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Signs of Drug Withdrawal

Feb 01 | 2014

Examining Different Aspects of Drug Withdrawal

Drug withdrawal refers to a set of symptoms that occur as a result of cessation from a drug or medication that one has habitually used for a prolonged period of time, which sometimes require a medically managed detox. The symptoms of withdrawal are as varied as the substances that produce their effects. One can experience withdrawal symptoms from Stimulants such as Methamphetamines, from Sedatives such as Valium, long lasting tranquilizers such as Barbiturates, in addition to Opiates such as Heroin. These symptoms can persist throughout the numerous stages of treatment, past detox into Residential Treatment, and sometimes into Continuing Care if the individuals usage was severe enough.

The development of drug withdrawal symptoms are exclusively precipitated by dependence, which in turn necessitates habituated use, and usually occurs in tandem with addictive pathology. For the sake of clarity, addictive pathology can be regarded as an umbrella term – a shorthand – that covers a wide range of behaviors, disorders, and personality traits, which, taken together, indicate the presence of addiction. In cases where addiction is present, there is a constellation of characteristics that, broadly speaking, give shape to the treatment measures best suited to the individual, and orient the trajectory of the protocols that will be employed to help them get clean. At ARC, each client is treated as an individual, and as such given the dignity of a personalized assessment that strives to avoid assumptions with regards to their care. For the person looking to get clean or a loved one attempting to help a spouse, son, daughter, etc, acquire help, this is of the utmost importance.

Drug Withdrawal Follows A Predictable Path

For example, Heroin withdrawal follows a predictable course and manifests with a predicable set of symptoms which last for a specific set of time that occur regardless of one’s personality traits or psychological characteristics. As such, detoxing someone from Heroin requires certain steps that are as universal as the symptoms themselves; as such detox can be successfully achieved with the assistance of assumptions that usually pertain to the physical aspects of the detox process. It should be noted, however, that even symptoms as predictable as Heroin, it is nonetheless necessary to take into account emotional and psychological considerations that are unique to the individual, without which comprehensive treatment is impossible.

This holds true for Stimulants and Sedatives alike. Each substance, medication, or drug, manifests common features that will occur at stages regardless of the personality traits each person brings to the table. There are also scenarios that, by their very nature, require scrutiny in a way that honors them as unique beings requiring a unique set of interventions. This is especially true where a person has become dependent on a drug but demonstrates little or none of the Addictive pathology that typifies the Addictive cycle.

Severity of Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
Symptomatically (in addition to the variety of drug being abused), the severity of the withdrawal symptoms is proportional to the quantity and duration of abuse. A long-term Methadone habit will be significantly more uncomfortable than a two month Vicodin habit, although symptomatically there will also be similarities. And, in the same way Addiction occurs in stages, withdrawal progresses through clearly defined stages, as does the entire treatment process.

Physical Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms can manifest as both physical and psychological symptoms, which are caused by physiological adaptions in the central nervous system and the brain due to chronic exposure to a specific substance. The following list is not comprehensive but should give you an idea of some of the more common physical symptoms that indicate the presence of withdrawal. These include:

  • Increased heart rate and/or blood pressure
  • Sweating, chills, runny nose and fever
  • Body aches, pains, and cramps
  • Hallucinations, seizures, confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting, decreased appetite
  • Insomnia, restlessness
  • Anxiety, nervousness, increased stress
  • Volatile mood swings, suicidal thoughts, extended periods of depression

Med Compliance Dependency and Withdrawal
There are situations in which a person becomes unwittingly dependent on a medication that is obtained legally and prescribed by a physician. This particular scenario presents certain complications with regards to treatment protocols, not the least being that they otherwise manifest none of the drug seeking behaviors and dual diagnosis illnesses that are present in most addicts. This particular variety of Addict is usually baffled, terrified, and resistant to the idea that they are in the same situation as a Heroin addict who has spent years running the street and engaging in anti-social behaviors. There are scenarios in which a person becomes addicted to a Sedative – Valium, for instance – without demonstrating the behaviors that typify addictive pathology. In situations of this kind, detox protocols must be tailored to the individual, despite the fact that this is the stage of recovery where assumptions can be safely made because of the commonality of physical withdrawal symptoms.

The Essence of Drug Withdrawal Treatment

Unfortunately, treatment has become an industry; primarily concerned with the bottom line as opposed to the well-being of the client. Efficiency has become so pervasive that the integrity of the treatment process has degenerated proportionally to the quality of care that is available. Today, more often than not, the treatment process is preoccupied with streamlining its protocols and operating under generalized assumptions that have less to do with ensuring the client receives dignified, personalized care, as it does maintaining census. With regards to the medical component of treatment, addiction is not the same as, say, high cholesterol, where treatment measures are standardized and adhere to a set of interventions that apply effectively to both elderly Caucasians as well as young African Americans. Addiction is so complex with regards to its pathology that to make overly broad assumptions actually hinders the addict’s progress towards recovery. ARC’s treatment team and staff is distinguished by the manner in which it approaches the person seeking help. And, although there are elements and features of addiction that occur on a continuum of dysfunction – regardless of race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic factors – the bane of effective treatment is relying on presumptions that effectively evades the nuances of the person as well as their specific needs.


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