Common Withdrawal Side Effects and How Not to Be Afraid of Them

Going through cocaine detox can fill a person with uncertainty. While the process of getting clean may mean managing unexpected withdrawal symptoms, professional addiction treatment centers offer ways to ease symptoms.

Personal reactions to detox vary especially if a person is purging more than one substance. Knowing what to expect ahead of time makes the withdrawal period more manageable.

What to Expect when Detoxing

The medical detox process safely manages the physical symptoms of withdrawal. Although other forms of addiction treatment should follow detox, it is an important first step in preparing a person for a substance-free lifestyle according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The most effective treatments combine an initial detox/withdrawal period with psychological counseling and other therapies that promote coping skills and stress management tactics.

Certain substances, such as alcohol and opiates, are more likely to produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. In fact, withdrawal from alcohol and opiates can include dangerous symptoms unless a person is under medical supervision. While withdrawal from these substances once included more serious symptoms, recent compassionate interventions such as medication and stress reduction techniques make the process much easier according to Harvard Health Publications.

Not all drugs will produce extreme physical symptoms according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The most serious symptoms are associated with stopping the following drugs:

  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines (sedatives) including diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), oxazepam (Serax) and traizolam (Halcion)
  • Barbiturates (tranquilizers) including phenobarbital, secobarbital (Seconal), amobarbital (Amytal) and pentobarbital (Nembutal)
  • Opiates including heroin, heroin, morphine, codeine, OxyContin (oxycodone) and methadone

The following substances produce a limited amount of physical symptoms although there are many psychological symptoms associated with stopping use:

  • Marijuana, hashish
  • Stimulants including stimulant drugs used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder or obesity

It’s important to be under medical supervision before stopping any drug. This ensures the most appropriate interventions and avoids dangerous side effects such as seizure or coma.

Withdrawal from Drugs and Alcohol

While some parts of the withdrawal process are uncomfortable, symptoms usually last for just a few days according to the (AAFP). Physical symptoms usually affect a person’s blood pressure and breathing although some people may experience muscle coordination issues or skin problems. Following are common withdrawal symptoms:

  • Alcohol – (Symptoms at worst for 1 to 3 days, last 5 to 7 days) High blood pressure, pulse and temperature; tremors (especially in hands); disorientation; restlessness; flushed complexion; sweating; uncontrolled body movements; anxiety; possible visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Benzodiazepines, other sedative/hypnotics – (Symptoms at worst for 2 to 4 days, last 4 to 7 days (or up to 14 days for slow withdrawal)) increased physical activity; agitation; muscle weakness; tremors; sweating; high blood pressure, pulse and temperature; anxiety, depression; incoherent thoughts; and visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Opiates – (Symptoms at worst for 1 to 3 days, last 5 to 7 days) abdominal cramps; agitation and anxiety; lack of appetite; joint pain; sweating; diarrhea; dilated pupils; elevated blood pressure, temperature and pulse; irritability; insomnia; teary eyes; muscle spasms; raised hair on the skin; runny nose; rapid breathing and yawning
  • Cocaine – (symptoms at worst for 1 to 3 days, last 5 to 7 days) social withdrawal, lowered physical activity, excessive daytime sleepiness, increased appetite and irritability

Withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol and opiates can be alleviated with certain medications. Alcohol withdrawal can be treated with certain benzodiazepines (diazepam or lorazepam) while opiate withdrawal can be treated with clonidine.

Currently there are several approved medications for treating alcohol use including naltrexone, acamprosate and disulfiram according to the Mayo Clinic. Revia (naltrexone), Antabuse (disulfiram) and Campral (acamprosate) may be helpful although they are not effective without additional psychosocial counseling.

Opiate use also may be treated with medications, such as methadone, naltrexone and buprenorphine/naloxone, although there is a strong risk of relapsing to other drugs without additional psychosocial counseling.

Need Help Finding Addiction Treatment?

While the initial stages of withdrawing from drugs like cocaine or alcohol may be uncomfortable, it’s far more difficult to live with the physical and psychological symptoms of addiction. Untreated addiction creates relationship struggles, hampers performance at work or school and leads to legal or criminal problems. Professional addiction treatment can successfully improve a person’s quality of life. The best treatment includes options that fit a person’s unique needs.

Do you need help for a loved one or yourself? If you are looking for a treatment that manages mental health and substance use issues, call us today for advice. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day, every day. We help people find the best fit for addiction treatment including therapies that address a person’s needs for day-to-day support. Don’t wait to start the road toward recovery. Call our toll-free helpline and get started on a fulfilling and enriching life.

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