Experiencing withdrawal—or continuing to use drugs or alcohol in order to avoid it—is one of the criteria for diagnosing a Substance Use Disorder. But what exactly is withdrawal, and who experiences it?
If you’ve built up a tolerance to a substance, you are likely to experience withdrawal when you stop using it. Tolerance is when your body comes to rely on the drug or alcohol and needs more of it to feel the same effect. It is also one of the diagnostic criteria for a Substance Use Disorder.
Chronic use of a substance changes the brain and body. When you get rid of the substance, both your brain and body may be thrown off balance. Depending on the drug, withdrawal may begin within a few hours or a few days after stopping use.
These symptoms are different depending on the drug and severity of use, but can include tremors, seizures, nausea, hallucinations, fatigue, irritability, and changes in mood or appetite. In some cases, withdrawal can be dangerous and is best done under medical supervision at a medical detox program. Most detox programs will also involve mental health professionals, who care for your mental well-being as you get off substances.
Withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. In the case of benzodiazepines (benzos), about 10-25% of users may experience what’s known as “protracted withdrawal.” This is withdrawal that can come and go for several months. However, symptoms are generally less severe than during acute withdrawal and rarely last longer than a year.
Withdrawal symptoms will be uncomfortable, but they are not unmanageable. Many people continue to use substances to avoid these unpleasant symptoms; however, at most medical detox facilities, nurses take care of you to make sure you are as comfortable as possible. Once you have gotten substances out of your system, you can build a wonderful life in recovery.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers across the country offer all the levels of care, including medical detox. We also offer Medication-Assisted Treatment to gradually get off substances with the help of medications that ease withdrawal symptoms. You can recover; we will help you get there. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.