Definition

Withdrawal is a reaction that happens after drugs or alcohol are stopped.

Withdrawal can be very serious and lead to death.

Causes

Constant misuse changes how your body works. Once you stop, your body needs a chance to get back to normal. During this time, your body can't work as it should. This leads to withdrawal. It can be severe when the stop is sudden.

Risk Factors

Your chances of withdrawal are higher for:

Symptoms

Withdrawal will start after use is stopped. This can be with a few hours to a few days. The types of problems depend on the substances and the length of misuse. The most common are:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Fast heartbeat—tachycardia
  • Problems thinking or understanding
  • Changes in hunger patterns
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Feeling weak
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sleeping problems
  • Seizures
  • Drug craving
  • Hallucinations—seeing or hearing things that aren't there
Anxiety
Physical reaction anxiety
Anxiety is a symptom of drug withdrawal from substances like cocaine and alcohol.
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Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. You may have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests

Treatment

Detox with help from healthcare is safer than doing it on your own. Having care will help with:

  • Watching and helping with problems such as:
  • Supportive care to ease symptoms

How you're treated depends on what you need such as:

  • Vitamins and nutrients
  • Fluids—for dehydration
  • A quiet, healthy place to get better
  • An electro auricular device—gives small electrical pulses to ear to help control opioid withdrawal symptoms

Medicines are used to:

  • Ease cravings and other withdrawal symptoms
  • Control depression, anxiety, and balance your mood
  • Prevent seizures

Opioid and benzodiazepine withdrawal may be helped with:

  • Exercise
  • Good sleep habits

Rehabilitation

Detox is the first step in getting help. Later steps involve therapy or group therapy. They can help you stay away from harmful habits.

Prevention

You can't prevent withdrawal once drug or alcohol misuse has started.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
  • Review Date: 06/2018 -
  • Update Date: 08/21/2018 -