If your mental health team has recommended an intensive outpatient program,…
For some people, the fear of withdrawal is the one thing holding them back from getting sober. They have heard horror stories about how awful withdrawal is. We are not going to mislead you. Withdrawal can be a very negative experience. However, medically managed withdrawal is not only less unpleasant, but also safer. At Greater Essex, we can help you with a managed withdrawal. Understanding your withdrawal not only helps you avoid negative side effects but can also make you more likely to stay on your sober journey.
What is Withdrawal?
Withdrawal refers to the mental, physical and behavioral changes that occur after stopping or reducing the use of a substance. Withdrawal symptoms depend on the drug. Withdrawing from caffeine, a commonly used stimulant can lead to sluggishness and headaches but is not considered life-threatening. On the other hand, withdrawal from alcohol and other sedatives can create dangerous physical symptoms.
Why Do People Experience Withdrawal?
That is a complicated question. Simply put, when you use substances, you alter your brain activity. Your brain gradually adapts to the amount of the substance you are using, which can alter your brain chemistry. As you are chasing relief or a high, your brain is working against that, trying to create a state of homeostasis. That can lead to tolerance. Suddenly reducing or eliminating that substance can lead to an imbalance in brain chemicals that can cause physical symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Withdrawal?
Each substance has its own withdrawal symptoms. In addition, the length of substance use, the amount being used, and your personal health factors can also influence withdrawal. Opioids, alcohol, and benzodiazepines have the worst physical withdrawal symptoms. Potential withdrawal symptoms include
- Rapid heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Delirium tremens
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle aches
- Sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells
- Excessive yawning
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Increased pain sensitivity
- Excessive sleeping
- Strong cravings
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
Although withdrawal periods vary for different substances, most medically managed withdrawals last 2 weeks or less. However, extended periods of drug use with large amounts of substances can lead to post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Paws refers to extended withdrawal symptoms after the initial withdrawal period. These symptoms are more likely to be psychological than physical but can increase your risk of relapse. Medical management can help reduce those symptoms.