What Are Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms?

man having withdrawal symptoms

Published on August 10th, 2020

During detox, you may experience what is known as drug withdrawal. There is no reason to be fearful of this, as it is a normal part of drug and alcohol detox. However, if you are nervous about the experience, it may help to know what happens during withdrawal and what type of physical and psychological symptoms you will be treated for in drug detox.

What Is Drug Withdrawal?

When a person stops using drugs or alcohol after a prolonged period of heavy abuse, he or she will experience uncomfortable or painful physical and psychological effects. These symptoms are referred to as drug withdrawal.1

With extended drug and alcohol use, the human body becomes accustomed to the presence of these substances. If and when they are suddenly removed (ie. the user stops using drugs or drinking alcohol), the body reacts with a wide range of unpleasant symptoms, which will vary based on:

  • The types of drugs/alcohol a person used
  • How long they abused drugs
  • How much was consumed each dose
  • The severity of the addiction

The uncomfortable symptoms of drug withdrawal are often what drive people to relapse because they would rather continue using drugs than deal with the discomfort of withdrawal.

What Do Withdrawal Symptoms Feel Like?

If you have never detoxed from drugs or alcohol before, not knowing what to expect is often the scariest part of the process. If you find yourself asking, “What do withdrawal symptoms feel like?” you should know that withdrawal is different for everyone. Although you may not experience all of these symptoms, drug and alcohol withdrawal often makes people feel the following things.

Exhaustion: During detox, you’ll likely feel exhausted, lethargic, and extremely fatigued. Unfortunately, other withdrawal symptoms may make it nearly impossible to get any rest.

Physical pain and/or discomfort: You may feel a variety of uncomfortable physical sensations as your body goes through withdrawal, including feeling pins and needles throughout your body, soreness, burning eyes, general pain, and radical changes in body temperature.

Upset stomach: During detox, you may also feel like your stomach is churning. Many people experience severe nausea and may also vomit or experience diarrhea.

Psychological discomfort: In addition to physical discomfort and pain, you will likely also experience heightened levels of anxiety during withdrawal. Many people also experience paranoia, irritability, and rapid mood swings.

Restlessness: You may not be able to get any sleep, experience uncontrollable shakiness or tremors, and feel very restless overall as your body adjusts to the lack of addictive substances it had become accustomed to.

These symptoms are scary to think about but holistic and medical treatment methods combined with therapy can greatly reduce the discomfort you feel during detox. As a result, getting sober with professional help is much easier due to the enhanced support and treatment options.

What to Expect When Detoxing from Drugs and Alcohol

It’s difficult to predict exactly what your drug withdrawal experience will be like in detox, especially if you are unsure what drugs you have taken. It’s also important to note that every drug is different. Therefore, you may experience varying types of physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) cites several different types of commonly abused drugs.2 Based on these types of substances, here are some common examples of withdrawal symptoms you can expect to experience.

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Cannabis?

This type of drug includes marijuana, ganja, and hashish oil, among others. Cannabis is a very widely abused drug both here in the U.S. and abroad. Drugs like marijuana can be addictive and suddenly discontinuing use may result in withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms of cannabis include3:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Stomach pain
  • Shakiness
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Headache

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Depressants?

This class of drugs includes substances like barbiturates, alcohol, and benzodiazepines. Drug detox for depressants can potentially be very dangerous, so it is always advised to withdrawal from these substances under medical supervision.4 Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Breathing problems
  • Impaired coordination
  • Shakiness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Cravings
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Stroke
  • Delirium tremens
  • Coma
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What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Hallucinogens?

Hallucinogens are drugs that alter your perception of time, space, and reality. Examples include LSD, Ketamine, and PCP. Withdrawal symptoms for this type of drug are widely varied but they may include5:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Tremors
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Muscle aches/stiffness
  • Body temperature fluctuations
  • Seizures
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Severe mood swings

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Opioids?

Opioid detox can be dangerous if it is not completed under the supervision of a medical team. Opioid drugs include heroin, hydrocodone, fentanyl, methadone, morphine, codeine, and oxycodone, among others. Users may experience symptoms of withdrawal after just a few days of using opioids.6 These symptoms typically include:

  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle aches
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High blood pressure

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of New Psychoactive Substances?

New psychoactive substances (NPS) is a class of designer man-made drugs that are designed to mimic the effects of other illicit drugs. There are hundreds of these drugs being created in clandestine laboratories and trafficked all over the world, but some common ones in the U.S. include synthetic marijuana and bath salts. Synthetic drug detox can be extremely unpredictable because the ingredients are not always known.7 Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Strong cravings

What Are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Stimulants?

Frequently abused stimulant drugs include cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine. Abuse of stimulant drugs increases the production of dopamine in the brain, creating a sense of euphoria. Repeated abuse of stimulants can easily cause dependence, tolerance, and addiction, and individuals who are detoxing from stimulants will need to be weaned off the drug(s).8 Withdrawal symptoms commonly include:

  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

As previously stated, it’s important to remember that not every person will experience these exact symptoms. Drug withdrawal is a very individualized experience and it will vary based on a number of personal circumstances.

How to Treat Withdrawal Symptoms

Although reading through all the withdrawal symptoms of various types of drugs can be scary, you should know that medically-assisted detox is the safest and most comfortable way to withdraw from drugs.

Regardless of the type of detox you need, a medical team will treat any uncomfortable or painful symptoms to slowly ease you down into a state of stable sobriety. Throughout the entire course of your detox treatment, the medical and therapeutic staff at Briarwood Detox Center will provide 24/7 assistance to monitor your vitals, treat any uncomfortable symptoms that arise, and provide recommendations for ongoing treatment after detox.

During medical detox, treatment staff may also use other ways to deal with withdrawal symptoms, depending on your personal preferences and treatment needs. Other effective treatment for withdrawal symptoms include:

Meditation – Meditation can be combined with many other treatment methods during detox. It is often very effective because regular meditation practice can resolve physical tension, promote feelings of calmness, and provide peace of mind.

Massage therapy – Massage therapy can help reduce physical pain and discomfort as your body and mind adjust to a substance-free life.

Acupuncture – Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine that can help manage many different illnesses and ailments. During drug and alcohol detox, it can help reduce nausea and relieve an upset stomach, which are common symptoms that many detox clients experience.

Yoga – Yoga promotes peace of mind and alleviates psychological symptoms associated with drug and alcohol withdrawal.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – CBT helps clients work through psychological symptoms of withdrawal and address emotional issues that may be related to their substance abuse.

Medications – Doctors and nurses may use several different medications during detox to treat withdrawal symptoms and ensure that clients are comfortable and can rest.

At Briarwood Detox Center, you don’t have to be afraid of drug withdrawal. We will ensure a comfortable and safe drug detox experience for you, regardless of your drug abuse history. Please call (888) 857-0557 today to learn more about our individualized drug and alcohol detox programs.

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