What is drug withdrawal?
Drug withdrawal, also known as detoxification or detox, occurs when a person stops or reduces their consumption of intoxicating substances such as alcohol. It can result in physical or psychological dependence on the drug. The symptoms experienced during withdrawal can vary depending on factors such as age, physical health, method of withdrawal, duration of drug use, type of drug, and psychological condition.
When a person takes a drug for an extended period, their body becomes reliant on it to maintain a sense of well-being. If the drug is suddenly removed or reduced, withdrawal symptoms may occur as the body adjusts to functioning without it.
The brain also adapts to the effects of drugs over time, leading to psychological dependence. Individuals may believe they need the drug to function properly or cope with certain situations. When they are unable to obtain the drug, they may experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and vary depending on the specific drug. During this period, individuals may experience the opposite effects of the drug they were using. For example, someone withdrawing from an antidepressant may feel agitated or restless.
The mind may develop a strong desire for the drug as a way to feel good or cope with problems. Cravings can come and go, and their intensity can vary.
The duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly depending on factors such as general health, duration of drug use, use of other drugs, type of drugs used, and conditions under which drug use is stopped.
Is withdrawal safe?
Quitting a drug can be challenging, and the risk of relapse is high, especially in the early days. It is important for individuals trying to overcome drug addiction to seek medical supervision for a safe withdrawal. Consulting with a doctor or alcohol and drug treatment service is especially crucial for those withdrawing from alcohol, benzodiazepines, GHB, or ketamine.
Where can I go?
During the withdrawal period, individuals need a safe and supportive environment. They can seek guidance from healthcare professionals or alcohol and drug services to determine the best setting for their needs. Options may include:
A team consisting of a doctor, nurse, and support person (such as a friend or family member) can assist the individual during their withdrawal period if the symptoms are not severe.
For those who prefer not to be admitted to a residential facility, outpatient withdrawal involves one-on-one consultation sessions with a doctor over a short period, along with ongoing support and counseling.
People who struggle to quit drugs may opt for residential withdrawal. This involves staying in a hospital’s residential withdrawal unit for 5 to 10 days under the supervision of medical staff 24 hours a day. These professionals help individuals avoid relapse during the withdrawal process.
How can I prepare?
In addition to planning for follow-up treatment after withdrawal, individuals should also prepare for the withdrawal period itself. Proper planning can reduce the risk of relapse and contribute to a successful recovery. Steps to take include:
Talk to the doctor
The first step is to consult with a healthcare professional who can provide guidance and support. It is also important to have a supportive person during the withdrawal period.
Write down personal reasons for withdrawing
Creating a list of the positive and negative effects of giving up drugs can serve as motivation during challenging times.
Plan for drug use during withdrawal
If a person uses drugs during withdrawal, it is important to treat it as a minor setback and learn from the experience. Understanding why it happened can help avoid similar situations in the future.
Divert attention to other activities
Engaging in activities such as reading, walking, taking trips, watching movies or TV shows, meditating, or talking to someone can help distract the mind from drug cravings during the initial days of withdrawal.
Be aware of facility rules
Each withdrawal facility has its own set of rules and restrictions regarding visitors and communication. Adhering to these rules can contribute to a faster recovery.
Maintaining a balanced diet and staying hydrated can support the recovery process and