Being able to stay away from drugs and alcohol is an accomplishment for many substance abusers, but removing drugs from their body is another story. In fact, abruptly ending the use of drugs or alcohol can be dangerous to anyone who is addicted to them. This is because withdrawal symptoms can be significant and even life-threatening if not handled properly. In order to be healthy again, withdrawal symptoms should be managed accordingly and must be done through medical detox with the help of trained health care professionals. 

What is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is a combination of signs and symptoms that arise in result of sudden removal of or abrupt decrease in the regular use or dosage of a drug. The symptoms and signs of withdrawal may vary depending on the drug used and how long the addict has been using. Acute withdrawal from substances can be an unpleasant experience for the user and can be dangerous that is why it must be done in a safe and structured setting to ensure the patient’s safety. 

Signs and Symptoms of Withdrawal: Drugs and Alcohol

There are plenty of signs and symptoms to look out for during the withdrawal phase, as they can progress over the course of time. Depending on the kind of drug that was used, the symptoms may also vary. Some users may exhibit seizures, while others can show serious conditions like delirium tremens which includes signs like:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucination
  • Violent tremors on the arms and legs

In some cases, there are also less severe symptoms exhibited if the person has withdrawn from alcohol use. These signs can be seen as:

  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate and body temperature
  • Increased sweating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Shakiness
  • Cold clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Seizures

These are usually seen in adults who withdraw alcohol in their system. Typically, these symptoms appear within 8 hours of their last drink but can also occur after a few days. The changes in their sleeping pattern, as well as mood swings can last for months. On the other hand, severe withdrawal symptoms may be accompanied by high fever, seizures and confusion. If these are not given proper intervention, severe withdrawal symptoms can also lead to death. 

Besides alcohol, Benzodiazepines also have similar symptoms as alcohol withdrawal. Opiates on the other hand have uncomfortable symptoms when withdrawn but it does not carry the same severity of risks compared to benzodiazepines. Those who are withdrawing from opiates may experience flu-like symptoms such as:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Chills and sweating
  • Fever
  • Problems in sleeping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle cramps and muscle aches
  • Watery eyes

8 Tips on Handling Symptoms

The side effects of withdrawal may linger on for many months, and medical intervention may be needed. That is why it is important that you know how to handle such effects. Here are 8 helpful ways that you can handle withdrawal:  

  1. Attend a detox program – withdrawal symptoms not only affect the physical aspect of your well-being, but your emotions as well. Without proper medical assistance, withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous to a recovering addict. Medical detox programs can last up to 10 days on average, and during this time, the patient is closely monitored by health care professionals that can provide them with their needs. Cravings and symptoms can be easily managed through medications, and patients are also provided with emotional support. 
  2. Getting regular exercises – it is important to get a good amount of exercise during this time. Exercising can help the brain release positive chemicals in the brain (endorphins) which can help reduce any stress, tension and can even help boost self-esteem. Not only that, exercising can also reduce the cravings, decrease drug use and helps in minimizing the relapse. Taking a walk or running are good examples of simple exercises you can do to manage your withdrawal symptoms. 
  3. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet – besides taking regular exercises, eating a healthy and nutritious meal can also help in terms of healing your body and mind. Foods rich in protein, vitamins and other essential nutrients are all helpful in restoring the brain and functions of the body. Keep in mind that your body is depleted with nutrients from your drug addiction and so keeping a healthy, well-balanced diet is something you should enjoy. 
  4. Drink a lot of water – one of the most common effects of withdrawal is dehydration and so it is crucial to drink enough water so your body can heal properly. Keeping your body hydrated and nourished can also help reduce cravings. 
  5. Get enough rest and sleep – getting enough rest allows you to control your thoughts and be in a better mood. Cravings are also avoided when you get enough sleep. Try to establish a routine schedule for your sleep and make sure to avoid stimuli like watching television or staring at your phone/computer screen before sleeping. Practicing relaxation techniques before sleeping can also help you get enough sleep and avoid any disruptions during the withdrawal phase. 
  6. Support groups can help – joining a support group can help you stay sober. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or 12-Step Programs can offer encouragement and tips for recovering addicts like you. Being surrounded by people who are going through or have gone through the same situation as you are experiencing can be beneficial. Staying committed to your rehabilitation program will not only help manage your withdrawal symptoms but also help you stay sober. 
  7. Practice mindfulness, meditation, and yoga – yoga is helpful in stimulating the blood flow in your body, and incorporating mindfulness can help train your brain to cope with uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Additionally, stretching and moving your body in this way eases the tension in your muscles and even abates the physical pain you are experiencing. Mindfulness, yoga practices, and breathing techniques can help you become more in-tune with your body by understanding and responding to physical cues. Both can be beneficial in your emotional responses. Not only that, it will also help strengthen your connection to your mind, body and spirit which can help in lowering your physical pain, anxiety and even depression — all of which are side effects of withdrawal. 
  8. Communicate with your family, friends and loved ones – one of the best forms of therapy is talking. This can help you unload unwanted emotions, externalize thoughts and other difficulties in order to avoid resentments. Talking to your loved ones, friends, and ideally a therapist can help manage your withdrawal symptoms. By talking, you can manage your stress, learn healthy coping mechanisms, and turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. This way your behaviors are modified and reduce self-destructive patterns that these withdrawal symptoms may cause. 

Get the Help You Need

Withdrawal symptoms are known to be very uncomfortable, but don’t let your fear of these symptoms stop you from reaching your goals. Be informed about the potential risks and understand the steps you need to take to be successful at conquering your addictions. Most importantly, seek medical professionals or a treatment program to help you cope and deal with the withdrawal symptoms the healthy way. You are one step closer to being sober, so don’t quit now. There is always something good out of every bad situation so always keep going. Good luck!

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