How to Manage Your Withdrawal Symptoms

Drew Lewis
|
March 16, 2021

Withdrawal symptoms are one of the toughest parts of overcoming addiction. Almost everyone finds it challenging. Once you get to the other side, however, you'll realize that your efforts to manage your withdrawal symptoms have been well worth it. You have the rest of your life ahead of you, free from the chains of drug or alcohol addiction.

Withdrawal often produces a wide range of side effects. Acute withdrawal leads to physical health issues like congestion, fatigue, nausea, shakiness, or vomiting. On the other hand, protracted withdrawal causes mental health problems ranging from anxiety to depression and so on. A medical detoxification program is usually effective in managing these withdrawal symptoms.

What is Drug Withdrawal?

When you drink alcohol or abuse drugs regularly, your brain adjusts to the presence of the substance. You develop a tolerance to the substance and need more of it to feel good again. At this point, you may become physically and psychologically dependent. In which case, going without the substance for a certain period can induce withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal happens when you fail to provide your mind or body with a drug on which it has become dependent.

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Withdrawal symptoms will vary, due to a number of different factors. But, some can be excruciatingly painful.

Withdrawal is your body's way of showing that the drug concentration is declining. These symptoms often develop when you reduce the amount you're using or quit "cold-turkey." Continued withdrawal may cause severe symptoms and feelings. This is why it's essential to get professional help at an alcohol and drug rehab. It's critical to deal with withdrawal in a safe and supervised environment with professionals. This helps manage all the challenges that come with withdrawal syndrome.

Common alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe, depending on the type of drug, amount of use, and the duration of use. Stimulants like meth and cocaine often trigger psychological symptoms, whereas prescription drugs, heroin, and alcohol cause both psychological and physical symptoms. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, withdrawal symptoms may appear within a few hours of not using or be delayed for several days. Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Shaky hands
  • Insomnia
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizure
  • Confusion
  • Delirium tremens
  • Fever
  • Racing heart

These symptoms may last for a few days to a few months. Meaning, you may experience mood swings, challenges sleeping, as well as constant fatigue for months. Serious effects like confusion, high fevers, and seizures may also develop. In worse cases, withdrawal can be life-threatening.

Ways to Manage your Withdrawal Symptoms

Get a Medically Supervised Detox

Quality treatment centers never use rapid detox kits or cold turkey methods. Instead, they provide therapy and medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms. Detox is the first stage of a successful addiction treatment program. It frees your body from the toxins of alcohol and drugs before long-term treatment begins.

 Medically supervised detox is also critical in identifying and treating any substance-related medical emergencies. These emergencies may arise during the detox phase due to active substance abuse. Never attempt to self-detox. That would only expose you to potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms and the high-risk of relapse.

Join a support group

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Support groups are elemental in helping people overcome drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Nothing is more comforting and relaxing than being in the company of people who've traveled the same path as you. Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous can provide tips and encouragement to people in recovery, like you. Support from friends, family members, and other recovering individuals is critical for minimizing relapse. When you join these support groups, you get surrounded with like-minded people with similar goals.

Do some exercises

Exercise gives your recovery a lively change. It boosts the presence of happiness-inducing chemicals like dopamine. So, the more you work out, the more dopamine gets to your brain. And when your fitness rises, so does your mood and mental health. Studies reveal that physical activity and exercise can help boost dopamine levels. Science also shows that in addition to support groups and detox, exercise is a tremendous counter-withdrawal tool. It reduces compulsive drug abuse as well as cravings.

Watch what you eat

Eating healthy meals is an essential part of detox, as it replaces lost nutrients and helps keep your energy levels up. It also keeps your body and brain healthy. You'll benefit from a basic healthy diet – but it helps to understand your nutritional deficiencies. This table will guide you to making the right diet choice depending on what you're detoxing from.

​Substance of AbuseVitamin and mineral deficiencyDeficiency Effect on body
AlcoholVitamin A Vitamin B1, B2, B6 Vitamin C Calcium  Anemia Korsakoff’s disorder Osteoporosis Diabetes High blood pressure Severe malnutrition
Opiate (heroin and morphine)High-fiber diet Whole grains Beans Peas Leafy vegetablesConstipation Diarrhea Nausea and vomiting
Stimulants (Meth and crack)Proteins Omega-3 Flaxseeds Eggs Dairy productsDepression Coronary heart disease

And while you are at it, don't forget to keep hydrated. Withdrawal tends to leave you feeling dehydrated. So, drinking lots of water can help your body heal properly. It also keeps the thirst that's easily mistaken for cravings at bay.

Have a structured sleep schedule

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Developing a "bedtime routine" can help aid your recovery in the long-term.

Insomnia is one of the withdrawal symptoms for people with a physical dependence on substances. So having a guideline for good sleep hygiene can help you address insomnia. This includes things like establishing sleep rituals and reestablishing your body’s natural circadian rhythms. Sleep rituals like sleeping and waking up at the same time, or avoiding screens 30 minutes before going to bed can help you fall asleep fast.

 Dealing with your withdrawal

Withdrawal can be challenging and even fatal. If you are trying to quit using drugs or alcohol, it's advisable to seek professional help. Medically-supervised detox means you'll be under expert care throughout the withdrawal process. Withdrawal management is a big part of the medical detoxification process. It is the most comfortable way to manage your withdrawal symptoms.

You should note that detox alone isn't enough to support long-term abstinence. But it's a crucial step in a holistic abuse treatment that offers the tools you need to quit using and minimize relapse. The good thing is that most addiction centers offer detox and other therapies in-house.

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