First Step Into Recovery: Withdrawal

Recovering from drugs is not an easy road. You will experience a lot of discomfort and pain, especially during the withdrawal period. However, withdrawal is something you cannot avoid since it is part of your detoxification and recovery. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to ease the uncomfortability of withdrawal. If you are going through withdrawal right now or must do it in the future, this article can help you get through it. Here’s what you need to know. 

What is Withdrawal?

As an addict, your brain and body is used to the chemical changes made by drugs and/or alcohol. However, once these chemicals are flushed out during detox, your brain circuitry will attempt to re-adjust to normal functioning once more. Unfortunately, until it can accomplish this, you will be lacking some important chemicals in your brain while it tries to get back to normal, and it is during this time that the withdrawal symptoms will be the strongest. 

Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the individual and the amount and type of drugs they took. The duration, type of withdrawal symptoms, and intensity of the withdrawal phase will also vary based on the drug used, method of consumption, co-occurring disorders and level of dependency

Substances like opioids, alcohol and benzodiazepines may result in very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Sometimes, it can even be deadly if the user suddenly stops using these substances. This is referred to as “quitting cold turkey,” which can be life-threatening if not treated immediately through medical detox and with the supervision of trained health care professionals. 

Withdrawal of the drugs and alcohol in the body can result in a myriad of side effects. Among of them include the following:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness 
  • Seizures
  • Nightmares
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Back and joint pains
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Irregular heart rates
  • Sweating
  • Excitability
  • Fever, cold and clammy skin
  • Respiratory distress
  • Dilated pupils
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Delirium
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Hallucinations
  • Mental confusion
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Sensitivity to pain
  • Disorientation
  • Muscle weakness 
  • Loss of appetite

Handling Withdrawal Symptoms

So how can you handle withdrawals during recovery if these signs and symptoms are showing? Besides being monitored by a trained health care professional, you can also do the following:

Be a part of a medical detox program

In order for withdrawal symptoms to be fully managed, it is crucial for you to attend a medical detox program. Keep in mind the withdrawal symptoms can both be an emotional and physical experience. If you don’t know how to handle the waves of symptoms, then it can be dangerous to you and even fatal if not properly treated. Studies show that 5% of people who suffer from alcohol withdrawal will experience what is called delirium tremens, which is a life-threatening form of alcohol withdrawal. Without proper care, this symptom can cause death to the person withdrawing from alcohol intake. 

A medical detox can last up to 10 days on average. During this time, the patient is monitored by healthcare professionals ‘round the clock. Some cravings or symptoms can be managed with the help of medications as well as emotional support that is provided to the patients 24 hours, 7 days a week. This is to ensure that patients have the support they need, no matter what form it may be. 

Eat a well-balanced diet 

Eating a well-balanced meal can definitely help in your fast recovery. Diet plays a big role in healing your mind and body, which is why it is essential for you to prepare a meal rich in vitamins, proteins and nutrients. This will help in keeping your brain healthy and for your body to function normally again. Keep in mind that when you were addicted to substances, the drugs and alcohol depleted the nutrients in your body. Eating the right food and drinking lots of water can help replace the nutrients you have lost. Doing this can help in your quick recovery. 

In case you have no idea what to eat or how to prepare a healthy meal, you can always ask a dietitian about the recommended diet for recovering addicts. This way you can prepare the right meal every time. 

Get plenty of exercise

Besides eating the right diet, adding an exercise routine in your daily activities can also help in your fast recovery and manage withdrawal symptoms. Exercising can help your brain release more endorphins which can also help restore its balance. It reduces your stress and tension as well as promoting better sleep. According to studies, exercising can help reduce the chances of relapsing, and at the same time decreases the cravings. 

You don’t have to do intense workouts in order to achieve this. Instead, you can try walking, running, or simple aerobic exercises to keep you stable during withdrawal. Exercising is not only beneficial for your body but also for your mental health which is why it is important that you include this in your routine everyday. 

Get enough sleep

Sticking to a sleeping schedule is also crucial during the withdrawal stage. This does not only promote healing to your body, but to your emotional health as well. When you are well-rested, you are able to think clearly, control your moods, and avoid cravings. Going to sleep as scheduled is also a good way to establish a healthy sleeping routine. It can also help in balancing your heart rate and blood pressure which helps in your recovery. So make sure to avoid watching television or being on your phone before sleeping so you can get proper rest. 

Practice meditation, stretching or yoga

Yoga and meditation have been promoted by many health experts as an alternative to alleviate any pain felt in the body. Stretching and trying yoga poses can also help in stimulating blood flow as well as blood circulation. This also relieves tension, stress and muscle ache that you might have. The use of meditation and proper breathing techniques can also help one to be more aware of their bodies and be in tune with it. So the more you practice, the more you become aware of how your body works and how you can help yourself recover faster. Relaxation techniques are also helpful in your recovery. This means learning how to slow down your thoughts and regulate your breathing in order to reduce anxiety and get rid of negative emotions. You can practice this along with yoga and meditation for better results. 

Learn how to communicate with your family, friends and therapist 

One of the best forms of therapy is talking. This can be helpful in externalizing your emotions, thoughts, and helps in alleviating emotional distress. So reach out to your family, talk to them and voice out your thoughts. You can also participate in counseling and therapy sessions so you can learn about healthy coping mechanisms, as well as turning negative thoughts into more positive ones. 

Withdrawing from drugs and alcohol is not going to be easy, especially if you have been addicted to drugs or alcohol for a long time. However, if you want to turn your life around and start clean then this is something you must go through. The good news is that you have a lot of options on how you can handle it. The only thing you have to do is to commit to your recovery so your efforts are not in vain. When this is over, you will be glad you went through it, so trust the process.