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Drug Withdrawal - An Overview

In order to understand drug withdrawal, we must first understand the concept of drug addiction, or for that matter, alcohol addiction. Addiction comes in two forms:

Firstly, that you use more than you should.

Secondly, you use the medication sknowing fully well its negative effects

Some drugs produce significant physical withdrawal (alcohol, opiates, and tranquilisers while others produce little physical withdrawal, but more emotional withdrawal (cocaine, marijuana, and ecstasy). Every person deals with withdrawal differently.

Symptoms of Drug Withdrawal

As mentioned earlier, there are two types of withdrawal symptoms.

Emotional withdrawal symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Insomnia
  • Social isolation
  • Headaches
  • Depression

Physical withdrawal symptoms

  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Some symptoms can be extremely dangerous and life-threatening including seizures, heart attacks, hallucination and delirium tremens.

Risk factors of Drug Withdrawal

You may be at risk for an alcohol or drug addiction if you:

  • Have a family history of addiction
  • Have another mental health disorder
  • Susceptible from peer pressure
  • Suffer a lack of family involvement
  • Suffer from anxiety or depression
  • Suffer from loneliness
  • Consume a highly addictive drug

Diagnosis of Drug Withdrawal

Your doctor may ask you a series of questions to see if you suffer from drug addiction, also known as substance abuse. The questions may include:

  • You want to cut down or quit, but haven't been successful
  • You often take larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time than you intend
  • You spend a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug
  • You have intense urges for the drug that block out any other thoughts
  • You keep using the drug, even though you know it's causing problems in your life
  • You aren't meeting obligations and responsibilities because of your substance use
  • You give up or cut back important social, occupational or recreational activities because of your substance use
  • You have physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the drug, or you take the drug (or a similar drug) to avoid withdrawal symptoms
  • You use the substance in situations that may be unsafe, such as when driving or operating machinery
  • You develop tolerance, which means that the drug has less and less effect on you and you need more of the drug to get the same effect
  • You use the substance even though you know it's causing you physical or psychological harm

Treatment of Drug Withdrawal

Treatment for drug addiction or substance abuse can be divided into:

  • Chemical dependence treatment programmes which include:
    • Individual, group or family therapy sessions
    • Levels of care and settings that vary depending on your needs
    • Understanding the nature of addiction and preventing relapse
  • Detoxification
  • Counselling
  • Self-help groups
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