Whether you are abusing drugs or alcohol, dealing with the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal can be difficult, and when unsuccessful, can lead to relapse. Coping with cravings means instituting good habits that effectively circumnavigate your attention from the substance to the new, healthy practice. If you’ve tried to quit before, you know that this can be the worst part of beginning recovery. If you’ve relapsed in the past, you may not know that these unpleasant withdrawal symptoms do not last forever.
IDENTIFYING WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
Drugs alter a person’s ability to think clearly and exercise good judgment. Especially when experiencing withdrawal, the brain will try to rationalize just about any reason to make taking drugs a good idea. Common symptoms of drug withdrawal may include:
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Emotional instability, anxiety, and depression
- Restlessness or insomnia
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Sweating, clammy skin, and hot flashes
- Stomach cramps
- Flu-like symptoms: weakness, muscle aches, and headaches
- Lack of or increased appetite
These symptoms alone don’t always lead to relapse. There are other emotional, social, or mental factors that can contribute to the risk of relapse as well. These symptoms include:
- A heightened negative or positive emotional state – turning to substance abuse because you feel bad or because you want to increase your good feelings
- Social situations – turning to substance abuse due to social pressure, because you’re in circumstances in which substance use is occurring, or because of conflict with another person
- Physical discomfort due to severe symptoms
- Intense cravings or temptation to use drugs
- Testing personal boundaries – many people use just “one more time” because they think they can stop at any point
The Severity of Withdrawal Symptoms
Several factors can define the severity of withdrawal symptoms. The first factor is the level of dependence on the drug. Individuals who are more dependent on a drug are likely to experience more severe withdrawals. The second factor is the duration and amount of drug use. Individuals who have used drugs for a longer period and in higher amounts are likely to experience more severe symptoms of withdrawal. The third factor is the presence of coexisting medical or psychiatric conditions. Individuals with other medical or mental health conditions may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Healthcare providers can help determine the level of care required based on the severity of your withdrawal and physiological dependence.
Not every treatment option or coping mechanism works for every person. Each person has a different addiction and reasons for abusing substances, so not every treatment will work for everyone. It’s important to remember that if something doesn’t work, you can try another method. Commitment to abstinence is key in achieving lifelong sobriety. Look at the reasons why you started taking drugs and why you kept doing it. It may help you identify which coping approaches will be best for you.
Activities like exercising and yoga can be very helpful in keeping your mind off drugs. Yoga tends to help balance and center a person, much like meditation, and can prove very valuable in averting drug cravings. Many smokers for example don’t quit smoking for fear of gaining weight. Exercising just a few times a week can negate this result and make it easier for someone to quit.
Support of family and friends, and even counseling groups like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous, can be very encouraging for someone with an alcohol or drug addiction while quitting. Having someone to talk to and talk through your cravings can help quell the desire to use.
Prepare for psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression, as well as physical symptoms like muscle cramps and rapid heart rate. By knowing what to expect during the withdrawal period, you can make an action plan to help combat the cravings. If you’re prone to anxiety, identify ways you can work through the panic. Meditation, breathing exercises, and sensory strategies can help with this.
There are medications available to help with the withdrawal effects of addictive substances. Methadone and disulfram are two such medications that can treat withdrawal from heroin and alcohol, respectively.
Sometimes a person can cope with the withdrawal process on their own, but usually only if they are dealing with a mild or short-term drug or alcohol abuse issue. During severe physical dependence or severe withdrawal symptoms, however, a treatment facility like Futures Recovery Healthcare can help you achieve and maintain sobriety. We can work with you to implement a variety of strategies that can help you cope with cravings and effectively manage your abstinence. Call us today to learn more about the treatment options available.