How to Deal With Withdrawal
In 2011—even before the nightmarish rise of the opioid epidemic—the NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health) estimated that some 25 million people had used drugs in the month prior to conducting their survey. Today, experts predict that around 10~ million people are suffering from some type of drug use disorder.
Current trends in America will unfortunately only contribute to this problem, seeing as overdose and drug addiction have been on the rise for roughly the last decade. In which case, it is not unfeasible that you or someone you know is currently suffering from addiction. This can be anything from:
Or it can also include more stigmatized and demonized addictions:
Addiction is not partial, and it doesn’t need to be limited to drug use. In a world rampant with substances and vices containing addictive properties, it is paramount that we not only educate ourselves on the disorder but learn how to beat it (for ourselves, loved ones, and communities). Thus, what comes with fighting an addiction of literally any kind?
In this article, we will discuss how to deal with withdrawal from drugs or alcohol and provide tips on how to overcome this challenging period of recovery.
If you’re reading this article to learn ways you can cope with withdrawals, it is important to first identify how strong they are going to be. This gains importance when it comes to a person’s ability to push through them, the dangers withdrawals pose, and the type of strategy chosen to guarantee success. At the end of the day, there are two major issues that may arise for users when they are going through withdrawals:
- Risk of illness, complications, or death
Thus, the severity of the withdrawals is often dependent on the type of drug used and the amount of time the person spent using. Someone cutting back on alcohol who drinks moderately 3-4 times a week is (typically) going to have less severe withdrawals then say, a smoker who burned a pack a day for a decade. For these early alcoholics, they may just need an effective alcohol detox program and rehab center that can help teach them how to stop drinking.
Another important thing to distinguish is that someone who smoked cigarettes for ten years is less at risk during the withdrawal stage than a benzodiazepine addict who has used for a matter of months. The fact is this: certain types of withdrawals can cause deadly side effects which threaten the person’s health. This can, unfortunately, lead to death.
It is imperative that we speak on such things because if you are deciding to quit cold turkey, or even if you are just trying to deal with an addict yourself and get them clean, it’s not just about mitigating the symptoms and avoiding relapse—it’s about ensuring that you do not put yourself in a life-threatening situation. By researching your or your loved one’s addiction and gaining a thorough knowledge as to what occurs during their withdrawal process, it can arm you with the weapon you need to make educated, smart, and safe choices.
What Happens During Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is essentially our body’s process of detoxing from a certain substance and—during this maelstrom—‘acting out’ in its absence. While this is a massive oversimplification, it works across the vast array of addictions. Being that the brain has been using this substance to operate ‘normally’ for a given amount of time, when removed it goes haywire, acting as if it has lost an integral piece of its inner mechanics.
Take someone addicted to opiates, for example. Opiates bind to receptors in the brain, stimulate dopamine (a neurotransmitter responsible for our happiness), block signals and pain pathways, and depress the central nervous system. Our brains regulate these chemicals naturally but, over time, if enough of a given substance is used, they can then mistake (in this case heroin) the drug for the chemical itself.
In which case, it is not farfetched to say that withdrawal occurs when the body fights for its natural balance.
What Are the Symptoms of Withdrawal?
The truth is this: the symptoms of withdrawal (see our section on severity above) are going to depend on the user, type of drug used, and length of addiction. How long withdrawal symptoms last will also depend on the individual user as well. There’s a big difference between someone who feels uncomfortable all day because they’re craving a cigarette, and someone experiencing delirium tremens from alcohol withdrawal.
With that being said, there are definitely symptoms that are considered ubiquitous across different types of withdrawal. These include but are not limited to:
- A General Restlessness
- Cold Sweats
- Muscle Spasms
- Strong Cravings
- General Flu-Like Symptoms
- Mild Heart Palpitations
- Upset Stomach
Thankfully, no matter what type of withdrawal you are going through, in today’s world there are strategies, programs, home remedies, experts, and medicine that work to mitigate the symptoms and ensure a safe and successful recovery.
How To Deal?
When it comes to dealing with withdrawals, you must first decide whether or not you can face them on your own. We highly recommend that you reach out to us here at Beach House Recovery if you have any questions and that if you are dealing with a severe disorder to seek the help of a professional during your drug detox. This is evermore important if you are going to go through alcohol, opiate, or cocaine withdrawal.
If you decide that your withdrawals are not going to be life-threatening and that you are in a condition to face them at home, then there are a multitude of ways you can mitigate and deal with the unpleasant symptoms.
Going through withdrawals is not an easy process, but by this point, it is safe to assume you have evaluated your situation and decided on the appropriate strategy. In which case, it might be wise that you take a break from your everyday life in order to better cope with the coming symptoms.
This could mean not going to work for a couple days, stepping away from certain social circles, or placing yourself in an environment which is conducive to healing, devoid of any stress. There is a big difference going through withdrawals while looking at a spreadsheet at an office and doing so in the comfort of an inpatient drug rehab center, or even somewhere that’s surrounded by fresh air and nature.
If possible, try to avoid any high-stress or overstimulating events in the first few days of substance abuse withdrawal, as your sensory input is going to help dictate your mood. Lastly, tell your friends, family, coworkers, and your doctor about your situation. Ensure that people are informed of your decision and the struggle you are going to face.
Understand Your Detox
This goes back to our point of doing research; learn about the process of your specific drug or alcohol detox beforehand.
- For your type of addiction, will cravings set in immediately?
- Is it going to affect your stomach and sleep?
- When are the symptoms supposed to be at their peak?
- How many days does it typically take for the symptoms to wane?
If you have employed the help of a medical professional, be sure to follow their instructions meticulously. But a more important thing to note during this period is that it is going to get better. There are no if ands or buts. Scientifically speaking, the withdrawals are going to wane and the symptoms you feel will pass. While following certain strategies will help the process, time is your biggest benefactor.
Every day is an accomplishment and every day is an improvement. Beneath the onslaught of withdrawal symptoms can be a difficult truth to accept but it is a truth all the same.
To lessen the symptoms of withdrawal and to aid the body in its quest for natural balance, there are many things you can do. Below are some examples that are commonly regarded as successful practices in coping with withdrawal.
Stillness is a killer when it comes to withdrawals. Yes, technically you can feel sick and sluggish and devoid of energy—but exercise does not mean hitting the bench-press or running a marathon. Gentle and easy movements can help nurture sore or tense muscles, stretching can help reduce stress, and taking long walks can help with blood flow and distract the imbalanced mind.
A natural tendency during withdrawal is for the body to become dehydrated. This often occurs because the body is overheating and the person detoxing is consistently sweating or experiencing some type of leakage (teary eyes or running nose are common, too). That is why it is important to remain hydrated. Cool water can do wonders for a person going through withdrawal.
While meditating during withdrawal can be difficult, it can cut out what experts call the ‘noise.’ The inner peace found through meditation acts as a natural painkiller and sedative. Breathing exercises, when done correctly, can help reduce stress and even aid the user into a proper sleep cycle. Which brings us to our next point:
When you can, sleep. It’s as simple as that. Addiction is draining on both the body and mind and your body requires rest to reset its proper balances. One of the most difficult parts of withdrawal is that sleep cycles are often disrupted, with the user finding it incredibly difficult when attempting to doze off.
Yet, at random times the person going through withdrawals may feel bouts of sleepiness. If this is your situation, sleep. No matter what time of day, if you feel that your body needs to shut down, allow it to do so. This will help your body heal.
Document The Journey
Look, there is a reason why healthcare professionals say that ‘relapse is a part of recovery.’ This is due to the fact that statistically speaking, addicts have a higher propensity to relapse when trying to beat their addiction than not. When the withdrawal symptoms are at their worst it can be easy to forget why you are facing the demon in the first place.
But you can be that reminder. Document your process. Write down entries in a journal detailing your process and intentions. Create a relapse prevention plan. Skim back a few pages to remember why you decided to cut out your addiction in the first place.
Be Proud Of Yourself
You are doing something that many people never could. You are facing a demon head on that has been merciless throughout the course of human history. And you are beating it! Every day is an accomplishment. No matter the severity of your condition, whether you went a day without a cigarette or a night without a fix, you are winning and that is something to be proud of. Not only should you be proud of yourself but we’re proud of you. Everyone who has ever suffered from addiction is proud of you.
Once the withdrawals are over and you have made it to the other side, it is important to note that the war is not over. Depending on the severity of your addiction, now it is time to explore the root cause of what led you to use in the first place and to instate strategies that will keep you from relapse in the future. Perhaps you just stopped drinking—what happens now, being that your entire world revolved around going to bars with your friends?
Although you managed withdrawals on your own (or through the help of a healthcare professional), it is recommended that you seek consultation with addiction specialists or therapists as they will provide the tools that will render your life livable. Once the withdrawals are finished, aftercare programs must be considered, as it is possible that with time a person’s resolve will diminish.
Dealing with withdrawals—as an overt topic—is a difficult one to address. Everyone is going to react differently to their addiction. With that being said, through the help of medical professionals, or with strong willpower and some home remedies, any addiction is beatable. It all starts with a choice.
For more information about our long term residential treatment plan or to find a treatment program for that’s specific to you, please call the professionals at Beach House Recovery today.