Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
About Withdrawal Symptoms
Drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms are often one of the reasons that so many individuals with drug dependence issues are unable to seek treatment for themselves. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) released a survey in 2011 with findings that over 24 million Americans age 12 and older had taken an illicit drug in the weeks prior to taking the survey. While the individual reasons for drug use can vary, the pleasure that users enjoy while taking drugs is what drives them to use them repeatedly. The release of brain chemicals classified as neurotransmitters creates a rush of euphoria that is not equaled naturally. This rush or ‘high’ is what rewires brain function and contributes to drug seeking and cravings. Drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary in severity from individual to individual, but often have commonalities.
When an individual has been using, even for a short period of time, dependence on the drug can quickly develop. This dependence will cause individuals to begin to exhibit uncharacteristic behaviors, often risking safety and relationships to attain drugs or alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms will start when the abused drug is no longer present in the body, or when levels have dropped below what the brain perceives as normal. Depending on the type of drug abused, withdrawal symptoms will affect bodily functions differently.
Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms
The severity of withdrawal symptoms that individuals experience will depend on several things. Depending on the type of substance abused, the withdrawal symptoms can vary in length and intensity. For example, withdrawal symptoms experienced when benzodiazepines have been abused can last up to a year or more, while the withdrawal symptoms from cocaine might only last for weeks. The following is a list of factors that influence the severity of withdrawal symptoms:
- Length of substance abuse
- Type of substance used
- Dosing of substance
- Dosing method chosen (snorting, smoking, swallowing, or injection)
- Existing mental and physical issues
- Family history of substance abuse
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Common Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal Symptoms from Opiates
Prescription drugs such as opiates affect the body’s ability to feel and transmit pain signals and are one of the most prescribed medications in the past few years. Distributed under the names OxyContin, Vicodin, and Fentanyl, opiates can cause dependency after only a few doses. For this reason, opiates have become a medical firestorm, an epidemic out of control across the nation. Often, patients become dependent after short hospital stays or following painful injuries. The withdrawal symptoms from opiates are often compared to having the flu as many of the symptoms overlap. These flu-like symptoms cause individuals to seek relief, often turning back to the same opiate drug for relief they’re unable to find anywhere else. Nothing will relieve the withdrawal symptoms of opiates unless the drugs taken are specifically designed to block pain as opiates do. This cycle of relief sought by individuals contributes to opiate addiction.
Common Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms
- Chills and goosebumps
- Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Excessive yawning
- Muscle pain and bone pain
- Sleep disturbances such as insomnia
Withdrawal Symptoms from Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs that are effective in treating certain anxiety and panic disorders, as well as seizures, sleep disorders, and muscle relaxers. Benzos work by depressing the body’s “fight of flight” instincts, especially in individuals suffering from anxiety disorders. When the body becomes accustomed to certain levels of stress blocking medications in Benzos, a powerful sedative effect is experienced. When the levels of Benzos begin to taper off, the body begins to experience withdrawal symptoms of benzos.
Common Benzo Withdrawal Symptoms
- Muscle stiffness and muscle pain
- Irritability, anxiety, and panic attacks
- Tremors, heart palpitations and sweating
- Difficulty concentrating and memory issues
Withdrawal Symptoms from Alcohol
Alcohol has become one of the most abused substances in the United States. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol often begin within the first few hours after individuals have consumed their last drink. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe, and depending on the length of alcohol addiction, the individual may begin alcohol detox quickly. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be extreme and often require medical attention. In a certain percentage of heavy drinkers, delirium tremens, also referred to as DTs, can set in and cause life-threatening side effects for alcoholics. Some of these severe, dangerous withdrawal symptoms are hallucinations and severe confusion.
Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Depression and mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Insomnia, nightmares, and fatigue
- Headache, dizziness and muscle pain
- Depressed and shallow breathing
- Shaking, anxious feelings and sweating