Drugs and alcohol are powerful forces that every addict has to reckon with every day of their lives. If one wants to get sober, cutting dependence from your life doesn’t happen without consequences. Addicts often have to sacrifice friends who share their addictions to find a new, cleaner path to the future – and withdrawals are one of the next sacrifices that most addicts have to work through.

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawals describe physical symptoms and sometimes additional emotional dependence on drugs, alcohol, or addictive behavior. Physical withdrawals happen as drugs and alcohol leave the system; this can lead to symptoms that include:

  • irritability
  • depression
  • fever
  • nausea
  • appetite changes
  • and more

Drug & Alcohol Withdrawals: Symptoms, Causes & Are They A Health Danger?

The movie Trainspotting shows withdrawals cured with time, a TV, and tins of Campbell’s Tomato Soup. In real-life, dependence and withdrawal symptoms should be overseen by a medical professional or it could place enough pressure on the body (including the respiratory system and heart) to be physically dangerous.

Here’s what you should know about withdrawing from drugs & alcohol – and how to approach recovery in a safer way.

What is withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms happen once access to a dependent substance is cut. It describes an emotional state, but also a physical one during which the body reacts to the sudden lack of substance access.

Tobacco smokers start to feel symptoms of irritability, changes in heart rate, and cravings a few minutes to hours after being without a cigarette. The same happens in alcohol and drug dependence cases, with the symptoms experienced depending on factors like individual metabolism and actual substances.

What is the difference between physical and mental drug & alcohol withdrawal?

Mental withdrawal from substance abuse describes the emotions, feelings, and chemical changes that take place in the withdrawal state. Usually, addicts might crave their addiction, become depressed, irritable, or hopeless. Overcoming mental substance withdrawal requires a mixture of professional psychiatric help and a support network.

Physical withdrawal describes the body’s physical reaction to removing the dependent substance from the body. Overcoming physical withdrawal requires professional oversight and treatment or it might become a medical emergency that cannot be handled outside of the hospital.

What are the symptoms of drug & alcohol withdrawal?

General symptoms of withdrawal can include depression, anxiousness, fever, changes in appetite, cravings, nausea, vomiting, and/or tremors. Symptoms of withdrawal can also be influenced by individual genetics and which type of substance.

What are the causes of withdrawal?

Physical withdrawals are created by the body’s reaction to the removal of a dependent substance. Withdrawals can “trick” the body and mind back into addiction; withdrawals can also be dangerous to simply push through without medical attention. Withdrawing from any substances can place a lot of pressure on the heart, breathing, and other vital organs: Without proper medical supervision, this might overwhelm the system – and home “detox” should never be attempted when withdrawal symptoms show up.

Does everyone experience withdrawal?

Yes and no.

Withdrawal is experienced by almost all addicts. Because personal genetics is individual and everyone reacts differently, not everyone experiences withdrawal symptoms in the same ways as everyone else. There’s a small cross-section of the population who might not experience withdrawal symptoms in general. This doesn’t mean that withdrawals are any less dangerous, or that this cross-section of the population is any less addicted.

Is drug & alcohol withdrawal dangerous?

Drug and alcohol withdrawal is experienced differently by everyone but can be potentially dangerous to anyone. The symptoms experienced during withdrawal can place added pressure on the body; this added pressure might lead to fatal consequences when “detox” is attempted without the help and supervision of medical professionals.

Unfortunately, withdrawals have led to deaths; often, deaths that could have been prevented in a medical setting.

How long does drug & alcohol withdrawal last?

Withdrawal symptoms have a different time period depending on people and substances. This is one reason why medical attention during withdrawal can be one of the most important aspects of approaching the process safely.

Withdrawal symptoms in a medical setting can take the edge and expectation away from substance withdrawal, whilst attempting the same at home might pose a physical and emotional danger when away from the correct equipment to deal with it.

Can drug & alcohol withdrawal be fixed?

Withdrawal symptoms don’t last forever – and they should be supervised in a medical setting instead of at home. Once the physical symptoms of withdrawal have passed, what’s left to deal with are the emotional aspects of the addiction: From here, it becomes a day-by-day journey that needs to be undertaken with professional help and a strong support network.

Can Drug & Alcohol Withdrawals symptoms be handled at home?

While some withdrawal symptoms can be handled at home, one should never assume that this will be true for them personally. Don’t attempt to withdraw from drugs or alcohol without medical attention. Don’t do it at home, and don’t do it in Trainspotting-style with tins of soup and a television.

Drug and alcohol withdrawal is serious – and the potential effects (or difficulty) of withdrawal should never be underestimated: seek professional oversight.


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