Everything You Need to Know About Drug Withdrawal

At GateHouse Treatment, drug and alcohol rehab, we know that some substances make the body dependent on them. The body, due to continued use of these substances, finds a new homeostasis or “normal.” With these substances it can be much harder to get clean, that’s because the body now needs them to function properly. So, when you stop these substances, the body goes through something called withdrawal. This is the body’s way of re-calibrating or learning to function again without the substances. The symptoms of this “re-calibration” are called withdrawal symptoms and the process of the substances leaving the body is known better as detox or withdrawal. There are many substances that can cause withdrawal—including caffeine. Have you ever gone a couple days without your morning cup of joe (coffee)? The headaches, tension, and tiredness are all withdrawal symptoms. But, caffeine isn’t the only substance that can cause withdrawal symptoms.

What substances can cause withdrawal symptoms?

Good question. Not all substances cause the body to become dependent on them and there are varying degrees of physical dependence. For instance, your body quickly becomes dependent on opioids or nicotine. Whereas drugs such as benzodiazepines and alcohol, while still very physical addicting, take a little bit longer for your body to adjust to. The substances that can cause this physical dependence are:

  • Opiates (i.e. morphine, oxycodone, heroin, fentanyl, Vicodin, Percocet etc.)
  • Benzodiazepines (i.e. Klonopin, Xanax, Valium etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Sugar

While sugar, caffeine, and nicotine do cause physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms when quitting, we are here to focus on the illicit drugs. The illicit drugs are significantly more dangerous to be physically addicted to. Especially opiates, benzodiazepines, and alcohol. The withdrawal symptoms for these substances are extremely uncomfortable, and in some cases, they are even life-threatening. Substances like alcohol, opiates, and benzodiazepines often require medical care to ensure the safety of the person withdrawing in a drug and alcohol rehab.

What are the drug withdrawal symptoms?

The drug withdrawal symptoms for all substances are similar, but as mentioned above, have varying degrees of severity depending on the substance used, the amount used, and the length of time used. Here are the drug withdrawal symptoms for each substance.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

These usually start within 6-12 hours for short-acting opiates, and they start within 30 hours for longer-acting ones:

  • Tearing up
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation
  • Trouble falling and staying asleep
  • Excessive yawning
  • Anxiety
  • Nose running
  • Sweats
  • Racing heart
  • Hypertension
  • Fever

These peak within 72 hours and usually last a week or so:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Stomach cramps
  • Depression
  • Drug cravings

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

Benzodiazepine withdrawal is highly dangerous and if you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms you should seek medical attention.

Less serious benzo withdrawal symptoms:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Hand tremors
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Confusion

More serious benzo withdrawal symptoms:

  • Dry retching and nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Palpitations
  • Headache
  • Muscular pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Suicide

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

If you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms it is important you seek medical care at a hospital or detox center. Alcohol withdrawal, like benzodiazepine withdrawal is potentially life threatening.

Mild symptoms usually show up as early as 6 hours after you put down your glass. They can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

More serious problems range from hallucinations about 12 to 24 hours after that last drink to seizures within the first 2 days after you stop. You can see, feel, or hear things that aren’t there. That isn’t the same as delirium tremens, or DTs as you’re likely to hear them called. DTs usually start 48 to 72 hours after you put down the glass. These are severe symptoms that include vivid hallucinations and delusions. Only about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal have them. Those that do may also have:

  • Confusion
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Heavy sweating
  • Seizures
  • Tremors

How long does drug or alcohol withdrawal last?

You are probably wondering how long all of this lasts. Well, it depends as we said earlier on the length of time you used the substance, the amount you used and which substance you were using. Withdrawal symptoms for most substances can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks.

What should you do if you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms?

If you have decided you want to quit and are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it can be extremely difficult to overcome the discomfort alone. Withdrawal symptoms often keep people stuck in an addictive cycle where they keep using just to avoid the discomfort of not using. There are medical detoxes available to you that are trained in substance abuse withdrawal. They will not only keep you from going back to using the substance but can also lessen the discomfort you are experiencing.

If you do make it through withdrawal, it is important that you recognize that just because your body has physically withdrawn from the substances, you are not free from your addiction. Remember, drug and alcohol use is a symptom of an internal condition that needs to be treated. Seeking out treatment after you have detoxed your body and have gone through withdrawal, is paramount to you staying sober because you will begin treating this internal condition that causes you to use in the first place. You have to get help if you want to protect yourself from ever going through this again.

We know withdrawal is agonizing. It is unpleasant, miserable, and uncomfortable. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, we hope you only have to go through it once. The way you will ensure that is by getting medical help for your withdrawal symptoms through a drug and alcohol rehab, detox, and then treating your internal condition by seeking out drug treatment. If you want to learn more, call us today at GateHouse Treatment.

If you or a loved one are suffering from substance use withdrawals and are looking for treatment, we can help!

Call us at (855) 448-3588. You can heal, we can help!