One of the most common symptoms of drug abuse and drug addiction (also called substance use disorder) is physical dependence. When you’re physically dependent on a drug, your body starts relying on it to function normally.
If you stop using it, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Here are seven of the most common.
Almost everyone who goes through withdrawal will experience cravings. A craving is a strong urge to use a drug even when you understand the consequences of drug use.
Cravings make some people feel weak. However, they’re a normal part of withdrawal and recovery.
Most cravings are caused by triggers. Triggers are places, people, or other things that make you want to abuse drugs. For example, you might be triggered if you walk into a bar or if you see someone you used to do drugs with.
A therapist can help you identify and manage your triggers. Some ways to manage cravings include:
- deep breathing
- staying busy with healthy activities like painting, gardening, or cooking
Anxiety is an intense feeling of fear. It can cause physical symptoms such as:
- fast heartbeat
- shortness of breath
- unexplained aches and pains
In most cases, anxiety appears early in the withdrawal process and fades within a few weeks. However, it lasts longer for some people.
When left unmanaged, anxiety can contribute to other mental health concerns, including depression. You can reduce your anxiety by making time for relaxing activities such as reading, taking a bath, and spending time with supportive loved ones. You could also talk to a therapist.
Because withdrawal can be so uncomfortable, it may leave you feeling irritable. This symptom can make you say and do things you normally wouldn’t.
For instance, you might insult someone you love or even become physically aggressive. That’s why it’s important to try and reduce this symptom as much as possible.
For example, when you feel yourself getting irritated, head to a quiet place and take some time to cool down. You should also limit your caffeine intake and get at least seven hours of sleep per night. A good night’s sleep can stabilize your mood and reduce your risk of aggression.
Goosebumps occur when your hair follicles rise on your skin. They’re a common withdrawal symptom for many different types of drugs, including cannabis, heroin, and prescription opioid painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. They’re often accompanied by sweating.
While goosebumps usually don’t cause problems, you might find them annoying if you get them a lot. You can lower your risk of goosebumps by dressing warmly and regularly moisturizing your skin.
5. Trouble Sleeping
During withdrawal, many people have trouble falling or staying asleep. A lack of sleep can worsen other withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and irritability.
If you struggle with this symptom, try:
- keeping your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet
- limiting screens before bed
- avoiding caffeine and sugar before bed
- going to bed and getting up at the same time each day
You should also create a relaxing bedtime routine. For example, you could silence your electronics, put on some calming music, and read a book in bed.
6. Increased Heart Rate & Blood Pressure
Central nervous system stimulants such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and amphetamine (Adderall) can raise your heart rate and blood pressure. These symptoms may continue for a few days or even weeks after you quit the drugs.
They can also occur when you’re withdrawing from non-stimulant drugs, including alcohol and opioids. In severe cases, they can lead to life-threatening complications like heart attack and stroke.
A seizure is a sudden surge of uncontrollable electrical activity in the brain. It causes symptoms such as:
- teeth clenching
- tongue biting
- grunting or other unusual sounds
- rapid eye movement
- loss of consciousness
Seizures often occur in people who develop delirium tremens, a condition that causes severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They’re also relatively common in benzodiazepine withdrawal. Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription drugs that include Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium.
How To Manage Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
You’re more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms if you quit drugs suddenly (also called “going cold turkey”). Instead, seek help at a medical detoxification program.
During medical detox, a team of medical professionals will help you slowly and safely stop using drugs. They may also prescribe medications to treat both physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal.
In general, your symptoms will go away within a few days or weeks. If they don’t, you may be diagnosed with post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). In this case, you may require detox treatment for an extended period of time.
If you’re recovering from opioid addiction, your doctor may prescribe buprenorphine and methadone, which can ease opioid withdrawal symptoms.
If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse or addiction, please contact a Recovering Champions specialist. Our compassionate health care providers offer family counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and other outpatient drug addiction treatment options.