorter time of the abuse.
Methods of Detoxification
Because withdrawal symptoms can be so severe, a number of health care professionals and drug rehabilitation centers offer various methods to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. These methods depend on how long the user has been abusing drugs and the type of drug they abused. Detoxification methods range from dispensing pills such as clonidine to manage symptoms, to long-term withdrawal maintenance with methadone, to rapid opiate detoxification under anesthesia. All of these treatment options have both positive and negative aspects and should only be carried out under the direction of a doctor or other health professional in a health care setting.
Drug withdrawal and detoxification are only successful if the user does not relapse and begin using drugs once again. To prevent relapse from occurring, rehabilitation counseling or other psychological treatment is highly recommended. This can be in the form of an inpatient substance abuse center or a weekly Narcotics Anonymous meeting. It is important to remember that the road to sobriety is filled with support systems, so long as the recovering addict asks for help along the way.