What to Expect When Going Through Withdrawals

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In early recovery, the majority of patients undergo detox, which gets rid of all of the toxins in your body to get ready for recovery and sobriety. When withdrawal from the substance occurs during detox, your body deals with many negative physical and mental symptoms as the substance is removed from the body. Before going through this process, it can be helpful to educate yourself on what will happen inside your body and what to expect during the process. This will prepare you for what is to come and how the withdrawal will affect you. 

What Is Withdrawal?

To start, it is probably best to know what exactly withdrawal is. Withdrawal occurs when drugs or alcohol are used consistently over a long time and then reduced in amount. This is because long-term substance abuse alters the brain, making it become accustomed to the presence of drugs or alcohol. The brain causes the person to feel psychologically dependent on the substance, so when the substance is taken away, negative side effects take place as the body tries to rebalance itself in the wake of the substance’s absence. 

The symptoms are often a mix of physical, mental, and emotional side effects. Depending on the severity of the addiction, these can potentially be fatal. This is why detoxing under medical supervision is often recommended. 

The Length of Withdrawal 

How long withdrawal symptoms last can depend on multiple factors. To start, the severity of the person’s addiction will influence withdrawal symptoms. If the person has been consistently using the substance for years, the withdrawal period will be longer than someone who has only been using it for a couple of months. 

The type of substance also influences the amount of time the body goes through withdrawal. Some substances create intense physical withdrawal symptoms, while others involve more emotional symptoms. For example, someone detoxing from meth will not have the same withdrawal symptoms or timeline as someone withdrawing from alcohol. 

Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal

Substances such as alcohol, tranquilizers, and opiates are known to cause more significant physical withdrawal symptoms. While other substances can cause physical symptoms, the most common ones are these. Common physical symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Racing heart/palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skipped heartbeats
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Congestion
  • Muscle tension
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Mood swings
  • Stomach aches
  • Tremors
  • Muscle aches
  • Tingling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Twitching

These symptoms—when combined with mental and emotional symptoms—can cause extreme discomfort. At times, the symptoms can be fatal such as seizures, strokes, heart attacks, and hallucinations. This is why being under medical supervision during the withdrawal process is vitally important. 

Mental & Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms

Other substances cause more mental and emotional symptoms, such as ecstasy and marijuana. These can make the process that much more uncomfortable, often causing people to want to return back to using just to relieve the symptoms. Common mental and emotional withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Social isolation
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Problems falling or staying asleep
  • Poor appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Panic attacks
  • Bad memory

These symptoms, coupled with physical symptoms of withdrawal, can be extremely unpleasant. Under medical supervision, the patient can be made more comfortable with a few medical options as they go through the detox and withdrawal process. 

Treating Withdrawal

When going through detox, it is important to have medical professionals supervising you to give you the proper treatment. Withdrawal treatment often utilizes care, support, and medications to help ease the process and prevent any possible harmful health problems. 

Medications are often used to relieve the patient of withdrawal symptoms, but the medications used depend on the substance the person was taking. The prescriptions are heavily monitored and only given to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. Common medications used include Valium, Ativan, Librium, Currenex, Catapres, and Methadone. 

Other medications used are to manage specific withdrawal symptoms. These can include antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, anti-anxiety medication, nausea medication, and sleep medication. These can further ease the discomfort for the patient as they continue detoxing their body. 

How to Prepare for Withdrawal

When planning on detoxing from drugs or alcohol, you need to ensure that you are prepared for the process. Educate yourself on what is going to happen and make further preparations to make the transition easier. 

Identify emotions you commonly experience, such as anxiety or depression, and create a list of ways that you can cope with them while going through withdrawal. Get plenty of rest before the process of detoxing. Also, let friends and family know your plans; you can lean on them for support during this time. 

When going through withdrawal, drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated. Sweating is a common physical symptom of withdrawal and it will dehydrate you quite quickly. Also, make sure you are engaging in physical activities daily to keep your mind occupied and get your body moving. Eat healthy to give your body the proper nutrients it needs to get through the discomfort. Self-care is of the utmost importance throughout this process. 

Early recovery can be an intimidating task because of the difficulties of withdrawal. If you are considering getting sober, it is understandable to have some anxiety about detoxing. Withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to cope with, but the process is necessary and you will get through it. At Northstar Transitions, we offer various detox programs for different substances. We understand the process our patients go through and do our best to ensure they are comfortable and able to safely detox in our facilities. Educating people on withdrawal is an important part of the process, as it can prepare recovering addicts and their loved ones for what is to come. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and ready to take the next step, give us a call at (303) 558-6400. We can help guide you through the next steps and help you prepare for the withdrawal process.