Withdrawal symptoms are one of the most common concerns among people who want to quit their drug of choice. Just the thought of detox being painful or uncomfortable can be enough to make many people forego sobriety and keep using drugs or alcohol to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. Medical detox treatment is designed to help people comfortably reach a state of sobriety by managing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that could otherwise be dangerous or life-threatening. Additionally, withdrawal is usually a short process, and any lingering symptoms can usually be treated with holistic methods or non-addictive medications.
Once a person has successfully completed the detox and withdrawal process, he or she can officially begin living a sober lifestyle on the other side of addiction.
Drug Withdrawal Symptoms: What You Need to Know
Withdrawal is a sure sign of addiction and a clear indication that a person is physically and psychologically dependent on a particular substance. Every person’s experience with withdrawal is different, but certain drugs produce similar withdrawal symptoms. While some types of drug withdrawal may make a person feel like they have the flu, other drugs may cause additional serious or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms like seizures, psychosis, or heart attacks.
Depending on the person, the type of substance they are addicted to, and several other factors, the severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary. More severe withdrawal symptoms are typically associated with quitting drugs or alcohol cold turkey, but a medically-monitored tapering method is most likely to produce less severe symptoms.
Top 4 Worst Drugs to Detox From
As mentioned above, the withdrawal and detox experience is highly individualized, but there are certain substances that are known to produce particularly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Although there may not be one single drug that is the worst to detox from, here are some of the most difficult drug addictions and withdrawal syndromes to overcome.
Alcohol withdrawal produces a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of appetite
More severe withdrawal symptoms can include seizures or hallucinations. About five percent of people who experience alcohol withdrawal will also suffer from something called delirium tremens (DTs) which is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. DTs typically occurs 48 to 72 hours after the person’s last drink and can include symptoms like:
- Vivid hallucinations
- Racing heart
- High blood pressure
- Excessive sweating
Delirium tremens is very dangerous and should always be treated by medical professionals. Although many people may try to detox from alcohol at home, this method is rarely successful and it’s always safest to complete alcohol detox in a medically-monitored environment.
Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants and prescription medications for anxiety and panic disorders. Commonly abused benzodiazepines include Valium, Ativan, Klonopin, and Xanax. These drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction, especially when they are used for an extended period of time or misused. Benzodiazepine withdrawal can range from slightly uncomfortable to severely life-threatening, depending on the dosage the person was taking and how abruptly they tried to stop. Common benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle pain
- Problems concentrating
- Distorted senses2
Quitting benzodiazepines cold turkey can be extremely dangerous and may produce some severe physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms like seizures and psychosis. Some people may also experience post-acute withdrawal, which is characterized by long-lasting symptoms that may take weeks or months to subside. Symptoms of post-acute withdrawal typically include:
- Severe anxiety
Due to the intensity of the psychological symptoms associated with withdrawal, benzodiazepine detox is safer, more comfortable, and more effective when it is completed in a medical environment.
Heroin is a highly addictive substance and one of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. Heroin withdrawal, also known as “dope sickness,” can produce some very uncomfortable physical and psychological side effects, such as:
- Muscle aches
- Dilated pupils
- Stomach cramps
The severity of heroin withdrawal will vary depending on the average dose, the method of use, and the potency and frequency of use. However, it is often so severe that it seriously limits a person’s ability to function normally. Many people who try to quit end up using heroin again just to experience relief from the discomfort of withdrawal. For this reason, unassisted heroin detox is rarely successful.
4. Crystal Meth
Crystal meth is another highly addictive drug, and withdrawal, although manageable initially, can actually become more difficult down the road. What makes crystal meth withdrawal so challenging is that intense cravings for the drug can suddenly pop up out of nowhere up to six months after completing meth detox, making it extremely difficult to sustain long-term sobriety. However, the severity of meth withdrawal symptoms should not be underestimated either. They commonly include:
- Anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure)
- Strong cravings for meth
- Strong cravings for sugary or starchy foods
Treating Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawaling from these drugs on your own can be very difficult and dangerous, but a medical detox program can ensure your comfort and safety throughout the entire process. Although quitting cold turkey is tempting, treating withdrawal is a complex and highly individualized process that is best completed by medical professionals.