Understanding Withdrawal: Symptoms, Detox, and Safety
Withdrawal is the process of cutting out, or cutting back on addictive substances. Addictive substances can include some medicines, like opioids or benzodiazepines, or drugs or alcohol. Some behaviors, such as gambling, are also addictive.
When your body is getting used to working without the substance or behavior you might have symptoms. The symptoms can be mild or they may be serious.
Knowing what these symptoms are can make quitting easier for you. It can also make it easier for people who are supporting you. Withdrawal is the combination of physical and mental effects a person experiences after they stop using or reduce their intake of a substance such as alcohol and prescription or recreational drugs.
If you have been using a substance with a high potential for dependency and you stop suddenly or abruptly or you cut down your use drastically, you can experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms. The intensity and duration of these withdrawal symptoms can vary widely, depending on the type of drug and your biological make-up.
Withdrawal can be unpleasant and potentially dangerous in some cases. For this reason, you should always talk to your doctor before stopping or reducing your substance use.
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What are the symptoms of addiction withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms can be different for different people and can be mild or severe. Symptoms depend on:
- the type of substance/behavior and how long you used it for
- your age
- your physical health
- your mental and emotional state
- the withdrawal process used
Symptoms can include:
- not being able to sleep
- changing moods
- aches and pains
- seeing things that are not there (hallucinations)
- nausea and vomiting
Severe withdrawal symptoms, especially for drugs and alcohol, can include:
Symptoms can last for a few days or weeks, but they will stop with time.
What Is Detoxification?
Detoxification (detox) is the process of clearing the body of drugs or alcohol that an individual has consumed. The purpose of detox is to safely manage withdrawal symptoms when someone stops taking drugs or alcohol.
Everyone has a different experience with detox. The type of drug and how long it was used affect what detox will be like.
Medications used in detox help keep former users comfortable while the drugs leave their body.
It can take days or months to get through withdrawal symptoms for most drugs. The length of withdrawal depends on a number of factors, including:
Can I Detox at Home?
Choosing to detox at home can be dangerous and potentially deadly. Quitting “cold turkey” or without medical supervision can lead to serious issues such as seizures and severe dehydration.
There are inpatients and outpatient detox programs that help prevent dangerous complications. People with severe addictions should seek inpatient detox because withdrawal can be fatal. Inpatient detox includes 24-hour support and monitoring.
The Process of Detoxification
Everyone’s detox needs are different. The drug detox process helps addicted people get personalized treatment. In most cases, the process involves 3 steps:
The medical team screens incoming patients for physical and mental health issues. Doctors use blood tests to measure the amount of drugs in the patient’s system. This helps determine the level of medications needed.
There is also a comprehensive review of drug, medical, and psychiatric histories. This information sets up the basis for the patient’s long-term treatment plan.
The next step is to stabilize the patient with medical and psychological therapy. The goal of stabilization is to prevent any form of harm to the patient. Doctors can prescribe addiction treatment medications to prevent complications and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
- Preparing Entry into Treatment
The final step of detox is preparation for a treatment program. Doctors familiarize their patients with the treatment process and what to expect. Inpatient rehab offers the best chances of success after detox.
Side Effects of Detox
The process of drug detox can be painful and dangerous. This is why medical detox is so important. Detox with medical supervision allows patients to detox in a safe and comfortable environment. The extent of supervision is different in inpatient and outpatient rehab.
A medically supervised detox prevents dangerous complications of drug and alcohol withdrawal.
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