Withdrawal has a bad name. People worry that the process is time-consuming, painful, or even impossible. These assumptions keep some individuals from ever seeking treatment. It causes others to relapse before real recovery can even begin. Don’t let withdrawal scare you away from the healthy, balanced, and drug-free life you deserve. Learn about withdrawal symptoms and the recovery process. Learn that when you get the right help, there is nothing to fear.
The withdrawal process is natural, normal and quite healthy. Its timeline begins when you stop taking a drug or alcohol. Traces of the drug remain in the body’s fat and blood cells. In the early stages, the body processes all these remaining traces. Withdrawal has already begun, but symptoms don’t peak until a drug has completely left the body. The body then attempts to function in the absence of any substance.
As addiction progresses, you develop a tolerance to and dependence on your drug of choice. The body changes how it functions so that “normal” occurs when the drug is present. When a person first tries to get sober, the clean state no longer feels right. The body responds with varying distress signals or withdrawal symptoms as it quickly tries to create a new normal.
Withdrawal is safe when it is medically supervised. Some drugs cause violent enough symptoms that the process can be dangerous if done alone at home. Dehydration, seizures, and other health issues can complicate safety when no medical professionals are present. When you choose treatment, you choose a path to health that includes 24-hour monitoring and immediate, appropriate medical care.
The Withdrawal Experience
Your withdrawal experience will be unique. Symptoms depend on which drugs you use, how much you use, and how long you were using. They depend on how many substances are involved. They change based on your unique body chemistry and physical and mental health. You may experience flu-like symptoms, shakiness, nausea, depression or anxiety, and more. These will vary by drug and by personal experience.
WebMD1 explains, “Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as two hours after the last drink, persist for weeks, and range from mild anxiety and shakiness to severe complications, such as seizures and delirium tremens (also called DTs).” Alcohol withdrawal can be mild, or it can be dangerous.
Opiate withdrawal involves such varied symptoms too. They range from anxiety and insomnia to extreme achiness and nausea. As MedlinePlus2 explains, “Symptoms are very uncomfortable, but are not life-threatening. Symptoms usually start within 12 hours of last heroin usage and within 30 hours of last methadone exposure.” You may experience some, all, or none of the typical withdrawal symptoms. You may begin withdrawal immediately or it may take a day or two before you don’t feel well.
The Withdrawal Timeline
The withdrawal timeline looks different for everyone. Withdrawal is unpredictable even when you use a medication as prescribed. The Ochnser Journal3 explains, “Physiological dependence on benzodiazepines can occur following prolonged treatment with therapeutic doses, but it is not clear what proportion of patients are likely to experience a withdrawal syndrome.” Individuals who do experience benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms may only experience rebound anxiety. They may experience full withdrawal that lasts for a week or two. They may experience a combination of the two. Withdrawal is as varied for other drugs and alcohol as it is for benzodiazepines like Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax. This makes creating a timeline for withdrawal difficult.
Your experience is your own. However no matter how long you’ve been addicted, withdrawal will end. Through rehab you can find support for withdrawal while beginning therapy and other practices that will provide the foundation for the rest of your drug-free life.
Treating Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal
You do not have to go through the withdrawal process alone. You shouldn’t go through it alone. Protect your health by choosing medically supervised detox services. Protect your recovery by getting the professional and personal support you need to manage cravings and avoid relapse. Therapy helps you understand that your withdrawal experience is normal, it will end, and you can maintain sobriety long after detox and treatment. Social support gives you firsthand stories from people with similar experiences and who have found success in recovery.
At Black Bear Lodge we provide integrated treatment to help you end your addiction. We offer detox services. We help you transition smoothly from withdrawal to therapy. Call and talk with us about treatment options for yourself or a loved one. We can help you understand the process, your personal withdrawal and treatment timeline, and your options for a healthy, drug-free future.
1 WebMD. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” 9 Feb. 2017. Accessed 27 Jul. 2017.
2 MedlinePlus. “Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.” 20 Apr. 2017. Accessed 27 Jul. 2017.
3 Griffin, Charles; Kaye, Adam; Bueno, Franklin; Kaye, Alan. “Benzodiazepine Pharmacology and Central Nervous System–Mediated Effects.” The Ochsner Journal. 2013. Accessed 27 Jul. 2017.