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What is Withdrawal?

Defining Withdrawal

Withdrawal is a syndrome which occurs when an individual stops taking or rapidly decreases the dosage of a psychoactive substance. It’s most often associated with controlled substances such as opioids and other commonly-abused medications and drugs.

Put succinctly, withdrawal is a symptom of a much greater problem– a maladaptive brain that’s been physically influenced by problematic substances (or dosages of them). As drug tolerance rises, our brains eventually become unable to compensate for a lack of whatever substance our bodies have become accustomed to having present within them.

What’s happening in the body?

Brain abnormalities are common once opioid users fall too deep into addiction. These abnormalities produce a number of effects and may take many physical forms both during the period of drug use and once a patient enters withdrawal.

As soon as withdrawal begins, changes occur within the body. Because your brain (and the rest of you, too) have adapted to the presence of drugs within your system, they react negatively once those drugs are removed. Addictive substances have real, tangible effects on the way our bodies work– while you may experience respiratory congestion, fatigue, or constipation on opiates, coming off of them will often produce an equal and opposite effect.

Withdrawal is the body’s attempt to even out whatever has been thrown out of balance by substances like drugs or alcohol; and, because opioids produce a very real physical dependence, it takes ample time to detox fully and allow your brain, nervous system, and vital organs to re-learn how to function without the presence of drugs.

The symptoms

Virtually every effect of withdrawal can be summed up as the result of over-activity or depression of functions which were suppressed or made hyperactive by the drugs the patient was using prior to stopping or decreasing dosages. Symptoms can last anywhere from a matter of hours to several weeks or months and vary in intensity.

While these vary from patient to patient (and substance to substance), some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Aching muscles
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Runny nose

Some symptoms tend to remain dormant until patients reach day two or three of withdrawal. Examples of these include:

  • Cramping and diarrhea
  • Goosebumps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat and elevated blood pressure

Withdrawal Timeline

How long does withdrawal take?

Withdrawal from opiates generally begins anywhere from four to seventy-two hours after the last use. Dosage, tolerance, and a myriad of other factors will influence exactly how long it takes for the symptoms of withdrawal to appear.

Early symptoms like muscle aches, agitation, and insomnia may begin to manifest within six to thirty hours following drug use depending on the strength of the drug. Late symptoms– like vomiting, depression, and cravings– often peak within about seventy-two hours and last upwards of a week or more.

Once acute withdrawal ends, patients enter what’s known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (or PAWS). This period can last up to six months and is often considered the point in recovery where patients are at greatest risk of relapse. Physical symptoms may come and go, but depression and anxiety often intensify.

When are symptoms at their worst?

Symptoms of opioid withdrawal are widely considered to peak within seventy-two hours after the last dosage of drugs is administered. With that in mind, each patient’s experience in withdrawal varies; and just because physical symptoms are at their worst at a given time, that doesn’t mean that the patient in question will actually view that as the worst part of their withdrawal experience.

Managing Withdrawal

Support and counseling

Building up a personal support network and leveraging the help of professional counselors or therapists can be integral to managing withdrawal. Those who lack access to counseling services may be able to find free support elsewhere within the community, like NA meetings or free services offered through non-traditional avenues.

When you’re coping with the physical symptoms of withdrawal, it can be helpful to have a trusted friend or family member nearby as you work through its effects. You may need assistance preparing meals, getting to the restroom, and keeping hygienic throughout the course of your experience. Emotional support, too, is critical to making withdrawal more bearable and decreasing chances of relapse.

Medical treatment options

There are a wealth of medical treatment options for those who are looking to cease drug use and manage withdrawals. Hospitals and specialized facilities generally offer detox programs designed to help flush drugs from your system and offer some level of mental support, but come along with downsides like:

  • High costs
  • Removal from family, friends, and community
  • Strict day-to-day living restrictions
  • The need to arrange childcare, pet care, and time off of work

Some opiate users opt to use suboxone to wean off of their drugs of choice. Suboxone is a combination of two medications that bind to the same receptors in the brain as opiates do; it’s essentially a temporary replacement for opiates during the recovery process. However, relying on Suboxone to help manage symptoms of withdrawal involves negative side effects like:

  • Drowsiness and insomnia
  • Digestive issues
  • Impaired coordination
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Increased blood pressure

Assisted detox

Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (or NAD) IV therapy is an alternative to more traditional methods of treatment like Suboxone and in-hospital detox programs. The process involves receiving one infusion of NAD, which is an enzyme known to help repair cells in our bodies, per day for a length of ten days. Some reports even indicate that NAD IV therapy may reduce withdrawal symptoms by as much as eighty percent.

The Benefits of Assisted Detox

Assisted detox which integrates NAD IV therapy can be tremendously beneficial to individuals who struggle with the symptoms of opiate withdrawal. The treatments are non-addictive and relatively inexpensive when compared to the prices of suboxone or lengthy inpatient stays. NAD infusions are all-natural and only require you to meet with your doctor once per day, which leaves you free to continue holding down life back at home.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and concerned about the effects of withdrawal during recovery, there may be a unique solution to the problem. Contact us today to inquire about how completing NAD+ IV Therapy with BrainSpark Health could help open doors to the path to your recovery.

With the fewest negative impacts of virtually any treatment option, this innovative and patient-centric approach to care offers an excellent alternative to traditional treatments and their side effects.