Alcohol and Drug Abuse Withdrawal Symptoms: How Medical Detox Can Help

By February 26, 2021Addiction, Recovery

When you are struggling with a substance use disorder, the idea of quitting can be overwhelming. A medically supervised detox can help those who are unsure about facing withdrawal symptoms alone. Depending on the substance and the individual’s circumstance, detoxing on your own can range from uncomfortable and painful to life-threatening. This is why it is critical to consider the severity of your circumstance and whether you need a supervised detox.

Withdrawal Symptoms Depending on the Substance

Because the severity and type of withdrawal symptoms that appear can depend on numerous factors, they may vary significantly from person to person. However, there are some common withdrawal symptoms depending on the substance. A medically supervised detox can help an individual manage these in a safe and sanitary environment. 

Alcohol 

A person who suddenly stops drinking after prolonged and heavy alcohol use will experience withdrawal. Due to alcohol’s depressant effect, the brain of an individual addicted to alcohol is almost always exposed to this depressant effect. This causes the brain to adjust its chemistry to compensate by producing naturally stimulating chemicals, such as serotonin, in more significant quantities than usual. If alcohol is suddenly withdrawn, the brain’s chemistry is still over-producing stimulating chemicals even when the depressant effect is no longer there. It takes time for the chemistry to readjust and, therefore, the brain is like an accelerating vehicle without any brakes. This is why withdrawal symptoms of alcohol occur because the brain is still being overstimulated. 

Withdrawal Symptoms

Tremors — These can begin within 6 to 10 hours after the last alcohol drink. Along with tremors, these initial symptoms can include an increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

HallucinationsAnother symptom can include having hallucinations- seeing or feeling things that are not real. 

SeizuresA severe withdrawal symptom includes having seizures, which may begin within the first 24 hours after the last drink. 

Delirium Tremens Delirium tremens is a serious syndrome associated with alcohol withdrawal and can occur two to four days after the last alcohol drink. Delirium tremens can temporarily reduce the amount of blood flow to your brain, causing symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, irrational beliefs, nervous or angry behavior, sleep disturbances, hallucinations, and loss of consciousness. It can also cause increases in breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. According to Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal, approximately five percent of patients undergoing withdrawal experience Delirium Tremens (DT).

Benzodiazepines (Benzos) – Benzodiazepines can be helpful in the treatment of many mental illnesses and sleep disorders. However, the drug’s impact on brain chemistry can cause dependence and addiction. Over time, the brain can become accustomed to its constant presence, and it can eventually need the drug to function “normally.” If a person who is dependent or addicted suddenly stops taking it, a series of withdrawal symptoms may begin to appear. 

Withdrawal Symptoms: Irritability, sleep disturbance, anxiety, panic attacks, hand tremor, sweating, difficulty concentrating, nausea, palpitations, headache, and muscular pain and stiffness. 

    • In more high-dosage and severe instances, seizures and psychotic reactions have also been reported.

Opioids 

Some individuals may find the relaxing, euphoric, and pain-killing effects of opioids enjoyable. However, these drugs can quickly alter brain chemistry, making them addictive. As the person’s tolerance grows, they have to take more to get the same feeling. Some opioids include codeine, fentanyl, heroin, and morphine.

Withdrawal Symptoms: Anxiety, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, dilated pupils, goosebumps, yawning, high blood pressure, muscle aches, rapid heart rate, restlessness, insomnia, and runny nose.

Stimulants

Stimulants, such as Adderall, cocaine, and methamphetamine, affect the body’s central nervous system and increase activity inside the brain. If a person addicted to a stimulant quits using them, they can experience withdrawal symptoms as their brain has to adjust or relearn how to function again without the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological and can range from moderate to severe. 

Withdrawal Symptoms: Anxiety, fatigue, depression, increased appetite, irritability, insomnia, panic attacks, slowed thinking, unpleasant dreams, and suicidal thoughts.

While symptoms may vary greatly depending on many factors, seeking professional medical care can help prevent relapse or any life-threatening situations if you are looking to detox. With medical staff attending to the patient and on standby to administer medicine if needed, a medically supervised detox is more likely to be successful than if you attempt it alone. It can also give those wanting to stop using a substance or substances a clean, safe environment to start their journey to recovery.  

An essential first step in recovering from substance use disorder is deciding to detox the body of the addictive substance, whether it be drugs or alcohol. However, this might be an intimidating prospect for those looking to detox as the withdrawal symptoms can range from painful to life-threatening. It is vital to evaluate the severity of you or your loved one’s situation and consider talking to a medical professional about a medically supervised detox. Supervised detox can help those who are uncertain about facing the withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or drugs alone. It can provide a safe and sanitary environment to begin healing, and it can potentially be life-saving. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder or is concerned about detoxing alone, reach out to us at Alta Centers. We are a premier detox, recovery, and substance abuse treatment center located in the Hollywood Hills. Call us at (888) 202-2583.  

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