Drug Use

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Most drug addiction treatment programs begin with detox, or the process of eliminating chemical dependency by ridding the body of addictive drugs. For most patients (especially long-term users or those with cases of severe addiction), detox is accompanied by drug withdrawal symptoms, or the physical side effects that occur when a person suddenly reduces or discontinues drug use. Drug withdrawal symptoms can last a few days to a few weeks and range in severity from mildly uncomfortable to life threatening, depending on the duration and severity of addiction.

The acute stage of drug withdrawal.

Drug withdrawal occurs in two stages. The first, the acute stage, typically lasts for about 2 weeks and involves the following physical and psychological symptoms:

Physical symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle and bone pain
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Weight loss due to loss of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing or racing heart
  • Cold flashes

Psychological symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Depression (occasionally combined with suicidal thoughts or hopelessness)
  • Paranoia
  • Social isolation
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings (preoccupation with obtaining drugs)

Symptoms associated with detox from tranquilizers.

More severe drug withdrawal symptoms can occur after quitting abruptly without medical assistance, especially when the patient is detoxing from tranquilizers. They include:

  • Seizures
  • Strokes
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens
  • Heart attacks

The post-acute phase and post acute withdrawal syndrome.

For many, the more difficult stage of drug withdrawal is the second, post-acute phase. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is likely to occur during this stage. The symptoms of PAWS can severely impact the recovery process. They include:

  • Inability to process and organize thoughts
  • Emotional instability or inability to feel emotions
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep disorders
  • Lack of physical coordination
  • Inability to cope with stress

What are withdrawal symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms will depend on what drug or behavior is no longer being used or engaged in. Common withdrawal symptoms include cravings, feelings of anxiety, sweating, irritability, cramps, vomiting, feeling of hopelessness or depression, seizures, hallucinations, fatigue, headaches, elevated heart rate and/or blood pressure, hallucinations, aggression, and more. Withdrawal from some substances — such as alcohol — can result in a medical emergency and should only be done under a doctor's supervision.

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