detox symptoms

10 Common Withdrawal and Detox Symptoms and How to Cope

In 2017, more than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdose.

Those who survived didn’t necessarily have a great experience either. Drug addiction carries a whole host of problems. It tears apart families, can lead to unemployment, and can even land you in jail.

And yet for so many people, the thought of getting clean is a pipedream.

It’s no secret that recovery isn’t easy. And one of the biggest obstacles is the withdrawal process and the detox symptoms it brings. 

If you’re thinking about getting clean and want to know what you can expect in the detox process, keep reading.

Why Does Withdrawal Happen?

When you’re addicted to a substance, you don’t only use that substance because you love the way it makes you feel. You actually need that substance to operate.

After using for an extended period of time, your mind and body develop a chemical dependency. You might notice that it takes more of the drug to get high, or that you get sick if you go too long without using.

If you want to get clean, you have to fight through the symptoms that arise during withdrawal. 

Physical Detox Symptoms

When you try to get clean, your body will try to rebel. Your bodily chemistry has adjusted itself to having the substance running through your veins. Now that it’s not there anymore, it needs to readjust.

This carries a number of physical side effects. These side effects are typically very intense for the first few days. 

In fact, these symptoms are often severe enough that many people will give up on their quest to get clean.

Muscle Aches, Tremors, and Restlessness

Within hours of your last dose, your muscles will begin to ache. Depending on your drug of choice, this might also be accompanied by tremors. Your muscles will shake involuntarily like you’re shivering.

During this time, it’s also common for people to experience restless leg syndrome, which can cause fatigue and prevent you from sleeping.

Nausea, Diarrhea, and Vomiting

Drugs wreak havoc on your digestive system. And withdrawal is no exception.

The first couple of days will throw your digestive system into turmoil. Nausea is one of the first symptoms to present itself, and it’s soon joined by diarrhea and vomiting.

You may also experience abdominal cramping. 

Sweating 

During withdrawal, it’s not unusual to sweat for no reason. This starts around the third day and will last through the first week.

Dehydration

All that sweating and vomiting is the perfect combination for dehydration. As difficult as it might be to drink water during this time, dehydration can add its own complications to your withdrawal process.

Seizures

Depending on the severity of your addiction, you might also experience seizures. This is common in people who have been addicted to alcohol and benzodiazepines.

If you have been using heavily for a long period, you might experience seizures for as long as a month.

Psychological Detox Symptoms

Your body isn’t the only thing that has gotten used to these chemicals: your brain’s chemistry has also been profoundly changed by your drug use. 

Withdrawal carries a number of severe psychological effects as well.

Mood Swings 

While you are going through withdrawals, it’s not uncommon to experience mood swings.

One moment, you’ll be irritable because of all of the physical pain you’re in. The next, you’ll be happy that you’re finally getting clean. Then, you’ll get so angry that you’ll lash out at your loved ones.

This is a common part of the drugs leaving your system. It will be especially bad during the first week, but it will pass.

Depression

One of the biggest reasons people use drugs is because of the sense of euphoria it brings.

This euphoria is a result of the brain’s dopamine receptors overloading. To compensate, your brain reduces the number of dopamine receptors on each synapse.

But when you stop using, your brain has a much harder time receiving dopamine, leading to depression.

Insomnia

No matter what substance you’re abusing, the symptoms of withdrawal are almost always severe. And those detox symptoms don’t care that you’re trying to sleep.

It can be difficult to sleep when you’re facing muscle aches, nausea, and restlessness. And when you’re not sleeping well, that can bring its own set of issues.

Disturbing Dreams

When you do finally get to sleep, sleep during withdrawals is often marked with terrible dreams.

Your subconscious brain is very suggestible. And when you’re going through a stressful and difficult time—such as the detox process—that stress and anxiety is going to color your dreams.

Panic Attacks

panic attack occurs when your brain triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response when there is no immediate danger. 

And when your brain is rewiring itself during the detox process, it’s not uncommon for your body’s emergency systems to be set off. 

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

The duration of withdrawal symptoms depends on a number of factors, such as

  • How long you have been using
  • Which substance you are using
  • Your unique bodily makeup

But regardless of the person and the substances, it’s common for withdrawal to be the most severe during the first week.

The full detox process may take an entire month or more. But after that first week, the most severe symptoms will usually subside. 

Need Help Facing Withdrawal?

No one likes withdrawal. For some people, the detox symptoms are so severe that they relapse just so they can feel better.

But withdrawal is always easier with a support system.

If you’re trying to get clean and need a safe environment to do so, contact our facility.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.

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