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Drug Detox and the Signs of Drug Withdrawal

According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 20.4 million Americans over the age of 12 are battling a drug or alcohol addiction that’s equal to over 7 percent of all people over 12 in the U.S. today. Addiction costs our healthcare system, economy, communities, and families more than any other neurological disease each year. That makes it one of the most devastating and concerning issues in our society today. Despite the prevalence of drug use and addiction, it still remains one of the most poorly understood conditions which keeps millions of people from seeking help for their addictions each year. Learn more about the signs of drug withdrawal and how to treat the symptoms below.

What Causes Drug Addiction?

Addiction is considered a neurological disease because of the way that it affects your brain. Taking drugs or drinking alcohol affects your brain’s ‘reward circuit,’ making it release a flood of dopamine and serotonin. These two chemicals are responsible for making you feel relaxed and happy, and are usually released in small amounts when you participate in positive activities. This flood of chemicals makes you feel euphoric, which is commonly referred to as a ‘high.’ The more you abuse drugs or alcohol, the more your brain learns to rely on these substances in order to release these chemicals. 

As you continue to abuse substances in order to get high, your brain will forget how to release dopamine and serotonin naturally. And over time, your brain will also get used to the amount of substances you are taking, a process called tolerance. This means you will end up having to consume more in order to get the same pleasurable effects. These two issues are what end up leading a person to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. And once you are addicted, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking or doing drugs.

What are the Signs of Detox and Drug Withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms occur when someone who is addicted misses a dose or tries to stop taking substances. The signs of drug withdrawal are different for each substance, and can be both physical and mental. Most withdrawal symptoms will start appearing within a few hours to one day of the last time you used, though sometimes it can take as much as two or three days. The symptoms will continue to get worse before peaking and then tapering off. Here are some of the most common signs of drug withdrawal:

Amphetamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Chills, restlessness, excessive sleepiness, dehydration, hallucinations, slowed speech, depression, agitation, slow heart rate, insomnia, and body aches

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Anxiety, insomnia, depression, fatigue, irritability, agitation, mood swings, tremors, dehydration, hallucinations, and seizures

Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms 

Anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, tremors, insomnia, headache, nausea, high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, hallucinations, and seizures

Heroin/Opioid Withdrawal Symptoms

Agitation, runny nose, sweating, goosebumps, anxiety, muscle aches, insomnia, yawning, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and dilated pupils

Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms

Anxiety, agitation, depression, mood swings, sweating, stomach pains, and tremors

For most people, the signs of drug withdrawal are not life-threatening, but they are still extremely unpleasant and difficult to deal with without proper treatment. But for those with the most severe or long-term addictions, the signs of drug withdrawal can be dangerous. This is especially true for long-term alcohol or benzodiazepine abusers. These people may experience hallucinations, severe confusion, and seizures. If seizures are not controlled with proper medication, they can lead to brain damage, coma, and even death.

How Long Does Withdrawal & Drug Detox Last?

Unfortunately there is not one answer to the question of how long the signs of drug withdrawal will last. It depends on many different factors, including what substances you have been abusing, how long you have been using, how severe your addiction is, and what kind of treatment you receive. Those who try to work through withdrawal on their own will have much more prolonged signs of drug withdrawal, whereas those that go to a drug detox facility typically have much shorter periods of withdrawal.

What is a Drug Detox Facility?

A drug detox facility is a specialized place for people to deal with the signs of drug withdrawal. They are staffed by medical professionals who will monitor your physical and mental state during your entire stay. They will take note of your withdrawal symptoms and give you medications or support to help make these symptoms far less severe and last for a shorter period of time. This is especially important for people who run the risk of serious signs of drug withdrawal like hallucinations or seizures. The staff will be one hand at all times in case of an emergency. They are able to administer immediate medical assistance if need be. All of this means that your detox process will not only be safer, but will be shorter and less unpleasant to deal with.

The Different Options at a Drug Detox Facility

Detox facilities typically offer a few different drug detox programs to suit the needs of all potential clients. The most common option are inpatient detox programs. These programs require you to stay at the detox facility for your entire treatment. This means twenty-four-hour access to medical care, and keeps you from having access to drugs or alcohol. This means that your treatment is far more likely to be successful, as you will not be able to give into temptation and keep using. Inpatient programs also make it easier for you to transition into an addiction treatment program, as they are often offered at the same facility. Both detox and addiction treatment are vital in helping you to successfully overcome an addiction.