It’s hard for someone with an addiction to leave it, mainly because, well, it’s an addiction. Similarly to popular belief, addiction can have physical and mental influences in the addict, and when the addict tries to quit, these influences punish them severely, making the process incredibly hard. These influences express themselves through symptoms, named withdrawal symptoms.
When we talk about addiction, we don’t only mean drug addiction. There are a lot of different possible addictions, and some of the main addictions that hurt most of the population, can even be legal. Addressing these addictions is important, and understand withdrawal symptoms is crucial to help addicts stay away from their addictive punishment. Support is crucial for them, and everyone can help them, to a greater extent if they understand what is going on, and what they are going through. So, let’s get into that:
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Yes, the renowned AA (alcoholics Anonymous) exist for a reason, and that is alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction is defined as the physical or psychological dependence on alcohol. Alcohol addiction is such a huge problem that it is being addressed worldwide and pretty much everyone knows that it can happen. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.3 million people die a year from alcohol dependence worldwide. However, although these numbers can be shocking, according to the Global Health Observatory (GHO) 62 percent of men and women have abstained from drinking alcohol in the past 12 months – these numbers are incredibly carried by so called “Third World Countries,” who are, incredibly, leading the battle against alcohol addiction.
So what makes alcohol dependence and withdrawal so remarkable to generate such figures? First off, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be so strong, the after just a couple of hours from the last drink, they can kick in. They start off with mild anxiety and a little bit of shakiness, and can quickly escalate to seizures and delirium tremens (DT) which causes fever, rapid heart rate and confusion. After one of these symptoms, even if it is just mild anxiety, it is optimal to go see a doctor about them and get help immediately.
Chronic alcohol consumption disrupts the brain’s ability to send messages, by damaging it’s neurotransmitters which also effect the ability of feel excited , and to cope with this damage, the undamaged neurotransmitters work extra hard than they should, and significantly less then they work in people who drink moderately or don’t drink at all. When a chronic drinker suddenly quits, the damaged neurotransmitters naturally heal (our body is amazing, and has the ability to heal on its own) the brain goes through a process known as hyperexcitability, which causes the above symptoms – which, if you pay attention, are exactly the opposite of what happens when someone drinks alcohol.
Although effective, the treatment for alcohol withdrawal syndrome doesn’t take care of the addiction problem, and in order to fix the issue itself, it should be immediately followed by alcohol dependence treatments. The ideal way to deal with alcohol dependence is to join a 12-step group (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) and, if possible, combine it with cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy. Intensive therapy might be required to deal with the problem, but then again, there is always the chance that all the hard work might just end up saving the life of the addict, and prevent damage in the life of everyone who loves him.
Nicotine withdrawal symptoms
Nicotine, you might recognize, is what every smoker is dependent on. Although it is a legal drug it does cause heavy dependence and it can be incredibly hard to get rid of. In fact, recent research suggests that nicotine can be more addictive (note: can be) than alcohol, heroin or even cocaine. Quitting nicotine and going through nicotine withdrawal can be so though that it is widely understood why a lot of people have to take several attempts at it. The withdrawal symptoms and though, and getting back to nicotine will just make them fade away, however, it does have long-term consequences.
For someone who actively smokes and abruptly quits, the symptoms can be from a few to all of these: constipation or diarrhea, headache, cigarette craving, anxiety, irritability, nausea, fatigue and insomnia, depression, increased desire for sweet foods, increase desire to eat and intake calories, difficulty concentrating, falling heart rate and blood pressure. These symptoms will obviously lead to other problems such as stress, weight gain, and these will have a snowball effect, leading to further the depression that might already be there, social anxiety and the well-known cancer (not only lung cancer, but a variety of cancer forms). In fact, in women, nicotine can even induce infertility at reproductive age.
Anyone who is facing nicotine withdrawal and is worried about it’s health or the symptoms that came with the withdrawal (or the lack of ability to face them) should call a doctor and get help regarding the issue. The doctor can prescribe nicotine aids and refer to proper counseling and cessation problems to help deal with the symptoms and the withdrawal process.
Although the process is a tough one, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tobacco smoke contains a mixture of more than 7.000 chemicals (7.000!), to which around 10 percent can cause cancer. This means that around 70 of these chemicals can cause cancer, and we all know the consequences of cancer. When someone quits smoking, and subsequently quits nicotine, this person stops being susceptible to a lot of types of cancer, as well as heart diseases, strokes, and respiratory problems such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
Nicotine is a serious problem that, unfortunately, is not being well dealt with yet, as a lot of high school students worldwide smoke, and most of them, are unable to quit. According to the CDC, only 48 percent of these have actually attempted to.
Caffeine withdrawal symptoms
Caffeine is the most popular drug in the world, and although caffeine can have very positive effects in moderation, it can have incredibly negative effects if it is consumed in an unhealthy manner. Caffeine is the most popular drug, because it can pretty much be found everywhere – in tea, coffee, energy drinks, several types of soda, and even a few types of chocolate. These can be found at pretty much every bar, coffee shop, vending machines and so on. The current coffee consumption worldwide is of 1.3 kilograms per person, this amounts to a total of 7,358,897 metric tons, all of this, at a yearly rate. And according to current studies, the consumption keeps on increasing.
To suffer from caffeine withdrawal, all an individual needs to consume a day is 150-200mg and the greater the amount the individual consumes, the longer the withdrawal lasts and the harder it is to quit. The most common symptoms are: headache, sleepiness, irritability, constipation, lack of concentration, muscle pain, depression, lethargy and insomnia. These symptoms can clearly damage the life of any individual since they will take their toll on a daily basis until caffeine detox is complete.
Luckily for the world, caffeine withdrawal is, usually, not as severe as other withdrawals, and tend to last from a few days to a few weeks and the best part of it all, is that caffeine withdrawal related deaths are rare, and the withdrawal symptoms themselves prove that during withdrawal, an individual isn’t dying but just going through a rough time kicking the dependence. In order to prevent the caffeine withdrawal, it is preferred for any individual to simply avoid caffeine, although it is almost an impossible task to completely get rid of caffeine (since it is pretty much everywhere), the simple initiative of trying to avoid it will reduce the consumption to safe amounts on a daily basis, preventing addiction and thus, preventing withdrawal. This doesn’t mean a small cup of coffee is forbidden, but it should be kept at exactly that, one small cup of coffee.
Nevertheless, caffeine is a drug, and can have negative and positive effects on the body. In order to only get the positive effects, it should be consumed moderately.
Heroin withdrawal symptoms
Heroin is an illegal drug, and there is a clear reason for it, it eventually leads to death. Heroin itself produces an effect that quickly induces euphoria and relaxation at the same time, and it blocks the brain’s ability to perceive pain. People who abuse heroin are usually great at concealing their addiction, and hiding it from people who love them and who want the best for them. And if someone is suspected of abusing heroin, people around them should immediately start looking for signs before trying to confront them with something they don’t know for a fact, and don’t have anything to back the confrontation with, except suspicion.
These signs are visible during and after consumption: shortness of breath, small pupils, disorientation, dry mouth, tired appearance (as if the body is heavy), hyper alertness and nodding off and sudden behavioral changes.
Heroin is a drug that changes people, and unfortunately, anyone with an addiction to it might just have behavioral signs that include lying to loved ones, avoiding eye contact, incoherent speech, sudden unsuccess in school or at work, decreased attention to personal hygiene and physical appearance, lack of motivation, and lack of interest in hobbies and activities. These signs are all pretty clear, and quite noticeable. After some time of use, tolerance is gained against heroin, which will lead to greater consumption, meaning more needle marks, infections, weight loss and cuts & bruises.
During withdrawal, users experience intense heroin cravings, profuse sweating, muscle aches, nausea, insomnia, cold sweats, crying, fever intense cramps, runny nose, diarrhea and chills. Users usually go back to heroin, because the injection of the drug makes all of these symptoms stop, however, any heroin user should be assisted in quitting the drug since withdrawal symptoms can lead to death if any further medical complications are present. Usually, heroin withdrawal becomes more of a psychological problem than a physical one for heroin users, since they fear the withdrawal and as such, don’t even attempt to get help or quit the habit. Medication and behavioral therapies are crucial.
Opiate withdrawal symptoms
Opiates are drugs that are commonly prescribe to treat pain, and the most common examples of opiates are Vicodin and OxyContin. Although great to treat pain that users might have for whatever reason, they can too cause an addiction, and there is a whole black market for these drugs that keeps on making profits. Usually, the symptoms of opiate dependency are physical.
The body builds up acceptance to opiates, and over time, larger amounts are required to get the same effect that smaller amounts used to give. This, of course, can be extremely dangerous, since it increases the risk of accidental overdose (which can lead to death), and prolonged use of these drugs will change the way the brain receptors work, leading to physical dependence.
The withdrawal symptoms of opiates are different for most people, and come at different times, depending on the consumption and the types of opiates taken. However, it is common that in the first day some of these symptoms appear: muscle aches, restlessness, anxiety, runny nose, excessive sweating, eyes tearing up and inability to sleep. As time goes by, worst symptoms start to appear, such as: abdominal cramping, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Although these symptoms are very strong, they usually start to weaken after three days, and after a whole week, withdrawal should almost be over.
Withdrawal symptoms from opiates might be passed from pregnant women to babies, who will also suffer from the symptoms. In babies, the opiate withdrawal can lead to dehydration, digestive issues, vomiting and seizures. These symptoms can very easily threaten the life of the baby.
Opiate withdrawal can be lighter if proper medication is applied, and users facing withdrawal should always consult a doctor that can help them get through their complications and get healthy. If properly taken care of, opiate withdrawal is usually not a lethal condition.