Effects of Withdrawal from an Addiction
Withdrawal occurs when a substance that has been used frequently in high doses or over a long period of time is suddenly stopped or denied. Effects of withdrawal are experienced as a result of physical dependence, though restless and agitation may result due to psychological dependence.
Withdrawal may also be experienced if a person becomes tolerant to a substance and the usual dose no longer has the same or required effect and a higher dose is needed in order to stave off the withdrawal effects.Withdrawal can occur as a result of taking many medications over a long period of time, this term is not purely used when referring to recreational/illegal drugs or substances such as nicotine or alcohol.
Goal of WithdrawalThe aim of withdrawal is for the individual to discontinue using the substance they are addicted to or the activity they are hooked on, in a safe way with the ultimate goal of being free of the addiction.
This can be achieved by either stopping the substance altogether and going ‘cold turkey’, gradually reducing the amount and frequency of use or by using a replacement therapy to help reduce the effects of withdrawal.
Withdrawal can also be experienced when the person is not trying to give up, for example if a substance is denied or the period of time between ‘fixes’ is long enough for the physical symptoms to set in.
Severity of WithdrawalThe severity of the withdrawal period and the symptoms experienced is largely dependent on the drug used, the dose and frequency of use, the addicts outlook and general health and the support systems that are in place to help deal with this phase; the duration of the withdrawal period can range from days, weeks, months or even years depending on these factors.
General Effects of WithdrawalThe following is a list of the effects that might be experienced during the period of withdrawal of many substances. The addict may live with all or just some of these.
Common effects are: restlessness; sleep disturbances; fatigue; anxiety; fidgeting; agitation; changes in appetite.
Specific Effects of WithdrawalThe following are effects that are more specific to each type of substance:
Crack/Cocaine –Anger, intense cravings that become stronger, low mood and depression, agitation, nausea, vomiting and the shakes.
Alcohol – Sweating, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations and fits; stopping the use of alcohol suddenly if there is level of high consumption can cause heart failure and even death.
Central Nervous System Depressants – Sweating, visual/auditory hallucinations, tremors, fits, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and an increase in respiration rate.
Central Nervous System Stimulants – Paranoia, very low mood, extreme tiredness and changes in the processes of the brain.
Opiates – Sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, muscle aches and increases in respiration rate, heart rate and blood pressure.
Caffeine – Irritability, lack of motivation, tiredness, headaches, lack of ability to concentrate and nausea.
Inhalants – Headaches, irritability, stomach cramps, nausea, lack of concentration and sleep disturbances.
Symptoms of withdrawal are part of the process of overcoming addiction. Ensuring a good support network is set up and expectations are realistic with necessary provisions in place will help to make this experience more bearable, hence more successful.