The first and biggest physical hurdle towards addiction recovery is the burden of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, the level of discomfort is what makes people go back to using substances again. Learn how to get through withdrawals in this post, and overcome substance abuse in this post.
Although drugs and alcohol vary in their effects, there is one thing they all have in common when a person is dependent upon them–one is bound to experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild, moderate, and its worst, the effects can sometimes be life-threatening.
The potentially fatal symptoms are what pushes people to seek professional help in getting through withdrawal. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t do your part on how to get rid of withdrawal symptoms. We will be discussing the common symptoms, what you can do, and when to seek medical help.
What Are the Common Withdrawal Symptoms?
Many individuals who are trying to quit drugs or alcohol often wonder how to deal with withdrawal symptoms especially if they become excruciating. The first step in this process is understanding what the common symptoms are so you can address the issue correctly. Some people may mistakenly think that an ailment is a withdrawal symptom but it is actually a telltale sign of another disease. So, to differentiate, here are some common substance abuse withdrawal symptoms that you need to watch out for:
- Headaches: If you experience a headache within 2-3 days of stopping drug or alcohol use, it is commonly known as a withdrawal symptom. The chemical changes in the brain are what often prompts this discomfort.
- Dizziness and nausea: You may also lose appetite and feel bouts of dizziness and nausea throughout the day.
- Breathing changes: If you have been taking sedative types of substances, you may experience breathing difficulties and feel a tightened chest.
- Diarrhea or stomach ailments: The GI tract is also affected during withdrawal. You may have bowel movement changes and stomach pains during this time.
- Cold sweats and chills: Temperature adjustments are also common.
- Heart palpitations or other heart-related issues: Related to alcohol and other sedative drugs, heart activity may also change during withdrawal.
- Muscle tension: If you feel relaxed when on substances, you will experience the opposite such as muscle tightness or tension during withdrawal.
Behavioral and Mental Symptoms
- Anxiety and depression: Typically, people use substances to cope with anxiety and depression symptoms. Thus, without the drug people who suffer from them may experience intensified anxiety and depression, and may even have thoughts of self-harm.
- Mood swings and personality changes: Aside from the physical discomfort, people can turn irritable without substances. If people are usually chatty and hyped with the drug, they can be withdrawn. Those who are relaxed with substances may experience restlessness.
- Sleep problems: Those under withdrawal may also experience insomnia, multiple-night wakings, or shallow sleep.
- Cognitive issues: People have difficulties focusing, doing daily tasks, or paying attention to conversations.
Life-threatening Symptoms *
- Seizures: Seizures are often caused by extreme electrical activity in the brain, causing neuron cell death. Common signs of seizure include trembling, sudden pauses in activity, drooling, or loss of balance.
- Heart complications: As heart palpitations and abnormal heart activity are evident in withdrawals, people with underlying cardiovascular conditions may suffer from fatal heart problems.
*If you or a loved one experiences any of these life-threatening withdrawal symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical help right away.
Now that we have some background with these common signs, below are some ways on how to treat withdrawal symptoms if they are mild and generally manageable at home.
What Helps With Withdrawal
The progression of withdrawal symptoms ranges on the type of substance used as well as the level of dependency. If you feel mild discomfort, here are some things on how to deal with withdrawal:
Let others know about your decision
If you decide to stop using substances and are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, do let others know what you are attempting to do. Some withdrawal complications are unpredictable, so it is best that someone watches over you can get lead you to get professional help when necessary.
Take time off from stressful activities
Do you have work, school, or other activities that can trigger stress? It is best to take some time off those activities especially during the peak of withdrawal symptoms. This helps you prevent relapse and allows you to focus on recovery at the moment.
Exercise and nutrition
One of the things to help with withdrawal is proper nutrition and exercise. Exercise helps level out the brain chemical changes during this challenging time and keeps your mind off the cravings for the substance. Additionally, nutrition also helps stabilize your brain health–eating food high in Omega-3 acids such as fatty fish, nuts, and plant oils can also help, too.
Pursue stress-relieving activities
Aside from exercise, you can also try some relaxing hobbies or activities such as outdoor sports, cooking, meditation, journaling, or anything else that keeps your mind away from anxiety, depression, or any other stress-induced triggers. Activities that are enriching can keep you busy and fills up the void that substance abuse used to occupy.
These simple things can be done at home as a form of self-management when withdrawal symptoms are mild. However, some people do experience prolonged withdrawals or frequent relapses when trying home-based withdrawal. In such cases, medical detox and professional treatment may be necessary to achieve full recovery. Aside from the strategies mentioned above, you can also seek high-quality addiction treatment not just to relieve withdrawal symptoms, but to beat addiction to its core. By understanding yourself and the root issues that trigger your substance abuse, you can experience not only freedom with withdrawal but substance abuse in itself. Here are some signs that you may want to seek professional help: Going to an expert addiction treatment facility allows you to have access to medical detox, evidence-based treatment, and quality post-treatment support that will increase your chances of a successful recovery.
How To Help Withdrawal: When To Seek Professional Help
Aside from the strategies mentioned above, you can also seek high-quality addiction treatment not just to relieve withdrawal symptoms, but to beat addiction to its core. By understanding yourself and the root issues that trigger your substance abuse, you can experience not only freedom with withdrawal but substance abuse in itself. Here are some signs that you may want to seek professional help:
Going to an expert addiction treatment facility allows you to have access to medical detox, evidence-based treatment, and quality post-treatment support that will increase your chances of a successful recovery.
Withdrawal Symptoms: The Tip Of the Iceberg
Although it is possible to manage mild withdrawal symptoms at home, this doesn’t guarantee full recovery from substance abuse. Freeing yourself from withdrawal is just the tip of the iceberg. If you experience frequent relapses or near-death complications due to addiction, seeking expert treatment may be your way to better health and a better life.
- Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – “The Narcotic Bowel Syndrome: Clinical Features, Pathophysiology and Management”.
- Medlineplus.gov – “Delirium tremens”.
- Ods.od.nih.gov – “Omega-3 Fatty Acids”.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.