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Why Do People Experience Withdrawal?

Having an addiction to drugs or alcohol is both a physical and psychological disease. Therefore, the withdrawal that occurs when the substance use stops is doubly challenging.

The behaviors that coincide with addiction make the user believe that they can’t function without the substance, and the physical dependence can make stopping feel so awful it doesn’t last. It’s why many can be hesitant to ask for help.

Why do people experience withdrawal? What leads to it, and how do you deal with it?

Why Do People Experience Withdrawal?

What Is Withdrawal?

Drug withdrawal is a physiological response to quitting the use of a substance to which the body has grown dependent. 

When someone is addicted to a substance, they are using it regularly. That continued use causes the brain to grow accustomed to the presence of said substance. 

When the brain expects that substance, the body struggles to function normally without it. The withdrawal process is the brain trying to rewire itself in a way. After being used to this substance, the brain now needs to readjust to full functioning without it, and it takes time for that to happen.

Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to build up a tolerance and dependence on a substance. Therefore, it takes time for the body to adjust to not using the substance.

However, as stated earlier, this isn’t just physical. The physical withdrawal symptoms will decrease and stop after days or weeks, depending on the person and their level of addiction. Still, the emotional and mental aspects can last much longer.

The effects of withdrawal vary from person to person. The symptoms someone experiences during withdrawal will be physical, mental, and emotional and be mild or severe depending on:

  • The type of substance/behavior and how long it was used
  • A person’s age, physical and psychological health
  • The withdrawal process 

If left untreated, many withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous or even fatal

Withdrawing from drugs or alcohol can be so uncomfortable that it can stall or even stop recovery efforts for some people. Just the pure fear of withdrawal symptoms can halt people from attempting to recover – the rigors of heroin detox are well-known even to those who don’t use drugs. However, understanding withdrawal symptoms and what to expect from them can prepare you for what’s to come.

One important point: detox should always be done at a detox center. Detoxing at home or on your own can be dangerous. A drug rehab can provide resources on professional detox.

Physical Withdrawal

Physical withdrawal is one of the most physically demanding and uncomfortable aspects of recovery. The symptoms range from minor to severe depending on the substance used and factors like the person’s health, length of the addiction, and amount of the substance used. 

Some of the more minor physical symptoms of withdrawal, although unpleasant, aren’t usually life-threatening. These include:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood
  • Fatigue and difficulty sleeping 
  • Irritability
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Shakiness and tremors
  • Sweating

Beyond these, withdrawal symptoms can also include fever, seizures, hallucinations, and delirium. These symptoms can lead to serious health problems, permanent damage to the body, and even death. 

The good news is that these symptoms can be treated with the help of medically assisted detox and treatment. Most of these symptoms will subside in days or weeks, and then recovery becomes more focused on the psychological elements of addiction.

Emotional Withdrawal

Emotional or psychological withdrawal symptoms may not be as physically uncomfortable but can last much longer and impact someone more intensely.

Although addiction happens physically, the behaviors of someone who is addicted don’t stop when the substance is cleared from the system. Continuous cravings and urges to use can last years after withdrawing. 

The most common symptoms of psychological withdrawal include: 

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Emotional overreaction or numbness
  • Sleeping problems
  • Sensitivity to stress
  • Lack of motivation
  • Rapid mood changes

These symptoms also don’t always decrease over time. They can shift daily and are usually unpredictable, leading to struggles with mental health, relationship issues, and even trouble at work.

As time goes on, you may feel like these symptoms are improving, but with stress or life changes, they can reoccur and be just as dreadful as they were initially.

This is why it is so important to get proper addiction treatment featuring long-term care. Detox, rehab, and therapy teach you how to cope with things that can be triggering or lead to relapse.

Managing Symptoms of Withdrawal

Withdrawal is one of the most challenging aspects of addiction recovery. It includes physical discomfort, anxiety, and exhaustion. Seeking treatment for these symptoms through detox and rehab is the best option.

However, withdrawing from a substance is only the first step of many parts of the recovery process.

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains, “It is very common for people who complete withdrawal management to relapse to drug use. It is unrealistic to think that withdrawal management will lead to sustained abstinence. Rather, withdrawal management is an important first step before a patient commences psychosocial treatment.”

That continued treatment for addiction and all aspects of withdrawal includes medically supervised detox, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), support groups, and other forms of creative and productive work. 

Withdrawal Is Part Of Addiction … But It’s Manageable

When someone experiences an addiction, withdrawal becomes a part of it. Anytime the body and brain are accustomed to a substance being present, it will react to a lack of that substance.

When someone attempts to withdraw from a substance, withdrawal symptoms occur. Experiencing sweating, shaking, vomiting, and even seizures is more than physically agonizing but also scary. Facing both the body’s adjustment and your mental and emotional symptoms can be overwhelming. Without proper treatment, many people return to substance use to halt these symptoms.

Withdrawal can be managed with detox and treatment. Having a medical staff available to support you through such a vulnerable time provides you with the necessary care and motivation. Lessening the withdrawal symptoms and beginning addiction treatment with professional guidance offers you a better chance for long-term recovery.

At, we want to help you find the best detox facility so you can start your healing journey now. Start your search with today!

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