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What Does Drug Withdrawal Feel Like?

What Does Drug Withdrawal Feel Like?

If you have a drug addiction and you want to stop using, it is important to understand what drug withdrawal feels like. It will not be easy, but there are ways for you to get help.

The type of withdrawal you experience will vary; depending on what drug you are stopping. There are some symptoms that will be similar for all drugs, and some that will be different. We would like to take this opportunity to give you all the information you need so you know what you can expect.

What is Drug Withdrawal Like?

What is Drug Withdrawal Like?

Drug withdrawal is very difficult to go through. It happens when someone stops the use of an addictive substance. It can also occur when you cut down on how much or how often you use.

As we mentioned previously, different drugs produce a variety of withdrawal symptoms. In general, you should expect some physical, mental, and/or emotional reactions when you stop using. There may be several days when you do not feel like yourself.

Even so, it is possible to withdrawal from drugs successfully. As long as you get the right support, you can quit, and stay quit long-term.

In this video, a recovered drug addict talks about what different types of drug withdrawal feels like:

Typical Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Factors That Influence Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

There are several factors that influence what your experience with drug withdrawal will be like. These include:

  • The type of drug(s) you are using.
  • How long you have been using.
  • How much you use at one time.
  • Whether or not you mix drugs with alcohol or other substances.
  • How quickly your body metabolizes the drug.
  • Your age.
  • Whether you also suffer from a co-occurring disorder, or mental health condition.
  • The type of support you receive when you quit.
  • Your outlook on your recovery.

Everyone’s experience with withdrawal will vary. There are people who have severe symptoms, and there are those who hardly experience any at all. Likewise, if you have quit in the past, this time is likely to be different.

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What Drugs Cause Withdrawal Symptoms?

Any drug that causes an addiction will probably lead to withdrawal symptoms when it is stopped. But it is important to understand what will happen to you based on the drug you are using.

Some of the more common drug categories that cause withdrawal when they are stopped include:

Opioid Withdrawals

There are both legal and illegal opioids that can lead to addiction. Some examples of these drugs include:

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be very severe, and many people are scared to stop taking them for this reason. Some of the more common symptoms of opioid withdrawal include:

  • Achy muscles
  • Tearing of the eyes
  • Yawning
  • Excessive sweating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Anger and agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

During the withdrawal period, there is a risk of aspiration if an individual vomits and the contents of the stomach are breathed into the lungs. This can lead to a lung infection or even suffocation. Excessive vomiting and diarrhea can also lead to dehydration.

This is an excellent TED talk that discusses opioid withdrawal in even more detail:

The Withdrawal Timeline

For opioid addicts, withdrawal usually begins within the first 24 hours. This may occur as soon as within six hours, depending on the individual’s normal dosing schedule. At first, symptoms should be relatively minor. This is what causes people to believe they can attempt to quit on their own. They will become more severe within the next 72 hours.

As the process continues, additional symptoms will appear, and they will get worse. They will continue to progress until after three days has passed. After that, they should begin to get better.

Most people feel the best around seven to ten days after their last dose. But there are some who may greatly improve within three days, or their symptoms might linger for up to 14 days.

Withdrawal Symptoms From Benzodiazepines

Benzos are some of the most prescribed medications in the United States. They are usually given to treat anxiety, but they can treat other conditions as well. Some examples of benzodiazepines include:

  • Xanax
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin
  • Librium
  • Restoril
  • Halcion

Most treatment professionals agree that benzodiazepine withdrawal is among the most dangerous type. It is accompanied by a host of withdrawal symptoms that can potentially become life threatening.

Some of the more common benzo withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Problems with sleep
  • Irritability
  • Increased anxiety symptoms
  • Panic attacks
  • Hand tremors
  • Excessive sweating
  • Problems concentrating
  • Dry heaves
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Muscular pain and stiffness
  • Significant perceptual changes

With higher doses of these medications, it is also possible for people to experience seizures and psychosis. The good news is that the right treatment can manage benzodiazepine withdrawal very well.

In this video, one young man shares his experience with benzo withdrawal:

The Withdrawal Timeline for Benzos

It can take a very long time for someone to get through benzodiazepine withdrawal. Symptoms usually start within the first six to twelve hours. At first, symptoms should be mild, and relatively easy to manage.

They may continue to become more severe over the course of the next few weeks. Most people experience the peak of benzo withdrawal at around the two-week mark. At that point, they should start to subside.

It is not uncommon for people to continue to have withdrawal symptoms off and on for several months or even years after their last dose. Fortunately, the symptoms can be controlled very well with the right detox program.

Prescription Stimulants Withdrawal

For people who suffer from ADD or ADHD, prescription stimulants can be a lifesaver. They allow them to focus their attention and truly improve their lives tremendously. But these drugs are often abused; both by people who have prescriptions and those who do not.

Some of the most common types of prescription stimulants include:

  • Adderall
  • Dexedrine
  • Focalin
  • Ritalin
  • Vyvanse
  • Concerta

It is very difficult to manage prescription stimulant withdrawal without professional guidance and support. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Cravings for the drug
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Either insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Psychomotor agitation retardation or agitation
  • An increase in appetite
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Vivid and unpleasant dreams
  • Aches and pains
  • Impaired social functioning

Without proper treatment, users can experience a crash when they stop taking prescription stimulant drugs like Adderall. This can be characterized by a severe form of depression that can last for months, or even years. Some people may even become suicidal as a result.

This video explains what one man experienced during Adderall withdrawal:

The Withdrawal Timeline for Prescription Stimulants

The withdrawal timeline for prescription stimulants depends on a few different factors. The most important one is how long the patient has been taking the medication. The duration of symptoms varies from person to person, and they can last for a few days to several weeks.

Symptoms should begin with the first 12 to 24 hours after the last dose. They will become more severe over the next three days. By the fourth day, they should begin to subside, and should continue to do so throughout the rest of the week.

During the second week, cravings for the drug may persist. Many people are at risk for a relapse during this timeframe. It is possible for symptoms to linger through the third week and even beyond. But proper treatment can shorten the length of withdrawal immensely.

Withdrawals From Illegal Stimulants

Without a doubt, illegal stimulants are some of the most addictive drugs on the planet. Substances like cocaine and methamphetamine can lead to a quick addiction and they are very dangerous.

For someone who is addicted to one of these drugs, the withdrawal symptoms can be very hard to cope with. The most common symptoms of withdrawal for drugs like cocaine and meth include:

  • Extreme anxiety
  • Sluggishness and fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Cravings for carbohydrates
  • Depression symptoms
  • The onset of psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

Like with prescription stimulants, these drugs can cause someone to lapse into a severe form of depression. If left untreated, this can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

This video offers an excellent explanation on meth withdrawal:

The Withdrawal Timeline

The physical symptoms of stimulant withdrawal usually fade faster than the psychological ones. They can last for a very long time. Symptoms usually begin within the first 24 hours after the last dose has been taken. They are generally mild at first, but can increase in severity very quickly.

During the first seven days, people experience a crash from stopping the drugs. This is when people experience increased fatigue, but they may have trouble sleeping. People generally feel irritable during this time as well.

Additional symptoms may develop over the next few weeks, and drug cravings will be present throughout. Going through a professional detox can shorten the duration of withdrawal immensely. It can also protect the individual from experiencing any unwanted complications from stopping the drug.

Alcohol Withdrawals

Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most severe forms. This often surprises people because it is viewed as being a relatively benign drug. But it is still a drug, and stopping it once someone is addicted can have devastating and even fatal consequences.

The most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Feeling nervous or anxious
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Feeling fatigued
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feeling shaky or jumpy
  • Having mood swings
  • Having nightmares
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A rapid heart rate
  • Sweating excessively

Delirium tremens is a condition that can occur when a person stops drinking alcohol. It is more common in those who have been drinking excessively for ten years or longer. But it can happen to anyone who is an alcoholic.

This condition – which is often referred to as the DTs – can potentially be fatal if left untreated. Some of the symptoms of DTs include:

  • Having body tremors
  • Having hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • A deep sleep that can last longer that 24 hours
  • Changes in the way a person thinks
  • Feeling sensitive to light, sound and touch
  • Irrational feelings of fear or excitement
  • Becoming delirious
  • Extreme irritability or anger
  • Having quick bursts of energy

This video explains how Nelsan Ellis died because of alcohol withdrawal:

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually begin within the first eight hours after the last drink. At first, people usually only experience some anxiety, insomnia, abdominal pain and/or nausea.

Within the first 24-72 hours, symptoms will increase in severity. The person’s blood pressure and heart rate may increase. They may also experience an increase in body temperature and possibly become confused.

After two to four days, people are most at risk for DTs. Those that avoid this condition may begin to feel better at the end of this timeframe. Symptoms will continue to improve throughout the rest of the week.

What is the Risk of PAWS?

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS for short, can happen to anyone who has gone through drug withdrawal. Unfortunately, many people are told that once they get through withdrawal, everything will be better. That is not always the case.

PAWS includes a collection of symptoms that can often become uncomfortable. It occurs after all traces of drugs or alcohol have left the body. Its duration often varies, based on how much and how often the person was using. It is not uncommon for people to experience:

  • Problems with energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A short attention span
  • Problems with memory
  • Sleep issues
  • Appetite problems
  • Mood swings
  • Symptoms of anxiety and/or depression
  • Anger and irritability

It is very important for people to work closely with medical professionals for a long time after stopping their use of drugs. The right treatment can help to manage PAWS appropriately and make it much more comfortable.

Why do Drug Addicts Experience Drug Withdrawal?

Why do Addicts Go Through Withdrawal?

There are a lot of reasons why drug addicts go through withdrawal when they stop using. One of the main reasons is because of the way drugs result in the increase of dopamine in the brain.

Dopamine is a chemical that your brain naturally produces on its own. You experience it when something good happens to you. Some examples of when people have dopamine surges include:

  • After eating a delicious meal.
  • After having dessert.
  • After sexual intercourse.
  • After spending time with a loved one.
  • When taking an exciting vacation.

In short, dopamine is what makes you enjoy your life. When you started using drugs, you experienced a surge of dopamine that eventually became addictive. This is also what many people refer to as euphoria. As you continued to use, your brain stopped producing this chemical on its own. Instead, it relied on the drug to do the job for it. The result was that you stopped feeling like yourself unless you were using.

During recovery, it takes a while for dopamine levels to return to normal. Your brain has to slowly learn how to manage without the drug in your system. Eventually, you will begin to feel more like yourself again, without having to depend on drugs at all.

Manage Drug Withdrawal

Are There Ways to Manage Withdrawal on Your Own?

One of the most common ways to quit using is to go cold turkey. But there are a lot of risks associated with this method. If you plan to stop using on your own, please at least have a conversation with your doctor. Tell them what you plan to do and ask for their assistance.

Most addiction treatment experts agree that stopping the use of drugs without professional help can be dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms from some types of drugs can even be fatal if they are not managed.

If you have decided to try to quit using on your own, you should at least take the following steps:

  • Plan to have someone with you at all times as you go through detoxification process.
  • Make sure you have plenty of nutritious foods on hand.
  • Take time off from work or school so that you can rest as much as possible.
  • Keep water, Gatorade or other hydrating beverages in your house so you do not become dehydrated.
  • Consider using over the counter medications or supplements that can help.

Do Drug Detox Kits Work?

There are many proponents of natural drug detox methods, and it is common for people to want to try drug detox kits. They are available at many pharmacies and you can also purchase them online. The problem is that they rarely work as well as they say they do.

You are much better off choosing a professional program that has been proven to be effective. Otherwise, it is possible that you will waste a lot of money on products that will not benefit you. Also, they could be dangerous.

What is Drug Detox, and How is it Different From Rehab?

It is very common for people to confuse drug detox with rehab. Both are often an essential part of the recovery process, but they are very different.

When patients go to drug detox, they are receiving help for the physical side of their addiction. This includes treatment for their withdrawal symptoms. It is a process by which toxins are removed from the body, and it can speed up recovery.

When patients go to drug rehab, they are receiving help for the psychological side of their addiction. They work with a therapist in a one-on-one setting to learn more about their substance abuse problem. This includes figuring out what caused their addiction to occur in the first place.

In addition, they will have many different types of therapy. This might include family therapy and group therapy with other patients.

Sometimes patients want to skip detox because they feel it is not necessary. Alternatively, they may want to skip rehab once their withdrawal symptoms are under control. Both can be detrimental to their recovery. In most cases, both types of treatment are necessary and they are vital components of the healing process.

How Can Detoxing Help Withdrawal Symptoms?

It is very rare for someone to be able to rely on willpower alone to get through withdrawal. No matter how badly they want to stop using, an addiction is a powerful force. Drug detox is often an essential part of recovery because of the way it treats withdrawal symptoms.

Patients will generally undergo different types of drug detoxification treatments. Many believe that medical detox is necessary because the patient can take medications to help with their symptoms. For patients who are addicted to opiates, opioids or alcohol, they may require medication assisted treatment. They may also be prescribed various holistic treatments, such as dietary changes and exercise.

When it is done in the right way, you may experience less severe withdrawals. Some people even report that a few of the expected symptoms do not show up at all. Detoxing can also help people avoid some of the complications that can come with the withdrawal process.

Get Started With Drug Addiction Recovery Today

Many people fail to get started with drug addiction recovery because they are afraid of withdrawal symptoms. While this is very common, we want to assure you that there is nothing to fear. With the right support and treatment, you can successfully get through withdrawal.

At The Evergreen at Northpoint, we can provide you with the support you need. We can refer you to an excellent program for drug detox. if you are in need of Vivitrol services (for opioid or alcohol addiction) we can help you with that. Afterwards, we will be happy to assist you as you continue working toward your recovery goals through drug rehab.

Do you have additional questions about drug withdrawal? Please let us know by contacting us today.

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What is Drug Withdrawal Like Infographic