When Drug Withdrawal Becomes Deadly

withdrawal can kill you

You’re probably familiar with the dangers of taking drugs, but were you aware that withdrawal can kill you? It’s true. Drugs are dangerous in many ways. They can cause your vital systems to function improperly or to not function at all; they can consume your life with addiction, and they can irreparably damage your brain. But one additional risk of drug abuse is withdrawal.

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When your body is used to the presence of a certain substance and then you take it away, it can be hard to adjust. As the high starts to wear off, you want more. When the drugs are no longer in your system, you don’t feel quite right. Taking more drugs seems to solve this problem.

But if you want to quit an addiction, it’s time to detox. Get those drugs out of your body, and take back your life. Addiction is a very powerful condition and it’s one that is not easily broken. Withdrawal is the first difficulty you will run into on your way to sobriety, but it cannot be avoided if you want to get clean. The best way to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal is to get help — don’t go through it alone.

Deadly Drugs to Withdraw From

Withdrawal is different for different substances and can be more or less painful depending on a number of variables — what substances you use, how long you’ve been addicted, the dose you take and how often and if you had an underlying mental illness before you started abusing drugs. Even your unique chemical and genetic make-up play a part in the withdrawal process.

Withdrawal symptoms usually only occur while your body is still detoxing. For some individuals and certain substances, the symptoms persist for months or even years. Once you’re clean, the physical dangers are pretty much over. The good part of withdrawal is that it doesn’t usually last more than a couple weeks at the most. Still, it’s an experience you only want to go through one time if you can help it.

Certain substances are more difficult to withdraw from, mostly because of the way they affect chemicals in the brain. When your brain relies on these substances and then it disappears, it can take a while for the brain to produce the chemicals needed to function properly in their absence. The most difficult drugs to withdraw from are:

deadly drugs to withdraw from


Many people have the false impression that alcohol is safer than most illicit drugs. Withdrawal from alcohol addiction, especially if that addiction went on for many years or involved large and frequent doses, can be deadly and should not be undertaken alone.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures


This class of drugs includes sedatives like Valium and Xanax that are sometimes prescribed for anxiety or other nervous conditions. It is easy to get addicted to tranquilizers and dangerous to withdraw from them.

A specific set of tranquilizer drugs, benzodiazepine (benzos), are the most dangerous to withdraw from. Withdrawal symptoms, including the following, can last for years:

  • Numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Night sweats
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Short-term memory loss

The symptoms can be so severe that most insurance companies require medical supervision for benzo detoxing. The Food and Drug Administration only recommends these drugs for short-term use to try to mitigate potential, prolonged and deadly withdrawal symptoms.


People have been trying to withdraw from opiate addiction since the early 1900s when the natural derivative, opium, was the substance of choice. Through the decades, attempts were made to develop a drug to treat opiate addiction, but the result was always something more powerful and more addictive than the original.

Opiates are dangerous substances that alter brain chemicals and the psychological withdrawal symptoms can be even worse than the physical ones. The most common deadly withdrawal symptom is suicidal thoughts. Some addicts report having suicidal thoughts every hour combined with restless and sleepless nights during detox. Heroin is one of the worst, and unassisted withdrawal from this drug can be fatal.

Most Dangerous Drug Withdrawal Cases

Drug withdrawal ends in death more often than it is reported. In many instances, the cause of death is assumed to be from the drug itself. When an addict turns up dead, the family and friends think they know what happened. In fact many believe they could have predicted this outcome. They are not always aware it was actually a failed withdrawal attempt.

withdrawal from which drug is most likely to be fatal

A number of things can go wrong during withdrawal that make it dangerous to undertake alone. Physical symptoms like low body temperature or irregular heartbeat are not uncommon when the body is detoxing. You cannot rely on someone who is withdrawing from severe substance abuse to monitor their own vital signs and seek help when appropriate. With the appropriate medical attention, these symptoms are not fatal.

Perhaps the most deadly withdrawal symptoms are psychological. Drugs that alter the brain’s chemistry and interfere with normal thought processing pose great risk. When withdrawing from drugs that cause psychological effects, depression is common. Many addicts suffer from mental illness to begin with. Adding the extreme depression and suicidal thoughts that accompany withdrawal on top of that can be a fatal combination.

How to Self-Detox from Drugs

You may have heard addicts talking about going “cold turkey” by abruptly giving up their habit and quitting their addiction. For the most part, this is a dream that some addicts have when they realize how serious their addiction is and wish they could just make it stop.

In reality, once you develop a habit of taking drugs, it is almost impossible to stop immediately. Abruptly quitting a drug habit is not safe, and it can be very dangerous to throw your body into such imbalance — especially if you’re physically addicted to your substance of choice.

Whether you plan to go cold turkey or slowly reduce your consumption over time, self-detoxing is NOT a good idea. Drug withdrawal can be deadly, so when you’re ready to attempt it, you should have some medical supervision on your side. Detoxing is only the beginning of addiction recovery. Without a qualified rehab program, you cannot address the other factors that influence addiction. Rather than figure out how to self-detox from drugs, it’s safer to consult a qualified rehab center like 12 Keys.

Alcohol Self-Detox

Alcohol can be just as dangerous as drugs when it comes to addiction and detoxing. You may know someone who claims to have quit an alcohol habit without any help from a 12-step program or a rehab center. This is not the norm according to statistics, though. Without assistance, most recovering addicts relapse. The instance of relapse among alcoholics is particularly high because their drug of choice is easily available and socially accepted in most circles.

alcohol self-detox

People who attempt self-detox from alcohol experience symptoms such as:

  • Agitation
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Dilated pupils
  • Rapid heart rate

When you make the decision to end your addiction, this is the time to make up for all the care you haven’t been giving yourself. Don’t try to do it alone. Getting professional help with your detox and recovery will make it easier and more comfortable for you.

Nutritional Support

Regardless of how your detox unfolds, there are some things you can do to help yourself get through it. Detox is all about getting the chemicals out of your body so it can begin to heal any damage that was inflicted by substances. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself when outside forces do not damage it. Here are some ways you can support yourself through the detox journey:

  • Drink plenty of water. Water will help flush the drugs out of your system, and it will also stimulate your liver and kidneys. These organs act as filters in the body, so you’ll need them working overtime to get rid of those toxins.
  • Exercise enough to produce sweat at least once a day. Sweat is another way your body eliminates toxins. Vigorous exercise will stimulate various organs in your body to keep moving those toxins out. Be careful not to overdo it, though. If your heart rate gets too high or doesn’t come back down after exercising, seek medical attention.
  • Add seaweed to your diet. Seaweed prevents chemicals in your body, like the toxins in drugs, from being absorbed into your system. The seaweed will do the job of absorbing toxins and taking them out through the digestive system. It’s an excellent filtration system you can add to your body’s natural defenses.
  • Include a 500 mg tablet of dandelion flower each day. This can help to enhance liver function, making detox happen faster. Dandelion flower acts as a diuretic, getting rid of excess fluid in the body. Combining dandelion flower supplements with drinking water can speed up the detox process.
  • Peel and slice a piece of fresh ginger, pour boiling water over it, and sweeten with honey. Drink at least one cup of this ginger tea each day. Ginger increases circulation and promotes sweating, two things that will hasten your detox. These effects are also enhanced with additional water.

how to self detox from drugs
Anything that increases circulation, stimulates organ function, and pushes more fluids through your system is going to help your recovery. Toxins in the body need to be diluted to move through faster. They may have been collecting in various organs or other parts of your body for a while like a muddy sludge. Water and activity will shake things up and get them moving again, which will ultimately lead to better heath and long-term recovery.

Safe Withdrawal From Drugs and Alcohol

The best way to avoid the dangers of withdrawal is to abstain from drugs and alcohol. When it comes to prescription drugs, you may not even recognize the dangers of addiction until it is too late. Even alcohol addiction has a way of sneaking up on people who thought that one or two drinks would be ok. For some, that’s all it takes to detour their lives down a path of destruction.

It’s never too late to kick your alcohol or drug habit, get clean and live a happy life. The horror stories of withdrawal should not deter you from making the choice to turn your life around. Most people who have been through detox admit that the anticipation of it was worse than the experience itself. Once you have detox behind you, you can work on rehabilitation and moving your life forward in a positive direction.

Withdrawal from drugs, especially alcohol, tranquilizers and opiates, can be dangerous and should be approached with some safeguards in place. The best way to experience withdrawal is under the supervision of a medical professional in a qualified detox program. Withdrawal doesn’t have to be deadly if you simply undertake it in the right way.

Making the decision to give up your addiction is the first step toward a better, happier, substance-free life. Some people say you have to hit rock bottom to begin to get better. Others just make a sudden commitment to themselves or their loved ones to give it a try. Sometimes an addict finally realizes that they cannot sustain their addiction any longer due to financial, health or other reasons.

Whatever your reason is for contemplating withdrawal, 12 Keys is ready to help you through it so you can begin healing. We have the resources to assist in your detox, making it as safe and comfortable as it can be. Why risk everything once you’ve made this important decision to turn your life around? Make sure you complete your withdrawal with the confidence that you can do the work necessary to beat your addiction for good.

By contacting 12 Keys with your decision to break your addiction, you can be sure you are getting the most accurate advice about a detox program that is right for you. Our compassionate, experienced staff can answer all of your questions about withdrawal and addiction recovery. We have a program that is right for whatever your rehab needs are, and we know the importance of individualized attention in drug and alcohol addiction recovery.

You can call 12 Keys anytime. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you make the next step in your recovery. All you have to do is contact 12 Keys today to begin the healing process.

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The Addiction Blog