For many, addiction is lonely and isolated, but withdrawing alone comes with many dangers.
Unlike with addiction, the process of withdrawing and recovery does not need to be a solo journey. There are many benefits to using this time as a way to connect with a network of loving, supportive, people.
One of the first ways to ensure this support is through entering a withdrawal program.
Surrounding oneself with a support team during withdrawal highly reduces the discomfort and risks of purging the harmful substance from the system.
Should You Go Through Withdrawal Alone?
There are specific dangers associated with withdrawal from certain substances, and a highly qualified treatment team will be able to anticipate and counteract these dangers.
The following information highlights some of the risks to be aware of as you begin your journey toward sobriety.
This information can be used to plot a course of receiving assistance during your time of withdrawal.
Dangers of Alcohol Withdrawal
Of all the dangerous substances to withdraw from, alcohol tops the list.
There have been several cases of death from the symptoms of withdrawing from alcohol, particularly in regard to the experiencing of violent seizures and cardiac arrest.
In addition to these deadly symptoms, there are also highly uncomfortable physical and mental effects while recovering from the toxicity of alcohol.
While consuming high dosages of alcohol at a regular pace, the body learns to compensate for the fact that the alcohol is slowing the central nervous system – and other brain functions – down.
The bodily system begins to operate in high gear, as it were, to ensure that the effects of the alcohol are not going to shut it down, entirely.
When the user stops drinking, it takes the body a period of time to realize that it no longer has to operate in such an overcompensating manner. This hyperactivity is what triggers the uncomfortable mental and physical sensations, and results in dependence on a substance.
Within a few hours of partaking of the last drink of alcohol, the symptoms of withdrawal begin to emerge.
What begins with headache, grogginess, and nausea can quickly progress to:
- Uncontrollable tremors
- Severe mood fluctuations
- Episodes of disconnection from reality
These symptoms can last for anywhere from a few days, to a few weeks, and can progress to the point that emergency hospitalization is required.
These more severe symptoms are often categorized as delirium tremens, or “DT’s.” Symptoms of DT can include:
- A state of unconsciousness
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Severe confusion
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Aforementioned seizures
Dangers of Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
The dangers of benzodiazepine withdrawal are second behind those of alcohol withdrawal. It has only been recently that attention is being paid the possibility of death from withdrawal of benzos, alone.
In many instances, multiple substances involved at the time of withdrawal, making it difficult to isolate benzos as a factor in death .
Those presenting with symptoms of withdrawal from benzodiazepines are often simultaneously withdrawing from other substances, such as alcohol and opiates.
Clarity surrounding the effects of benzodiazepine withdrawal is primarily coming from those who have been incarcerated and subsequently denied their prescription medications.
Multiple instances of death are purportedly occurring under these conditions, which highlights a need for further investigation into – and awareness of – the dangers associated with withdrawing from this substance.
Depending on the strength and dosage of the drug, the symptoms of benzodiazepine withdrawal can start within a couple of days, and can last for more than two weeks.
This time period includes physical discomforts, such as:
- Muscle pain
- Profuse sweating
The mental and emotional symptoms are also acute, can can consist of agitation; confusion; anxiety; and panic attacks.
Without assistance, these symptoms can progress until the sufferer experiences psychosis and deadly seizures.
Dangers of Opiate Withdrawal
While there haven’t been clearly documented cases of direct death from opiate withdrawal, there are very real dangers with the side effects of the withdrawal symptoms, themselves.
Withdrawing from opiates often involves nausea, diarrhea, and profuse sweating. These symptoms can result in a loss of fluid in the body, and an inability to replenish it.
While there are not documented cases of death from opiate withdrawal, itself, there are many reported cases of death from dehydration.
Apart from the risk of contributors to dehydration, opiate withdrawal also has several other, very uncomfortable, features.
A majority of the physical symptoms resemble having a severe flu, including:
- Running nose
- Watery eyes
- Muscle aches
There are also psychological symptoms, which include:
Unassisted, these psychological symptoms can last from a week to several months.
Managing the physical symptoms of withdrawal while experiencing such psychological distress can become an overwhelming experience.
How Rehab Recovery Can Help
Rehab or withdrawal treatment can both reduce the severity of the symptoms, and hasten the body’s recovery from dependence on alcohol or drugs.
During drug treatment, appropriate medications can be administered, orally or intravenously, and are designed to minimize the body’s reaction to the absence of the affecting drug.
The body’s state of hydration can also be monitored during this time, and vital fluids can be replaced through saline injection, as needed.
Medical care helps to minimize many common symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Head and body aches
In addition to the medical and physical assistance of an treatment setting, there is often mental and emotional support.
Trained providers are familiar with the psychological factors surrounding withdrawal, and know to assist the recovering person with mental health support, empathy and compassion.
Even after the initial psychological symptoms of withdrawal subside, former users often continue to suffer with adjustment symptoms.
A longer-term maintenance plan can continue this psychological support, following withdrawal, with outpatient services.
Studies consistently find that those who receive this type of support during and after withdrawal are more likely to continue with their journeys of recovery.