Drew Lewis
March 16, 2021

How to Manage Your Withdrawal Symptoms

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.

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

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

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.


What are common withdrawal symptoms associated with different substances?

Withdrawal symptoms associated with different substances can vary widely in intensity and duration. Opioid withdrawal, for example, often involves flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting, along with intense cravings for the drug. Alcohol withdrawal can range from mild symptoms like tremors and sweating to severe manifestations such as seizures and delirium tremens, which require immediate medical attention. Benzodiazepine withdrawal may lead to rebound anxiety, insomnia, and in severe cases, seizures and psychosis. Stimulant withdrawal can cause fatigue, depression, and increased appetite, while cannabis withdrawal may result in irritability, mood swings, and disturbed sleep patterns. Nicotine withdrawal commonly includes irritability, anxiety, and intense cravings, making it challenging for individuals to quit smoking.

It's crucial for individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms to seek medical help, as withdrawal can be uncomfortable and sometimes life-threatening, especially in cases of alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal. Medical supervision can help manage symptoms safely through the use of medications and supportive care. Additionally, therapy and support group scan provide emotional support and coping strategies to help individuals navigate the challenges of withdrawal and maintain long-term sobriety.

How long do withdrawal symptoms typically last?

The duration of withdrawal symptoms varies depending on factors such as the substance used, the duration and intensity of use, individual metabolism, and overall health. In general, withdrawal symptoms typically peak within the first few days of abstinence and gradually subside over the course of days to weeks. However, some symptoms, particularly psychological ones like cravings or mood disturbances, may persist for longer periods, sometimes even months, especially in cases of chronic or heavy substance use.

For example, acute opioid withdrawal symptoms often peak within 72 hours of the last use but may persist for up to a week or more, with symptoms gradually improving over time. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from a few days to several weeks, with severe symptoms like delirium tremens potentially lasting longer. Benzodiazepine withdrawal may involve an acute phase lasting several days followed by protracted withdrawal symptoms that can persist for weeks or months. Stimulant withdrawal symptoms may resolve within a week or so, while cannabis withdrawal symptoms typically subside within a few weeks. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms usually peak within the first week and diminish over the following weeks to months.It's important to note that individual experiences with withdrawal can vary, and seeking medical supervision and support is recommended to manage symptoms safely and effectively.

Are there specific medications that can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms?

Medications can play a crucial role in alleviating withdrawal symptoms and supporting individuals through the detoxification process. For opioid withdrawal, medications like methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone are commonly prescribed to stabilize individuals, reduce cravings, and prevent relapse. These medications work by targeting opioid receptors in the brain, helping to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and allowing individuals to focus on their recovery. Similarly, for alcohol withdrawal, benzodiazepines are often used to manage symptoms such as tremors, anxiety, and seizures, while other medications like naltrexone or acamprosate may be prescribed to reduce cravings and support sobriety.

In cases of benzodiazepine withdrawal, a gradual tapering of the medication under medical supervision is typically recommended to minimize withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. Other medications such as phenobarbital or certain anticonvulsants may also be used to manage severe withdrawal symptoms. However, it's essential to recognize that medication-assisted treatment should be integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan that includes counseling, behavioral therapies, and support groups to address the underlying issues contributing to substance use and promote long-term recovery. Consulting with a health care provider is crucial to determine the most appropriate medication options based on individual needs and medical history.

Are there lifestyle changes that can help ease withdrawal symptoms?

Lifestyle changes can play a significant role in easing withdrawal symptoms and supporting individuals during the recovery process. A healthy diet rich in nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can provide essential nutrients needed for recovery and alleviate symptoms like fatigue and irritability. Regular exercise, such as walking, jogging, or yoga, can help reduce stress, improve mood, and promote better sleep quality by stimulating the release of endorphins, which act as natural mood lifters. Stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness can also help individuals cope with cravings, anxiety, and other withdrawal symptoms, promoting overall well-being and resilience.

Establishing a daily routine with set meal times, exercise routines, and relaxation practices can provide structure and stability during the recovery process, helping individuals stay focused and motivated and avoid triggers that may lead to relapse. Social support from friends, family members, or peers who understand the challenges of recovery can offer encouragement, accountability, and motivation. Participating in support groups or therapy sessions can provide valuable guidance and connection with others on a similar journey. Additionally, prioritizing self-care activities such as getting enough sleep, practicing good hygiene, and engaging in hobbies or activities that bring joy and fulfillment can help individuals stay grounded and focused on their recovery goals. By incorporating these lifestyle changes into their daily routine, individuals can enhance their overall well-being, reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms, and support their long-term recovery from substance abuse.

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