Detoxifying is often the first step in recovering from dependency and substance abuse. There are many ways of withdrawing from drugs or alcohol. These range from going cold turkey at home to residential detox.
You might think that just stopping abusing your substance of choice at home is a good idea. However, so many drugs have potentially dangerous and even life-threatening side effects when you stop taking them. There are also perils to withdrawing from alcohol unassisted. In this in-depth article, we look at the dangers of withdrawing from drugs or alcohol on your own.
What Is Drug Addiction?
To better understand the dangers of withdrawing alone, you need to go back to the beginning. That starts with understanding drug addiction. Many people cannot understand how and why people can become addicted. They often believe that people who use drugs lack willpower and morals. They feel that you can just quit using whenever you want. This belief that you can quit drug addiction in an instant is, of course, emphatically wrong.
That’s because drug addiction is a complex disease. Giving up an addiction to drugs or alcohol takes a lot more than a strong will. Drug addiction changes your brain in a variety of ways, which makes giving up sorely difficult — even when you wish to.
Not only is addiction a complex disease, but it’s a chronic condition too. Drug addiction is difficult to control, compulsive drug-seeking behaviors. When you’re caught in its grip, you’ll do almost anything to get your hands on your drug or alcohol of choice.
It’s commonplace for people to relapse. If you do, then you mustn’t worry. Relapsing doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person or that you’ve failed. But it does provide you with yet another reason why getting the right professional treatment to come off drugs or alcohol is crucial.
Here, at 12 Keys Rehab, we know your struggle. Many of our staff are recovering themselves. Together, we can successfully help you quit your drug or alcohol use for good. As with other chronic health conditions, you need to seek treatment for your addiction. Your treatment can be adjusted based on how you respond as an individual. There is no cookie cutter approach to addiction treatment. Your plan needs to be reviewed regularly and modified to fit your needs as they change, and this is where we excel.
Risk Factors for Becoming Addicted to a Substance
Anyone of any economic status, gender or age can become addicted to any medication or alcohol. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA), in 2011, more than 300,000 people were given medication-assisted treatment for opioid use in 2011 alone. The same source stated that 17 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder.
There are specific factors, as the Mayo Clinic highlights, which make a difference in your probability of developing a substance abuse habit. They are:
• Peer pressure. Peer pressure is a known and significant element in using and abusing drugs.
• Having another mental ailment. If you have problems with a mental health disorder, you’re likelier to be drug-dependent.
• Being male. Men generally have more problems with drugs than women. But, addictive disorders advance more rapidly in females.
• Family history of addiction. Substance use issues are often more commonplace in people who have family members that are addicts. It’s thought that there might be a hereditary predisposition involved.
• Insufficient family contact. If you’ve had a difficult relationship with your parents, you have a heightened likelihood of becoming addicted. Perhaps you have had little parental guidance or have ended up in a negative family situation.
• Loneliness, stress, anxiety and depression. Abusing drugs is often a means of dealing with upsetting feelings. Sadly, this can aggravate your problems and take you down the road to addiction.
What Goes on in Your Brain When You Take Drugs?
The decision to take drugs often begins as something voluntary. However, repeated drug use leads to changes in your brain. These changes challenge your self-control and your ability to resist the intense urges that make you want to take more and more of the drug.
These brain changes can also be persistent. It’s for this reason that drug addiction is known as a relapsing disease. You’re still at increased risk of returning to using even when you’ve been in recovery for many years.
When you take most drugs, they influence your brain’s reward circuit and flood it with dopamine. You then achieve a pleasurable “high” that makes you want to take a drug again and again. Your brain adjusts to this excess of dopamine by either reducing the ability of reward circuit cells to respond to it or by making less of it as you continue to use a substance. Referred to as tolerance, you then find that your “high” is reduced compared to the feeling you had when you initially began taking the drug.
You could then take more of the drug to feel that “high” you’re no longer getting when you’re tolerant. Due to your reduced dopamine, you’ll also find that you no longer gain the same enjoyment from other pleasurable activities, such as going out with friends or eating delicious food.
Long-term drug or alcohol misuse affects other functions too, including:
Even though you might be acutely aware of these adverse outcomes, you still take the drugs or drink the alcohol. You know at this point that you’re addicted.
What Are the Dangers of Withdrawing on Your Own?
SAMHSA states that there are two kinds of withdrawal – acute and protracted. Let’s look at both types of withdrawal in more detail:
The term acute withdrawal refers to the initial emergence of symptoms after you suddenly stop using a substance. When you’re in acute withdrawal, you can expect various physical health issues. These can range from mild flu-type symptoms to as severe as having seizures. When you’re detoxing from alcohol, for example, you’re at risk of seizures, strokes and heart attacks. That’s why you need to take into account the dangers of detoxing too quickly without adequate support.
You may also suffer from sleep abnormalities for as many as one to three years. You could even experience delirium tremens, which can be so severe that it’s life threatening. In addition to your other withdrawal symptoms, you can potentially experience convulsions, tremors, anxiety, sweating, hallucinations, disorientation and palpitations.
SAMHSA lists the lengths of time of the acute withdrawal period for different substances. These include:
|Substance||Acute Withdrawal Period|
|Stimulants||One to two weeks|
|Alcohol||Five to seven days|
|Opioids*||Four to ten days|
|Nicotine||Two to four weeks|
|Benzodiazepines||One to four weeks or three to five weeks when you taper off your usual dose gradually|
* Note: Methadone can take as long as 14-21 days for acute withdrawal symptoms to subside
Acute withdrawal symptoms tend to be the opposite of the effects of what you’ve been taking. Therefore, symptoms differ between substances.
Symptoms of Acute Withdrawal From Various Substances
Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and from substance to substance. Symptoms for different substances include:
• Muscle aches
• Teary eyes
• Runny nose
• Double vision
• Blurry vision
• Body pains
• Decreased muscular control
• Shortness of breath
• Increased blood pressure
• Increased heart rate
• Delirium tremens (in lower than five percent of people)
• Grand mal seizures (in five percent or fewer of people)
• Irrational rage
• Weight gain
• Increased appetite
• Slow movement
• Lack of movement
• Slow thoughts
• Loss of appetite
• Night sweats
• Strange dreams or nightmares
The above symptoms can vary because every case of withdrawal is unique. Other factors, such as the severity of your addiction, how long you’ve been using, the rate at which you discontinue substance abuse, and any other diagnoses you have can also cause your symptoms to vary.
Withdrawing from any substance brings with it a whole host of physical, mental and emotional problems. There are dangers in detoxing too quickly, including the risk of seizures and death. Don’t try to go it alone.
Besides experiencing acute withdrawal symptoms, you’ll also likely have side effects of protracted withdrawal. Protracted withdrawal is more commonly known as chronic withdrawal, extended withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal. Protracted withdrawal occurs when you have symptoms that last for longer periods of time or reappear after your acute withdrawal should have stopped.
Most symptoms you can expect are psychological. Information from the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that addictive substances stimulate your brain’s reward centers. In layman’s terms, they make you feel good. Over time, you need more and more of a drug to get that same feeling. Protracted withdrawal can also lead to mental health problems. Additionally, if you’ve been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder, your symptoms can re-emerge, particularly if you used substances to attempt to treat your condition.
Therefore, if you’re in the midst of protracted withdrawal, you may suffer from mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. If this happens, it’s a medical emergency, and you need to seek help immediately.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as many as 18 percent of people in the U.S. struggle with an anxiety disorder. If you’re one of these individuals, you could be using benzodiazepines to treat your anxiety and depression. Your mental health condition will reemerge once you stop taking the drug.
It’s for these reasons that withdrawal is best accomplished with help. Withdrawing in a facility can significantly reduce or even eliminate these types of symptoms.
Symptoms of Protracted Withdrawal
Protracted withdrawal symptoms, also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), can include any of the following:
• Lack of enthusiasm for and enjoyment of once pleasurable activities
• Problems concentrating
• Difficulty making decisions
• Reduced ability to focus on tasks
• Sleep problems
• Substance cravings
• Reduced libido
These symptoms can make you vulnerable to relapse. Again, this is why you shouldn’t attempt to quit a substance without help — particularly since you could experience protracted withdrawal symptoms for several months or even years.
When you withdraw with the aid of our professional and caring team here at 12 Keys Rehab, you receive a fully tailored plan and aftercare to help you cope in the event you feel you’re relapsing or have relapsed. We offer real and holistic recovery to help you live your life on your terms. For this reason, withdrawal programs are tailored for you, here at 12 Keys Rehab. Withdrawing is too dangerous to undergo alone.
How Can I Help My Loved One Consider Rehab?
There is perhaps nothing more upsetting and frustrating than knowing someone close is experiencing a drug or alcohol use problem. You have to contend with many conflicting emotions as well as likely feel complete powerlessness.
If you’re considering how to help someone who’s addicted to a substance get into rehab, it’s important to understand that their substance abuse doesn’t just impact them. It can negatively affect everyone close to them, too.
Your loved one didn’t start out using a substance knowing that it would overtake their life. Addiction is a chronic illness. Here at 12 Keys Rehab, we realize this, and we are prepared to talk about safe withdrawal from drugs and alcohol whenever you are. No matter the time. Day or night.
Your loved one probably feels ashamed and disappointed in themselves that they’ve allowed their substance abuse to reach such heights. Therefore, it’s crucial to be as understanding as you can. Even if you feel angry and disappointed, try not to show it. You’ll only alienate your friend or family member.
Check out these do’s and don’ts for helping your family member or friend accept they have an addiction and get into rehab:
Do: Maintain your integrity. In the case that your friend makes an effort to offer you some of their substance of choice, refuse it. Be ready for them to attempt to convince you that you are wrong for thinking they have a problem.
Don’t: Give ultimatums. Declaring things such as, if you really loved me, you’d stop taking drugs just won’t work. You run the chance of isolating your loved one even further. Sadly, their cravings are currently far stronger than any ties to a relationship. They’re overwhelming and uncontrollable. Simply by recognizing this, you can start getting them the assistance they so badly need.
Do: Speak to your loved one with understanding. Educate yourself about substance abuse and addiction. By doing so, you’ll better understand the turmoil they’re experiencing. After that, you can create a safe climate to help them talk about their feelings and issues.
Don’t: Get annoyed. Taking out your negative emotions on someone who is already fragile does neither of you any good. It’s much more likely to destroy or at least damage your relationship.
Do: Find a good rehab. Collate information on the premier rehabs around and look into all your available options. You can then make the best decision along with your loved one.
Don’t: Encourage them to quit alone. Quitting exclusively by yourself is lonely and (as you have now discovered) is probably dangerous. There’s also the potential issue of giving in to their cravings.
Do: Support the addicted person. Be there for them whenever possible, but not to the detriment of yourself. Also, ensure that any children around you are protected as much as possible from witnessing substance abuse. Let your loved one know you’re always there for them. Tell them that you support their sustained recovery. They probably feel depressed because of their addiction. Let them know that you understand and that they can get professional help and support.
Don’t: Enter into any situation where you will be mistreated physically, psychologically or emotionally. You’re going through a tough time too, and you’ll also need support. You shouldn’t be frightened to ask for help. No-one can be strong 24/7.
How Is an Addiction Treated?
If you’re dependent on a substance, the best treatment avenue is to get into rehab. Here, at 12 Keys we treat your addiction, trauma, interpersonal issues, mental health and behavioral symptoms. We offer holistic and complete recovery. Our expert and experienced staff know very well what troubles you’re coping with. We have been in the same place you are now.
With our 24/7 full support and assistance, your body, spirit and emotions are taken care of in an inviting and positive environment.
You’ll enjoy tailored therapy, ongoing monitoring and expert care. Furthermore, we treat all of our clients as individuals. We are always readily available to address any concerns you may have. Our treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and EMDR therapy, among others. Our clients consistently attain exceptional benefits and continue to lead full, complete and healthy lives.
Why You Need to Get Into a Rehab Now
Now, you have more info to help you create an informed choice on your route toward being substance-free forever. It’s time to seriously consider entering rehab to begin living your life healthily again. It’s extremely tough to stop substance abuse and to stay clean when you’re going it alone. All good rehabs are staffed by empathetic, compassionate and understanding people who want to help. They’ll provide you with all the assistance and support you will need to live a drug-free and positive life.
Before you leave rehab, you need to be sure to stay away from people and places that might cause you to relapse. You should:
• Avoid individuals who get you angry.
• Steer clear of people you used to use with or who gave you your substance. Delete all their contact details from your cell, email and computer. Don’t risk temptation.
• Enjoy the company of good and positive people.
• Avoid dealers and bars. Change your usual route around town accordingly.
• Don’t socialize with people who you know are using or who have drugs or alcohol.
• Ask someone you trust to remove all alcohol or drug paraphernalia from your car and home.
• Fill your fridge, so you always have something tasty to eat.
• Take a lot of rest. Find time to relax and to sleep.
• Make an honest list of the negative effects that drugs or alcohol have had on your life and those of your family and friends. Look at it whenever you feel yourself wavering.
The thought of dealing with withdrawal symptoms can be frightening. Don’t even consider doing it alone. Contact our friendly and understanding team at 12 Keys Rehab today. We’re here for you if you’re feeling lost and lonely. We can help you find your light again as we are a candle in the darkness.
Simply call us any time of the day or night at 866-957-3243. Alternatively, why not complete our online form? We’re in an entirely unique position to help you. Many of us are recovered addicts. We know what you’ve been going through and we know that there’s real hope ahead.
Together we will find the best route forward for you to move on from your addiction. It doesn’t and won’t define you. It’s a problem you’re going through right now. It’s a problem you’ll get over with the right help. Talk to us today. Together we will help you live a sober and fulfilling life.