31 Dec 2012

We at Suncoast Rehabilitation Center help people through withdrawal all the time.  However, some common questions are: “What is withdrawal? Why does it happen? What should I expect when withdrawing?”

We’ll take these questions up one at a time:

What is withdrawal?

Macmillan Dictionary says it is: “a period during which someone feels sick because they have stopped taking a drug or other substance they are addicted to.”

To expand on this, we will go into the question: Why does it happen?

Basically, when you take a drug which is addictive, it is replacing something in your body that your body would naturally make.  For example, opiates are addictive because the effect the endorphin receptors in your body.  (Endorphin is a hormone which monitors pain and pleasure.)  As time goes on, you need more and more opium to keep your overtaxed endorphin receptors functioning.  Since opium keeps a person in a falsely painless state, when the drug is removed, the body has to take over functions it’s been leaving up to the drug.  And, like doing a 10 hour work out on the one muscle you’ve never used, it can be extremely painful.

This is the same with any addictive drug, from SSRIs to Cocaine, there is a function that drug is performing which your body now has no real control of.  It takes removing the drug from your system and restoring your body to normal health to get that portion of the body working properly again.

Moreover, it is common for long-time addicts to be malnourished. Sometimes this is due to bad eating habits as the addict is focused on getting his next hit or is usually so anesthetized that he or she is unaware of hunger pangs. Some drugs, such as methamphetamine, deplete essential vitamins and minerals but cover up the pain caused by these deficiencies. When the drugs or alcohol is no longer covering up these pains, they hit the addict hard, increasing the pain experienced during withdrawal.

This brings us to the question of what to expect when withdrawing.  While there are many drugs which have different withdrawal symptoms, there are some symptoms that go with every drug.  One thing to know, before we get into that, is that some drugs – like opiates – cause severe withdrawal symptoms which could even lead to coma or death.

It’s best to talk to a rehab professional or check in to rehab before going “cold turkey” or even trying to lessen your dose.   While you may think kicking heroin Trainspotting style may be a good idea, think again before you lock yourself into a heroin-free room, or do the same you a loved one.  At the very least the person withdrawing can experience extreme dehydration and toxicity which will make their withdrawal at the very least more uncomfortable than needed – and deadly at its worst.

Here are some withdrawal symptoms that are generally encountered with most drugs:

  • Unexpected Emotions: Anger, aggressiveness, depression, mood swings, etc.
  • Sleep Issues: Insomnia or feeling tired all the time.
  • Inability to concentrate: Feeling unable to focus on one action, or, in some cases, hallucinations.
  • Constipation/Gas: The body may have to adjust to regular diet, or may be trying to get rid of toxins which come out in unpleasant ways.  Other ways your body may try to excrete unpleasant substances from your body are: sweating, vomiting, nasal drip, diarrhea, etc.
  • Palpitations/Racing Heart: This can get dangerous. Some drugs may cause heart attacks or other heart problems when you are withdrawing. This is why it’s important to be under the care of a professional while withdrawing.
  • Seizures/Strokes/DTs: These are other serious issues that can occur while withdrawing.

Again, it’s important to be under the care of a professional with withdrawing from a drug.  You may not be aware of all the withdrawal symptoms, or the proper ways to treat them or prevent them and this lack of knowledge can make the withdrawal process more uncomfortable than needed, and even dangerous.

On the Narconon program at Suncoast Rehabilitation Center, we use nutrition and special procedures to help the addict through the withdrawal stage. While not without its difficulties, many who have gone through the Narconon withdrawal have told us that it was the most comfortable of all the withdrawals which they had experienced.

Contact us today if you or someone you know is suffering from addiction.  We have a safe, drug-free program which can help them withdraw safely and stay off drugs.  Call us at 877-850-7355.

Refs: Macmillan Dictionary, FactsAndDetails.Com, DEA, NCBI, NIDA, Heath Guidance