Physical Symptoms of Withdrawal

Drug withdrawal has a powerful impact on the body as well as the mind. During the withdrawal phase, your system must adjust to decreasing levels of addictive chemicals. As your body rids itself of these toxins, you’ll experience symptoms that may make you feel physically sick. While most of these side effects don’t pose a direct threat to your health, they can be very hard to endure.

Perhaps the greatest danger of withdrawal is that the physical symptoms will threaten your new sobriety. That’s why it’s critical to seek support from others when you’re taking on the challenge of getting clean and sober. Within the structured environment of a professional treatment program, you can recover at a healthy pace and minimize the effects of withdrawal on your body.

Why Does Withdrawal Feel So Bad?

If giving up drugs is so healthy for your body, why do you feel so awful when you quit? The answer lies in the way drugs affect you physically and mentally. When you take drugs for an extended period of time, your system adapts to the presence of these chemicals. Eventually your body begins to rely on the drug to feel and behave normally, a condition called “dependence.” Many drugs can cause dependence and withdrawal, including legally prescribed medications. But according to the Merck Manual, the drugs that are most likely to cause physical dependence include:

Drugs like heroin, oxycodone and cocaine produce sensations of pleasure and feelings of energy, which make your body feel good. The psychological effects of withdrawal, like anxiety, fatigue, hostility and depression, can also take a toll on your body. You may feel tired and restless. You may have intense cravings for food, drugs or alcohol during the withdrawal period. Managing these symptoms successfully is the key to avoiding a relapse in early recovery.

How Can I Recognize Withdrawal Symptoms?

When you stop using drugs, you may not immediately recognize the side effects of withdrawal. Some of the most common physical symptoms of drug withdrawal resemble a cold or flu. If you decide to quit, you might experience side effects such as:

  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances 

Most physical withdrawal symptoms aren’t life-threatening, but certain drugs can cause serious side effects that may endanger your health. Quitting benzodiazepines (tranquilizers like Xanax, Valium or Ativan) too abruptly, for instance, may cause severe seizures in high-dose users, warns the Oklahoma State Medical Association. Going through withdrawal under medical supervision at an inpatient treatment center is the best way to get through the process safely.

How Can I Avoid Physical Withdrawal Symptoms?

Although there’s no way to eliminate the physical symptoms of drug withdrawal completely, you can reduce the severity of these symptoms by quitting with professional support. When you seek help from a professional addiction treatment facility, you can take advantage of services such as:

  • Medically supervised drug detox
  • Holistic remedies for drug withdrawal
  • Prescription medications to treat the side effects
  • Individual and group counseling sessions
  • 12-step recovery programs

Taking good care of your body during this stage is essential for a healthy, comfortable recovery. Chronic drug abuse can leave you exhausted, dehydrated and undernourished. If you’ve been neglecting your body, it’s time to talk with a nutritionist or dietitian about developing better eating habits. Getting adequate rest, drinking plenty of fluids and easing your way into a safe exercise program will help to ease the symptoms of withdrawal. These physical improvements will also create a more solid foundation for your rehab and recovery.

Some of the leading rehab centers use holistic therapies like acupuncture, massage, Native American healing rituals, yoga and tai chi to help their clients cope with the side effects of withdrawal. These therapies can speed up the body’s release of toxins, promote relaxation and take the edge off anxiety. They may also encourage deeper rest and help prevent insomnia in the early days of withdrawal.

At Axis, we take advantage of the latest evidence-based rehab strategies to make the withdrawal process easier. While there’s no way to make withdrawal a pleasant experience, we can offer you the tools you need to get through this stage successfully. Our drug rehab specialists are available to answer your questions about withdrawal, detox and recovery. Call us to find out how a personalized treatment program can maximize your chances of achieving lifelong health.