For those who have not experienced it first-hand, addiction and withdrawal symptoms are a difficult concept to grasp. Many may assume that addicts simply lack willpower, or a moral compass. Some feel like addicts should be able to cease drug and/or alcohol use at any time. When in truth, this is not the case whatsoever. Addiction is a complex disease that effects both the mental and physical body.
Drugs alter the way the brain works, leading to extremely unpleasant, uncomfortable, and potentially fatal symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms set in when a person who has engaged in prolonged substance abuse suddenly stops getting their fix. Drug and alcohol abuse changes the way nerve receptors work in the pleasure center of the brain. After long-term substance abuse, the body becomes dependent on the particular substance or substances in order to function.
- Meth withdrawal. Symptoms of meth withdrawal may include intense anxiety, paranoia, profound depression, psychosis, and excessive lethargy.
- Opiate withdrawal. Withdrawing from opiates such as heroin or the prescription drugs, OxyContin or Vicodin causes low energy, insomnia, anxiety and agitation, muscle aches, diarrhea, and vomiting. In many cases, withdrawing from opiates can be dangerous. Later, more intense symptoms may include rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure.
- Alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include tremors, hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, seizures, and nausea and vomiting. Delirium tremens, a condition that may occur with alcohol withdrawal, is fatal for five to 15 percent of those who detox without medical supervision or intervention.
- Stimulant withdrawal. Withdrawing from stimulants such as cocaine and prescription medications like Adderall and Dexedrine is rarely fatal. Yet, the symptoms can be extremely distressful and include severe anxiety or depression, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts.
- Sedative withdrawal. Withdrawing from sedatives like the benzodiazepines Valium and Xanax can be extremely dangerous if the substance in question is suddenly withheld. Detox for these medications is typically a tapering off process to prevent dangerous withdrawal symptoms that may include an increase in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate.
After long-term substance abuse, an addict will have to take more and more of a particular drug in order to achieve the same desired effects. They become more dependent on their substance or substances of choice, and will have to take them simply to avoid the withdrawal symptoms associated with detox. Once someone has formed a drug or alcohol addiction, it is advised they complete the detox process at a licensed facility. In some circumstances, their life will depend on it.