An addiction can become a prison once withdrawal symptoms set in and tolerance builds up. People find themselves taking a drug that no longer gives them pleasure, but when they stop taking the drug, they experience severe flu-like symptoms that can grow into worse conditions like hallucinations and insomnia. Some people seek help at a drug and rehabilitation center while others are brought there by loved ones.
Treatments for addiction have advanced over the years as psychology and biology have worked together to create new drugs that can counteract addictive drug effects. Some of these medications are able to induce terrible feelings in the person when they take an addictive drug, while others can remove the pleasure experienced by the drug completely.
What is Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is a series of unpleasant symptoms after a person stops taking a substance they are addicted to. This is why substance addiction is also called substance dependency because the person literally becomes dependent on the substance to feel normal and to avoid anxiety. The severity of withdrawal depends on:
- How long the person was using the substance
- Which substance was used (i.e. alcohol, cocaine, heroin)
- How the substance was used (i.e. smoked, injected)
- Family history of substance addiction
- How much of the substance has been taken each time
Knowing these factors, some people may experience a brief period of withdrawal symptoms while others may struggle with withdrawal for close to a month long. The reason the body responds this way is because the brain rewires itself based on learned habits. This rewiring creates networks that expect and need the substance in order to properly function in a “normal” way. Drug use is a habit the brain needs to function normally, so when a drug is abruptly ripped away from the brain, the brain does not take this well. Drug rehab is designed to help the person get through this process.
Withdrawal from Opiates
Opiates include heroin and opioid painkillers prescribed by doctors, often after surgery or a serious injury. What opiates do is they numb any physical and mental pain the person may be experiencing by attaching the endorphin receptors in the brain. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and opiates just so happen to be the right shaped molecule to fit the same receptors sites as endorphins do.
There are two phases of opiate withdrawal, early and late withdrawal. Symptoms of early withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Nasal congestion
- Excessive sweating
Late withdrawal symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chills with goosebumps
- Abdominal pain
- Dilated pupils
Withdrawal from Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used for inducing sleep and relaxing muscles. Early withdrawal symptoms include:
- Panic attacks (feeling like you are having a heart attack, fast heartbeat, rapid or trouble breathing, extreme anxiety)
- Trouble with memory and concentration
- Profuse sweating
- Muscle pain
Severe withdrawal symptoms include:
- Delirium (disorientation, lack of coordination, confusion)
- Seizures (may be life-threatening and have a higher chance of occurring the longer the person was using benzodiazepines)
The reason so many are encouraged to enter drug and rehabilitation centers is because of the life-threatening nature of certain withdrawal symptoms like seizures, which most often occur without supervision, when the person stops cold turkey.
Withdrawal from Cocaine
Cocaine is a stimulant that significantly increases alertness, energy, and euphoria in the user. A few withdrawal symptoms of cocaine are:
- Crash – extreme fatigue, drowsiness, depression, agitation
- Cravings to use again
Withdrawal from Alcohol
Most people already know that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, but alcohol also acts on the same areas of the brain for relaxation and sleep. There are several withdrawal symptoms from alcohol that include:
- Nausea followed by vomiting and dehydration
- Fatigue and depression
- Mood swings
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle pain
- Increased heart rate
Medications for Substance Dependency
A lot of the medications for treating substance addictions in drug rehab were discovered by accident and then implemented. Some of these drugs induce unpleasant reactions in the body when the person takes an addictive substance because a long time ago, psychology discovered aversion therapy. Aversion therapy is designed to extinguish an unwanted behavior by pairing that behavior with an unpleasant or aversive stimulus.
To treat alcohol addiction, many drug rehab centers use another drug called Antabuse. Antabuse only works when the person consumes alcohol and causes a headache, fast heartbeat, nausea with vomiting, and dizziness. Some of these reactions are similar to withdrawal symptoms but may be enough for the person to realize that it is easier to stop drinking alcohol than it is to drink and experience these negative effects. Medications similar to Antabuse include Campral (Acamprosate) and ReVia (naltrexone).
Naltrexone is also used for opiate addictions be straight up blocking endorphin receptor sites. This blockage prevents any kind of opiate from inducing pleasure in the user and in turn, reduces the person’s desire to use the addictive substance again. Naltrexone also has the same effect on alcohol use. Cravings play a huge role in maintaining addiction, so by reducing cravings, this drug saves the person part of the challenge of overcoming addiction.
Modafinil is used for cocaine addiction by getting rid of the drowsiness and fatigue withdrawal symptom so that people overcoming cocaine addiction can still function in their daily lives. Paxil is an antidepressant used for alcohol withdrawal because it reduces anxiety. Lastly, there are anti-seizure and anticonvulsant medicines for severe withdrawal symptoms.
How to Get Help for Addiction
At The Recover, we understand that substance addiction is not something that is easy to overcome for anyone. There are several drug and rehabilitation centers that will give you access to many of the above medications to alleviate your withdrawal symptoms. Treatment with support from others gives you a fighting chance.
The Recover is an unbiased substance abuse and mental health news provider that helps people who are looking for the right treatment programs in their area. We also provide information on West Virginia centers for addiction recovery. If you are experiencing difficulties with controlling how much you drink, please feel free to contact us at (888) 510-3898 to talk to a treatment specialist who can help you find the right drug treatment center for your personal needs.