The pain and discomfort associated with withdrawal and drug detox can sometimes be a barrier to treatment for addicts who want to stop using. Fortunately, not everyone experiences symptoms, and for those who do, the worst usually happens in less than 10 days. However, the experience is more than physical discomfort – there are other pains related to detoxification and recovery that addicts and alcoholics must be prepared for and learn to deal with.
1.) Physical pain and discomfort
The physical symptoms associated with drug or alcohol detox are the most serious in terms of potential dangers. The most serious symptoms include cardiovascular conditions, seizures, and shortness of breath. Less serious symptoms include sweating, nausea, vomiting, “skin tingling”, headache, migraine, insomnia, restlessness, poor appetite, and many others.
The physical pain of detoxification is caused primarily by acute withdrawal syndrome, or AWS. AWS occurs when neurons that were suppressed by drug use or drinking are suddenly activated again after withdrawal. Damage to neurons and nerve circuits also causes a reduced ability to handle stress in areas of the brain and central nervous system, which can also be perceived as physical pain and discomfort.
2.) Emotional pain
Many people who go through detoxification and withdrawal experience emotional pain. This includes depression, feelings of sadness, inability to feel joy, irrational responses to emotional stimuli, detachment from other people, anger and rage, insecurity, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and other emotional disturbances.
Most of the emotional symptoms of AWS are caused by dysphoria, the opposite of euphoria. In simple terms, when people get high they are looking for some kind of euphoria, which is produced by various neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine, glutamate, serotonin, and others. By “tricking” the body into releasing these “feel-good” substances, desensitization eventually occurs in which the body only produces these substances when driven by the introduction of a foreign substance, that is; cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, etc.
Consequently, when people stop using drugs, they also often temporarily lose the ability to feel certain feelings; generally the specific feelings sought by drug use. For example, cocaine users who have gained confidence in the drug will likely feel tame and insecure during early withdrawal and withdrawal. Morphine users accustomed to feelings of intense joy may instead experience intense sadness during detox. Marijuana users who were once relaxed on marijuana become anxious during withdrawal, and methamphetamine users who get bursts of energy from the drug may feel drained and struggle with energy levels.
3.) practical pain
Few people have the practical pain of sudden drug cessation. Within a few days, patients generally begin to see their situation with greater precision than in the past while still using drugs. What they often realize is that their life is a mess: financial problems have likely arisen, jobs are often lost, careers are destroyed, and educational opportunities are destroyed. Additionally, many drug addicts and alcoholics face legal difficulties as a result of their behaviors while intoxicated or in search of substances.
The practical pain can be as simple as the stress of worrying about finding a new place to live after detox, or it can be as complicated as a promising career now burning in metaphorical ashes. These practicality problems can cause emotional pain, but generally the pain caused by such problems is the result of the stress of knowing that, too soon, they must be addressed and resolved.
4.) Shame and shame
Completely separate from any of the above types of stress, pain, or discomfort is the shame many alcoholics and drug addicts feel when they finally clean themselves up. It often occurs while they are still detoxifying, many people in the early stages of recovery are embarrassed by the behaviors they exhibited while actively using, as well as the things they did and the people they hurt to continue substance abuse. despite best efforts. their support networks and the obvious consequences of continued alcoholic or addictive behavior.
This pain of shame and embarrassment is important to mention because even if an addict doesn’t experience many physical, emotional, or practical signs of pain or discomfort, they will almost certainly feel ashamed and embarrassed that they have sunk so low that detoxification and rehab are necessary. to literally save their life when they couldn’t do it themselves.
Looking on the bright side
Fortunately, most of the feelings associated with AWS and detox begin to subsidize within a few days and largely subside within two weeks. So while it’s important to understand exactly what to expect during early withdrawal and detoxification, it’s also critical to understand that many of the symptoms are caused by neurological processes in the brain that cannot be controlled.
Symptoms related to AWS will occur if the addict is recovering at home or in a professional medical detox setting. Therefore, treatment is more likely to be effective when the addict has access to resources, therapies, and medications to have the best chance of getting through this short but challenging period and coming out on the other side of long-term recovery efforts. Otherwise, many of those who do not know what to expect and do not have adequate support will relapse to prevent relapse.
Ultimately, the signs and symptoms of sudden drug or alcohol withdrawal and AWS are uncomfortable and sometimes painful, but they are certainly better than the results of ongoing substance abuse: jail, illness, violence, suicide, death. If someone you love is going this way, taking action right now could literally mean the difference between life and death.