Drug Withdrawal Symptoms and Treatment

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Discontinuing the use of a drug after developing physical dependence can trigger drug withdrawal symptoms. Drug withdrawal symptoms can be quite diverse in their presentation.

The signs of drug withdrawal may vary significantly depending on the specific substance involved. Withdrawal symptoms from drugs encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from mild discomfort to severe manifestations that may pose life-threatening risks.

The various types of withdrawal symptoms may involve different combinations of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms—some of which can prove dangerous if left unmanaged.

Common withdrawal symptoms of drug abuse can include but are not limited to physical discomfort such as:

  • Muscle aches
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances

Psychological symptoms of withdrawal may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Intense drug cravings
A woman is upset with her hands in her hair to represent drug withdrawal symptoms.

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

For those wondering, “What are the symptoms of drug withdrawal”, this depends on the substance of abuse. Each individual will experience withdrawal from drugs differently. The severity and duration of the symptoms of withdrawal are influenced by factors including the drug type, duration of use, and individual physiological and psychological characteristics.

These are the most common signs of withdrawals from opioids like fentanyl, heroin, or prescription painkillers:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Sweating and chills
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Drug cravings

These are the most common signs of withdrawals from stimulants like meth or cocaine:

  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Increased appetite
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Disturbed sleep patterns or insomnia
  • Vivid or unpleasant dreams
  • Increased cravings for the drug
  • Lack of motivation or pleasure
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure

These are the most common signs of withdrawals from benzodiazepines like Xanax or Klonopin:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Tremors and muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Sweating and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Seizures (in severe cases)

These are the most common signs of withdrawals from marijuana:

  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Sweating and chills
  • Drug cravings

These are the most common signs of withdrawals from alcohol:

  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating and chills
  • Tremors and shakes
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Headaches
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Seizures (in severe cases)
  • Delirium tremens (a potentially life-threatening condition characterized by confusion, hallucinations, seizures, and severe tremors)

The severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on factors such as the individual’s overall health, duration and intensity of substance use, and any underlying medical conditions. You should seek professional medical help when attempting to withdraw from drugs.

A person holds another person's hand to represent drug withdrawal treatment and therapy.

Drug Withdrawal Treatment

Withdrawal from drugs is best addressed through a comprehensive approach that combines medical supervision, supportive care, and behavioral interventions. The specific treatment methods utilized depend on factors such as the type of substance being withdrawn from and the severity of withdrawal symptoms.

The primary objective of the detoxification process is to achieve a state of safety and establish a level of mental and physical stability that is comfortable for the individual. Alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and other sedatives often call for a medical detox in specialized detox facilities to manage withdrawal safely and minimize adverse consequences. Some facilities even provide immediate admission for detoxification to promptly address urgent cases.

The following treatment options are commonly employed:

  • Supervised medical detoxification: Severe withdrawal cases often require medical detoxification, which involves close medical supervision. This approach assists in managing and alleviating withdrawal symptoms, administering medications when necessary, and ensuring the individual’s overall safety.
  • Medications: Certain medications can be beneficial in easing withdrawal symptoms and reducing cravings. For instance, opioid withdrawal can be addressed with medications like methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone. Alcohol withdrawal may be managed using FDA-approved medications, benzodiazepines or anti-seizure drugs. The specific medication and appropriate dosage should be determined by a healthcare professional.
  • Supportive care: Emotional support and constant monitoring play vital roles during the withdrawal process. Providing a safe and supportive environment, ensuring proper nutrition and hydration, and addressing any accompanying physical or mental health issues are important aspects of supportive care. Support groups and counseling can also be beneficial during this phase.
  • Behavioral interventions: Therapy and counseling are crucial components of drug withdrawal treatment. Behavioral interventions such as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) or contingency management can assist individuals in developing effective coping strategies, identifying triggers, and preventing relapse.
  • Aftercare: Once the acute withdrawal phase is managed, ongoing support is vital for maintaining sobriety. Aftercare programs, such as outpatient counseling, participation in support groups, or engagement in a recovery community, can provide continued guidance and support.

It is highly beneficial to consult with healthcare professionals or addiction specialists to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for drug withdrawal based on individual circumstances and specific needs. Their expertise and guidance can ensure a tailored approach that maximizes the chances of successful recovery.

 Drug Withdrawal FAQs

What are the side effects of drug withdrawal?

Withdrawals from drugs can lead to various side effects, including physical discomfort, cravings, mood swings, insomnia, nausea, sweating, and anxiety.

What happens when you stop taking a drug?

When you stop taking a drug, your body may experience withdrawal symptoms as it struggles to cope in the absence of the substance. Drug withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include physical and psychological effects.

How long do drug withdrawal symptoms last?

The duration of drug withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on factors such as the type of drug, duration of use, and individual circumstances. Withdrawal symptoms typically peak within a few days to a week and may last for several weeks or even months in some cases.

What happens when you stop taking a drug?

When you stop taking a drug, your body goes through a process of adjustment as it tries to rebalance itself without the substance. This can result in withdrawal symptoms, both physical and psychological, as your body adapts to the absence of the drug. It is helpful to seek professional support during this time to ensure a safe and successful recovery.

a woman looks out at a sunset to represent drug addiction treatment at Ohio Recovery Centers.

Get Treatment for Drug Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

At Ohio Recovery Centers, we provide tailored addiction treatment programs designed specifically for those grappling with dependencies on alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit substances.

Extensive research indicates that both mild and moderate addictions can be effectively addressed through intensive outpatient treatment, rivaling the outcomes achieved in residential rehab. Our outpatient programs offer unmatched flexibility and affordability while ensuring the quality of care remains uncompromised. Within our Cincinnati rehab facility, you have the freedom to select from drug addiction treatment programs that include:

Ohio Recovery Centers integrates a multi-dimensional approach to recovery in all our treatment programs. We combine pharmacological interventions, behavioral therapies, and holistic practices, allowing for a scientifically supported path toward healing. Upon completion of your program, you will depart our center armed with relapse prevention strategies, coping mechanisms, and the option for continued therapy, should you require it.To embark on your journey to recovery, reach out to our admissions team today at (877) 679-2132 for immediate assistance.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn