It can be difficult to see a family member, friend, or partner experience withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. You may feel desperate to help them, but also helpless.
You might be worried about their well-being but also mentally drained from the cycle of addiction and frustrated about how their substance use has affected you.
It’s important to understand the withdrawal process in order to help your loved one, including the physical and mental symptoms and when to seek help.
What Happens During Withdrawal?
When a person has a substance use disorder (SUD), their body develops a tolerance to the drug or to alcohol. In other words, the body becomes physically dependent on the substance.
Withdrawal may occur if a person is unable to get ahold of or use the substance, or if the person is attempting detoxification, also known as detox.
Withdrawal And Detoxification
Detoxification occurs when a person stops drinking or using drugs as the body rids itself of related toxins.
For most people with addictions, especially to alcohol or benzodiazepines, it is advisable to seek medical advice before stopping substance use.
Withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, serious, or even life-threatening, in some cases.
Attending a detox program helps ensure people’s safety and success during withdrawal.
Symptoms Of Withdrawal
Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol affects a person’s physical and mental health. The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the drug, the amount used, the length of use, and other factors.
Side effects of withdrawal may include:
- bone, joint, and/or muscle pain
- sweating, chills, or a combination of both
- night sweats
- shakiness or tremors
- watery eyes
- overwhelming fatigue
- excess sleepiness or insomnia
- loss of appetite
- nausea and/or vomiting
- mood swings, e.g., uncharacteristic anxiety, aggression, depression, fear, irritability, paranoia, etc.
Keep in mind that the symptoms of withdrawal may mimic those of a bad cold or flu.
Dangers Of Withdrawal
While withdrawal is uncomfortable, in most cases it isn’t deadly. However, withdrawing from severe alcohol abuse or benzodiazepine abuse without medical intervention can be fatal.
If your loved one is withdrawing from benzodiazepines like Xanax, Valium, or Klonopin, seek the help of medical professionals or contact a detox program.
Regardless of the substance used, if your loved one has existing health conditions, including a co-occurring mental health disorder, the safest option is to seek help from healthcare providers.
Alcohol is the most dangerous substance to withdraw from. If a person has severe alcohol dependence, or a physical need for alcohol, they may experience seizures or delirium tremens (DTs) when they stop drinking.
Symptoms of DTs include:
- high blood pressure
DTs is deadly for nearly four in 10 people (37%) who experience it and do not receive medical treatment.
Benzodiazepine (“Benzo”) Withdrawal
Withdrawal from benzodiazepines is nearly as dangerous as alcohol withdrawal. These medications are used as sedatives for nerve activity and to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and seizures.
When a person abruptly stops taking benzos, the symptoms that the drug was treating, whether as prescribed or as self-medication, will surface and be far more intense.
Because of the rapid changes that occur in the brain, benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause seizures, hallucinations, and psychosis.
It is not usually the withdrawal symptom itself but the effects of these symptoms that can be life-threatening.
Withdrawal And Cravings
It’s important to know that cravings are a normal part of withdrawal. A craving refers to the sudden urge to use drugs or alcohol.
This can be a big hurdle to clear during withdrawal, because the person experiencing withdrawal symptoms understands that the symptoms will stop if they use drugs or alcohol again.
The safest way to avoid giving in to cravings is to withdraw in a treatment center, where cravings and other withdrawal symptoms can be managed.
Addiction is a multifaceted disease, and it involves both physical and mental components. Addiction treatment first tackles the physical cravings and then the mental dependence.
When a person experiences withdrawal in an inpatient treatment program, they are unable to obtain their substance of choice. This means their likelihood of addiction recovery is greater.
Risk Of Relapse
When a person withdraws from alcohol or drugs with the intent of stopping use completely, the risk of relapse is relatively high — 40% to 60%, in fact.
Even if a person overcomes a physical dependency on a substance, there is also a mental component to overcome, which is a major aspect of recovery.
People with addiction develop triggers, which are thoughts or experiences that compel them to use substances. Many people refer to triggers in general as “people, places, and things.”
When someone has been using drugs or alcohol for a long time, they grow accustomed to having the substance as a means to deal with stress, as a buffer in social situations, or as a distraction.
As A Loved One, What Can You Do?
It can feel helpless to watch a loved one experience withdrawal. Withdrawal is an uncomfortable and sometimes painful process, but it’s necessary to overcome addiction.
The best way to help your loved one is by serving as a stable support system. Keep their health and well-being in mind, and understand that you alone aren’t capable of helping them overcome substance use.
Overcoming an addiction is a multi-faceted effort. The effort is best met with the help of physicians, psychiatrists, therapists, and other healthcare providers.
Get Help For Substance Abuse Today
Call or visit DetoxRehabs.net today to learn more about drug and alcohol addiction treatment options.Article Sources
- National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) – Treatment And Recovery
- National Institutes Of Health (NIH) – The Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Syndrome
- StatPearls – Delirium Tremens
- StatPearls – Withdrawal Symptoms