- What to Expect From Drug Withdrawal
- What Is Physical Dependence, and Why Does It Matter?
- Common Withdrawal Symptoms
- How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
- What Is Medical Detox?
- Medical Detox Isn’t the End
- 5 Home Remedies For Opiate Withdrawal
- 1. Relief for fever, sweating, muscle pains, and chills
- 2. Relief for nausea and diarrhea
- 3. Avoiding dehydration
- 4. Dealing with cravings
- 5. Natural and herbal remedies
- Why medically managed detox is safe and effective
What to Expect From Drug Withdrawal
Withdrawing from alcohol or drugs comes with many unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms range in severity and depend on several factors. Which drug you were addicted to plays the largest role, but personal factors genetics and metabolism make a difference too.
Signs of withdrawal can begin within a few hours of your last use of the drug, or they may take days to appear. They can last anywhere from days to weeks. In cases of severe addiction to certain drugs, long-term symptoms may linger for months.
Withdrawal symptoms usually have several stages. They include:
- An acute withdrawal period, when the symptoms begin and are most intense – This lasts anywhere from a couple days to a week.
- A protracted withdrawal period, when symptoms are at their worst, then start to fade.
- A prolonged withdrawal period after physical symptoms subside – This includes long-term symptoms cravings and depression.
It’s easy to relapse while getting sober. This is because of the many uncomfortable and even painful symptoms of withdrawal.
Physician-assisted detox programs (medical detox) ease discomfort and treat potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
After you detox, a treatment program, partial hospitalization or intensive outpatient, treats long-term withdrawal symptoms while teaching you to live a sober lifestyle.
What Is Physical Dependence, and Why Does It Matter?
You are considered physically dependent on a drug when you can’t stop taking it without experiencing withdrawal effects. It’s also known as chemical dependency, and it becomes worse when your tolerance builds. Tolerance means you need to take more of the drug over time to get the same high. Most people who regularly use drugs and/or alcohol develop tolerance.
Tolerance is thought to be the result of your body’s attempt to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is your body’s natural drive to maintain a stable level of functioning. It’s part of what allows you to function efficiently. For example, if you enter a cold room, your body will help warm you up by generating heat through shivering.
When you repeatedly use a drug or alcohol, the connections in your brain change. This helps it adapt to the effects of the drugs and maintain homeostasis. When your brain adapts, you no longer get the same high from the same amount of drugs. You need to take more because throwing off your body’s homeostasis is what allows you to feel high.
Common Withdrawal Symptoms
The concept of tolerance helps us understand why withdrawal symptoms happen. It doesn’t tell us why you may experience certain symptoms and someone else withdrawing from the same drug may not. A couple things help determine which effects you will experience, :
- The type of drug used
- How high your tolerance is
Some similarities exist among withdrawal from all substances:
Rebound effects. These are symptoms that the drug was originally designed to control. They arise in full force once you stop taking the drug. For example, you might feel significant pain during opioid withdrawal, anxiety during benzodiazepine withdrawal, or lethargy during stimulant withdrawal.
Decreased tolerance. This occurs rapidly during drug withdrawal. It can be dangerous if you relapse because you may overdose due to your reduced tolerance.
Depression. A lack of motivation or inability to experience pleasure are common effects of withdrawal. “Anhedonia” is the inability to feel happiness. It occurs among people in recovery whose brains have been hijacked to produce too much dopamine—the feel-good chemical. In the absence of so much dopamine, people find they can’t feel happy.
Changes to the automatic nervous system. These symptoms include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Irregular breathing
- Changes in blood pressure
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
The timeline for withdrawal syndromes varies depending on the drug used. Other factors influence the timeline of withdrawal too:
- How much of the drug you typically took
- The manner in which you took it (snorting, injection, etc.)
- Whether you combined it with other drugs
- How long you abused the drug
- Individual factors your genetic profile, your metabolism, and your weight
Withdrawal timelines are generally broken down into three stages: acute, protracted, and post-acute. It’s important to understand what these phases look because knowing what to expect will help you—and your loved ones—put the right treatment and resources in place.
Check out the following guide to learn more about what specific withdrawal timelines can look :
The severity of alcohol withdrawal depends a lot on how severe your addiction is. Light to moderate drinkers will most ly experience mild to moderate symptoms. They may not require medical attention. Because there’s always the potential for seizures, a doctor trained in alcohol withdrawal should monitor you.
Heavier drinkers are at an increased risk of developing seizures, delirium (confusion and psychosis), and other life-threatening symptoms. There is still a risk that these could occur in light drinkers who have abused alcohol for a long time.
You could experience withdrawal symptoms within a day or two after you stop drinking. If you chronically, heavily abused alcohol, withdrawal symptoms may begin only a few hours after your last drink.
Mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically last a week or two. More severe symptoms can last for several weeks or longer, depending on the situation.
If you have an alcohol use disorder, you should begin with medical detox. Supervision from a physician will be needed; do not simply stop drinking on your own. Learn more about withdrawing from alcohol here.
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines Xanax and Valium can appear similar to alcohol withdrawal. Both can occur rapidly, produce severe confusion, and trigger seizures that can be fatal. Both are typically treated by administering long-acting benzodiazepines in a physician-assisted medical detox program.
In detox, benzodiazepines are administered on a tapering schedule. That means you receive a smaller and smaller dosage over time until you are weaned off of them once your withdrawal symptoms stop.
Opioids include drugs oxycodone, hydrocodone, heroin, and fentanyl. Although withdrawal from opioid drugs can be very distressing, the symptoms are typically not fatal. There is a smaller risk that you will have seizures than there is when withdrawing from other drugs, unless you have a pre-existing condition that increases your risk for seizures.
A person’s tolerance level to opioids increases rapidly. If you’ve been chronically abusing opioids, you may have a very high tolerance. This allows you to take amounts of opioids that may be fatal to someone without tolerance.
The major risk associated with opioid withdrawal is that you will relapse. Since your tolerance will have significantly decreased, relapse could easily lead to a fatal overdose.
Other risks include dehydration and self-harm due to emotional distress.
For chronic, heavy users, opioid withdrawal symptoms can begin within several hours. For mild to moderate opioid use disorders, it may take a day or two for symptoms to appear.
Medical detox for opioids may involve medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and the use of an opioid replacement medication. Commonly used medications are methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone) and/or naloxone. When used as part of MAT, these medications can be very helpful in long-term opioid recovery.
Learn more about withdrawing from opioids here.
Common stimulants include methylphenidate (Ritalin), meth, cocaine, and amphetamines. Withdrawal from these drugs typically produces more emotional symptoms than physical symptoms, but you may also experience:
With meth in particular, there is a “crash” phase that can include several days of sleepiness.
For most people, withdrawing from stimulants produces extreme mood swings and cravings. These symptoms greatly increase your risk of relapse. As part of medical detox, medications help control cravings and reduce lethargy. Long-term treatment addresses apathy and depression. Learn more about withdrawing from stimulants here.
What Is Medical Detox?
To rid your body of drugs, you must go through the detoxification process. When you stop using drugs or alcohol, your body naturally gets rid of those substances, but this doesn’t mean it’s safe to detox on your own.
Detoxing in a medical facility is the safest option. A physician-supervised medical detox program doesn’t speed up the process, but it helps you through safely and as comfortably as possible.
It also addresses the symptoms of withdrawal that may cause you to relapse.
Medical detox is highly recommended for anyone with a substance use disorder. If you are addicted to alcohol and benzodiazepines, it’s necessary. We highly recommend it for the other types of addiction because it gives you the best chance possible at a healthy, sober life.
Medical Detox Isn’t the End
A medical detox program can reduce your risk of relapse in the early stages of recovery, but it’s not enough on its own to avoid relapses in the future.
Relapse rates for all types of substance use disorders are high. The potential to relapse is significantly decreased if you participate in treatment following detox. Generally, this means getting involved in some type of addiction treatment program where therapy is the backbone. When you complete a structured program, an aftercare program should be your next step.
In therapy, you’ll address the types of issues that caused your substance abuse in the first place. You’ll learn strategies to deal with these issues. With your therapist, you’ll develop a plan for avoiding alcohol or drugs long term. The longer you remain in treatment for your substance abuse disorder, the greater your chances are of remaining sober.
Are you looking to detox from drugs or alcohol in a safe, compassionate environment? Contact our team at Footprints to Recovery. We can help!
5 Home Remedies For Opiate Withdrawal
If you or a loved one are struggling with dependency on opiates and want to avoid a traditional rehabilitation facility, you may be wondering how to safely detox at home. Read on for more information about treating detox symptoms at home and 5 opiate withdrawal home remedies that can help you.
1. Relief for fever, sweating, muscle pains, and chills
Some people only experience extreme heat or cold while others experience both. Consider wearing thin layers of clothing that can easily be added or taken away as needed to maintain a comfortable body temperature.
Fever and pain can be managed with NSAIDS acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Cool compresses can also be used to help reduce fevers.
2. Relief for nausea and diarrhea
Over the counter medications can help manage these symptoms. Medications Antivert, Bonine, or Dramamine help soothe nausea while Imodium can relieve diarrhea. Those looking for more natural remedies for nausea may find ginger ale or ginger tea to relieve their symptoms.
Taking the same precautions in your diet as you would when dealing with a stomach flu can also help lessen discomfort. Eating several small meals a day made up of foods gentle on your stomach can help avoid stomach upset. The “BRAT” (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) diet is ideal for these situations.
3. Avoiding dehydration
Dehydration is one of the most dangerous aspects of detox and is the issue that most often leads to people being hospitalized during withdrawal. Dehydration can lead to heart issues if it’s not treated properly.
Nausea and diarrhea contribute to dehydration, and some people can also find food and drink to be repulsive during withdrawal, making treatment challenging. Pedialyte or other electrolyte solutions can help fight dehydration, and you should drink as many hydrating fluids as you can during detox.
4. Dealing with cravings
Preparing for detox in advance can help you put safeguards in place for when you must fight the urge to quit the detox process.
Consider techniques such as:
- Writing a list of reasons why you want to get sober that you can refer back to when you need it
- Recognizing negative thought patterns and thoughtfully countering them with reality
- Using distraction techniques to engage in a healthy alternative to using opioids, listening to music or going on a walk
5. Natural and herbal remedies
Some people prefer natural remedies and supplements to over-the-counter or prescription drugs. It’s important to remember that natural supplements and herbs are not fully regulated by the FDA, so be careful if someone seems to be selling an idea too good to be true.
You should also make sure that an herb or supplement will not react negatively with any other health condition or medications you are taking.
Natural opiate withdrawals home remedies include:
- Melatonin: This sleep hormone can help combat insomnia and restlessness associated with opiate detox.
- St. John’s Wort: This herb can help reduce tremors and relieve feelings of heaviness in limbs.
In addition to these, a number of treatments common to Chinese herbal medicine have shown in studies to be very effective in helping symptoms. These opiate withdrawals home remedies include:
- Tai-Kang-Ning: A Chinese herb thought to help moderate to severe heroin withdrawal
- U’finer: A Chinese herbal blend to help repair brain damage caused by opiate use
- Acupuncture may also help reduce withdrawal symptoms
Why medically managed detox is safe and effective
Detoxing under the supervision of a healthcare professional means that an expert can evaluate your risk factors and plan accordingly to keep you as healthy and comfortable as possible. If you have other health conditions or take other prescription medications, you are much more ly to have complications in detox than an otherwise healthy person.
Doctors can prescribe medications that will reduce withdrawal symptoms and shorten the length of time it takes for your body to fully detox. The better treatment you get for withdrawal symptoms, the less ly it is your withdrawal will cause long-term health complications.
Medically-managed withdrawal also allows you to focus on recovery, rather than stressing about which over-the-counter medication combinations are safe.