Physical & Mental Symptoms Associated With Drug Withdrawal

The importance of treating drug abuse

Drug use can have terrible physical and psychological effects. Dependence on drugs, also known as addiction, occurs when a person is using drugs independent of a medical professional. Addiction to and abuse of drugs negatively impact all parts of the person’s life.

Use of drugs can change relationships, work ethic, and personality of those abusing them. Not to mention the health issues that occur when your body’s balance is off.

What is withdrawal and why is it an issue?

While most people think of drug abuse as an issue, you may not realize that withdrawal from drugs can also cause serious adverse effects. In some cases going “cold-turkey” or getting off drugs immediately instead of slowly decreasing the amount over time, can be very dangerous.

Our bodies are constantly trying to maintain a balance known as homeostasis. When this balance is upset by drugs the body works to balance out with the drug. Then, when the drug is no longer present the body is out of balance again. This causes the adverse effects of withdrawal until the body is able to reach homeostasis again.

The effects of withdrawal

The withdrawal you would go through depends on the type of drug being abused. Different drugs have different withdrawal symptoms. Therefore there are different withdrawal criteria for each type of abuse. Here are some of the most commonly abused drugs.


Stimulants cover a wide variety of drugs and medications. Prescription medications such as Adderall and Ritalin fall under this category. But those aren’t all, hardcore illicit drugs such as cocaine and crystal meth are also included. As well as a variety of common everyday items such as caffeine and diet pills. Withdrawal symptoms for this class tend to be emotional and psychological. Although symptoms of drug withdrawal in this class vary greatly, many are associated with depression, insomnia, fatigue, and cravings. With some, such as methamphetamines serious complications can occur. These include paranoia, seizures, and hallucinations. However, with something like caffeine, the withdrawal is much milder. It usually only includes headaches, irritability, and some mild insomnia.


Alcohol has a high likelihood of developing physical dependence. This means that withdrawal symptoms can include flu-like symptoms. Such as nausea, shakes, vomiting, and headache. These symptoms worsen the more the person has abused alcohol. Those who have heavily abused it may find themselves with much worse symptoms. These can include confusion, hallucinations, and even seizures. These people need constant medical supervision as they are at a much higher risk of death.


This class of drugs is often used for anxiety and seizure control. Some are well known such as Xanax and Valium. But this class is not limited to just these two. They are similar to alcohol in that you can develop physical dependence, and the symptoms of withdrawal are similar. Flu-like symptoms are common in these types of withdrawal symptoms and again like alcohol, there is a risk of seizures and death without medical intervention and supervision.


Also known as opioids, this class includes prescription drugs, mostly prescribed for chronic pain, and some illicit drugs as well. Morphine, Vicodin, and OxyContin are all in this class, as well as the heroine. This drug class is usually less fatal than some of the others. But there are still severe symptoms, both physical and psychological. Nausea, vomiting, mood swings, depression and anxiety are all common.


While nicotine is not very physically dangerous, it may invoke moderate psychological discomfort. Nicotine is known for its severe craving, but the rest of the symptoms are much more mild. They include headache, dizziness, shakes, depression, anxiety and possibly nausea.

These are by no means all of them. There are other symptoms recognized and other drugs recognized as well.

Ways to minimize withdrawal symptoms and treat drug abuse

There are different ways of treating drug abuse and subsequent withdrawal. One such is having a medical professional oversee the tapering off of your addiction. With this, they will administer smaller and smaller doses of your drug until you have reached a state of balance or homeostasis without it.

Another method is to administer drugs to counteract the adverse withdrawal side effects. They then taper off both of the drugs at the same time. This method is often preferred for withdrawal from narcotics, alcohol and benzodiazepines. Particularly the last two, because withdrawal from these can cause serious side effects such as seizures and death. Along with these, behavioural counselling is used, with long term follow-ups to decrease the likelihood of relapse.

Trying to solve a drug problem on your own can be frustrating, not to mention dangerous. Luckily, you don’t have to. In today’s world, medical advances in treatment mean that no one has to fix a dug abuse problem on their own.

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