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On Substance Abuse Withdrawal and Its Symptoms

withdrawal symptoms

There are a few terms within the realm of addiction recovery that are somewhat familiar to many people, and one of these is withdrawal. Often present when someone who struggles with addiction via substance abuse is looking to detoxify (detox) themselves from the substance and rid it from their body, withdrawal can lead to a number of different symptoms and is often one of the most challenging parts of addiction recovery for many people.

At Brighton Recovery Center, we’re happy to offer caring alcohol and drug rehabilitation and recovery services to people throughout Sandy and other parts of Utah, and we’ve assisted numerous patients with withdrawal and its various symptoms. What exactly is withdrawal, how is it linked to addiction and substance abuse, and what are some of the different kinds of symptoms that those dealing with it may experience? Here’s a general primer on everything you need to know about withdrawal.

Withdrawal Basics and Links to Addiction

When we talk about withdrawal, what we really mean at the core is what happens when the body and brain are forced to adjust to no longer having the addictive substance in their system. This can be extremely difficult, as the body has become so reliant on the presence of the substance over time and it’s no longer getting it. This is what leads to withdrawal symptoms.

In some ways, we can think of addiction as a disease that takes over different parts of the brain — including those that control pleasure, decision-making, and coordination. This means that when someone is addicted to a substance, their brain is working differently than someone who isn’t addicted. And as we mentioned earlier, when someone stops using the substance after being addicted to it for a while, their body and brain have to readjust and this can lead to a number of different withdrawal symptoms.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the person, the substance abused, and how long it’s been used for. Our next several sections will go over some of the different kinds of symptoms that may be present depending on the circumstances.

Cognitive Symptoms

For many people, one major part of withdrawal from addictive substances will involve a struggle with cognitive symptoms. This may manifest as difficulty concentrating, problems with short-term memory, and even hallucinations or delusions.

In some cases, cognitive symptoms can be extremely severe and even lead to what’s known as delirium tremens (or DTs for short). Delirium tremens is a serious condition that occurs when someone experiences extreme confusion, tremors, and even seizures. It can be fatal if not treated quickly and properly.

For many people, however, these symptoms will be limited and will improve quickly as the body and brain readjust.

Behavioral Symptoms

Another very common set of symptoms associated with withdrawal are behavioral symptoms. These can involve everything from changes in mood (including depression and anxiety) to aggression, irritability, and even violence.

Again, the severity of these symptoms will vary from person to person, but they can be extremely difficult to deal with and often require professional help. Some people will have an extremely quick trigger and may need to be monitored closely for any signs of behavioral issues. Others may take a little longer to exhibit these symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

In addition, there are a number of physical symptoms that can occur during withdrawal. These can include things like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and even extreme fatigue.

Many people will experience at least some of these physical symptoms and they can often be the most difficult to deal with. For some people, they will abate over time as the body and brain readjust. For others, they may be more severe and require additional treatment.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Another part of the body that may respond in various ways to detoxification from a substance is the digestive system, which can often be upset during withdrawal. This may result in gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping.

These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable and often make it difficult to eat or drink anything. In some cases they will go away over time, but in others they may require additional treatment.

Sleep Issues

For many people, one of the most difficult symptoms to deal with during withdrawal is sleep issues. This may involve insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, or even nightmares.

This can be extremely difficult as lack of sleep can often make the other symptoms worse. It can also be very frustrating and make it difficult to focus on anything else. In some cases, sleep issues may persist long after withdrawal is over.

Physiological Concerns

While we wish it were not the case, detoxification may also lead to a number of physiological concerns. This may involve things such as a rapid heart rate, changes in blood pressure, and even fever.

These are not always symptomatic of withdrawal, but they may occur in some people. If they are severe or persist for an extended period of time, it is important to seek medical help.

It’s a Process

One of the top themes for anyone experiencing addiction and the subsequent withdrawal is that it is a process. This means that there is no one-size-fits-all answer for how someone will feel or what they will experience.

What works for one person may not work for another and this can be frustrating to deal with. It’s important to remember, however, that you are not alone and there is help available. With time and patience, you can get through this difficult time.

For more on withdrawal during substance abuse recovery, or to learn about any of our addiction recovery programs or caring services, speak to our staff at Brighton Recovery Center today.

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