Generally speaking, withdrawal describes the combined physical and psychological effects that occur when reducing or discontinuing the use of alcohol or prescription/recreational drugs. Below, you’ll find a primer on the process of withdrawal.
The type and intensity of withdrawal symptoms one might experience can differ depending on biological makeup, type and amount of substance used as well as length of use. However, some common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Changes in appetite
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Sleeping difficulties
- Depression, anxiety or paranoia
A list of commonly abused drugs and associated withdrawal symptoms from the National Institute on Drug Abuse can be found here. Additionally, here you can find alcohol-specific withdrawal information from Harvard Medical School.
Stages of Withdrawal
The onset of withdrawal symptoms can range from a few hours to a few days from the time of last use. The duration of withdrawal symptoms can range from a few days to a year or sometimes longer. These time factors can vary widely depending on the type of substance and level of use. Typically, the withdrawal timeline is categorized by the following stages:
- Acute Withdrawal or simply “withdrawal” is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine as “the onset of a predictable constellation of signs and symptoms following the abrupt discontinuation of, or rapid decrease in, dosage of a psychoactive substance.” This stage primarily includes physical symptoms that end after 1–2 weeks.
- Post-Acute Withdrawal symptoms linger beyond the acute phase and are usually more psychological than physical. Because these symptoms can occur sporadically (as the brain and body continue to heal from substance use), they can sometimes cause feelings of discouragement that lead to relapse.
Getting Help for Withdrawal Symptoms
Though most symptoms of withdrawal are uncomfortable and sometimes distressing, they aren’t typically life-threatening. However, some symptoms—such as seizures—can be potentially dangerous.
That’s why it’s important to consult your doctor prior to reducing or stopping substance use. He or she can provide advice for how to minimize potential withdrawal symptoms. You might also consider reaching out to a reputable addiction treatment facility, such as First Step Recovery, that offers medically-supervised detox with safe, effective techniques.
Learn more about the inpatient detox process at First Step Recovery or contact us today to get started!