Many addicts wish to stop using various addictive substances but their resolve often waivers due to the side effect of various withdrawal signs that they experience as they abstain from using the drug or other harmful substance. The signs and symptoms of withdrawal depend on the substance that is being withdrawn and how long and how intensely the addict was using the addictive substance. Withdrawal signs are common symptoms that are experienced during the detox phase of addiction treatment, but they can occur in any addict who has started to go without their addictive substance after a certain amount of time and these signs can vary widely. Some can be quite severe and life threatening.
Alcohol Withdrawal signs often manifest themselves in a wide variety of symptoms and can vary in their intensity just like the signs of withdrawal from many other substances. Alcohol withdrawal is really one of the most difficult withdrawals any addict can go through. Mild withdrawal or moderate withdrawal signs in alcoholics usually include mild shaking, nausea and night sweats as well as migraines, agitation, depression and other modifications of mood. More dangerous withdrawal signs associated with alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening and include hallucinations, convulsions and seizures. These withdrawal symptoms will become progressively worse within 48 hours after the alcoholic has consumed their last drink. Delirium tremens, or the DTs may also begin within 3 to 5 days and appear as confusion, hyperactivity and extreme blood pressure hikes. Medication does not prevent DTs and heart attack may occur, as well as stoke, respiratory collapse, coma and death.
Heroin is another addictive substance that can produce significant, painful Withdrawal signs as the heroin is withdrawn. Withdrawal symptoms often start around 12 hours after the last injection and continue for around 4 days. Physical symptoms of heroin Withdrawal include temperatures that alternate between hot sweats and chills, insomnia and lack of appetite. Diarrhea, body aches and flu-like symptoms can also be very common heroin withdrawal signs and can lead to pain, debilitation and dehydration. In some cases the dehydration that is produced during various withdrawal symptoms can lead to abnormalities in cardiac rhythm due to the loss of potassium and other nutrients that stabilize and control the electric impulses in the heart. This can in some cases lead to heart attack, heart failure or death.
Prescription painkillers can also produce difficult and painful withdrawal symptoms as addicts start to from medications such as OxyContin and Lortab, which contain a powerful narcotic called hydrocodone. Hydrocodone withdrawal signs last 1 to 3 days normally and can include cravings, irritability, sweats, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. As in Heroin withdrawal, any withdrawal symptom of diarrhea and vomiting can lead to rapid destabilization of the addict and lead to heart attack or death.
Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that both stimulates the pleasure center of the brain, as well as raises blood pressure and heart rate. Cocaine is mentally addicting, and affects the release of dopamine within the brain so that addicts start to rely on the substance for feelings of well-being and happiness. Symptoms begin within 24 hours of withdrawal and include depression, intense cravings, disturbed sleep, muscle pain and agitation.
While the physical effects of withdrawal can be painful and dangerous, the psychological withdrawal symptoms can be longer and more difficult to overcome, as the addict has developed a dependency on the substance. In addition to intense cravings that can last for years, addicts of all kinds must deal with the triggers and circumstances that caused them to turn to the substances in the first place. Whether it’s constant pain or childhood traumas, educational therapy through individual and group counseling as well as support groups and other supportive networks will remain important to the addict for the rest of their lives so that they can be successful in beating their addiction and continuing to live addiction free.