Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal
The symptoms of drug withdrawal are perhaps the biggest curse of addiction. The certainty that one will become desperately ill if he stops using drugs is a big reason a person stays trapped in addiction. Heroin addicts talk about “getting sick” when they start suffering withdrawal symptoms because they feel so miserable and may vomit and suffer diarrhea, muscle spasms and chills. They talk about “getting well” when they can get their hands on more heroin or other opiate.
With each type of drug, the withdrawal symptoms vary – sometimes greatly. What most people are familiar with is withdrawal from opiates like heroin or painkillers or the withdrawal from alcohol, with the possibility of seizures, fever and delirium. Withdrawal from other drugs is not always accompanied by such miserable sickness but has its own unique challenges.
It may not be much of a comfort for a person going through withdrawal, but it is usually a fairly short process. Also, there are ways a person can be made more comfortable that don’t involve the use of more drugs, and these methods can ease a person’s re-entry into sobriety. And when a person finally experiences the relief of being on the other side of withdrawal, he can then embark on the healing and recovery process.
What Withdrawal is Like
In each of these descriptions, we are talking about a worst-case scenario, where the addicted person goes through a cold-turkey withdrawal. Unfortunately, many people have burnt themselves out while using drugs and that physical depletion makes withdrawal more unpleasant and difficult.
Opiates: Some people withdrawing from opiates describe it as the worst flu you ever experienced, one that feels like it will kill you (but doesn’t). Fever, chills, muscle spasms and aches, deep bone pain, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, insomnia, even suicidal thoughts.
Cocaine: There are those who have said that cocaine is not addictive because it does not have the same intense withdrawal symptoms as an opiate. But there are definitely withdrawal symptoms associated with cocaine addiction. They include intense cravings, tiredness, anxiety, restlessness, agitation and depression are part of cocaine withdrawal. A person may feel suicidal and be unable to feel pleasure.
Marijuana: Physical tension, insomnia, depression, anxiety, mood swings, lack of appetite.
Methamphetamine: Depression, irritability, weakness, anxiety, paranoia, unusual hunger, headache, nausea, overwhelming fatigue, abnormal heartbeat.
Ecstasy: Panic attacks, anxiety, paranoia, delusions, tension, insomnia or poor sleep quality,
Alcohol: If a person has been drinking heavily, he (or she) may need around-the-clock medical support to ensure his safety. This is referred to as a medical (or med) detox. The only purpose of a med detox is to get a person off the drug he was using. A med detox does not eliminate the need for drug rehab.
An alcoholic going through withdrawal may suffer profuse sweating, may vomit and have diarrhea. He will probably have headaches, tremors, sensitivity to light and sound and difficulty concentrating. He may be agitated, anxious, disoriented and irritable. In the severe forms of withdrawal, a person can suffer from high fevers that trigger seizures that can be fatal, which is why med detox is needed for very high daily volumes of alcohol consumption.
Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium and others): This is another type of drug that often requires medical detox as the first step to recovery. A rehab center will have medical staff who can make this determination. Withdrawal from benzos usually results in stomach cramps and pain, diarrhea, aching joints, agitation, hyperactivity, irrational rage, burning, electric shocks, strange fears, panic attacks, and a feeling that one does not exist or that one is detached from one’s body. Suicidal thoughts, apathy and depression are likely.
The Reason for Withdrawal Symptoms
When drugs are continuously consumed, the body adjusts to their presence. It will discontinue the production of certain beneficial hormones. Basically, the entire chemistry of the body skews away from normal as the drugs or alcohol are poured in. As toxic as they are, the body adapts to their presence in a highly abnormal manner. When the drugs are eliminated, the body must make its way back to normal. This is a very uncomfortable process as the body tries to throw out the toxins and return to its normal way of functioning.
When a person has also run his health right into the ground during his addiction (which is typical), he will be in a severely depleted physical state. The body probably has not had the nutrients it’s needed for months or even years. It’s no wonder that weakness, agitation, depression and overall sickness result.
When these deficiencies are remedied with good-quality nutritional supplements, a person can start rebuilding gradually, gently, from his first day.