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Drug Withdrawal

As a person uses more and more of a drug, it becomes abuse which may lead to drug dependence. When drug use is stopped, drug withdrawal symptoms are experienced and these can be severe. The type and severity of one.s drug withdrawal symptoms often depend on the drug being abused. The route of administration, whether intravenous, intramuscular, oral or otherwise, can also play a role in determining the severity of drug withdrawal symptoms.

Stages Of Withdrawal

There are different stages of drug withdrawal as well. Generally, a person will start to feel worse and worse, hit a plateau, and then the symptoms begin to dissipate. However, drug withdrawal from certain drugs (benzodiazapines, alcohol) can be fatal and therefore the abrupt discontinuation of any type of drug is not recommended. The term "cold turkey" is used to describe the sudden cessation use of a substance and the ensuing physiologic manifestations.

The sustained use of many kinds of drugs causes adaptations within the body that tend to lessen the drug's original effects over time, a phenomenon known as drug tolerance. At this point, one is said to also have a physical dependency on the given chemical. This is the stage that drug withdrawal may be experienced upon discontinuation. Some of these symptoms are generally the opposite of the drug's direct effect on the body.

Depending on the length of time a drug takes to leave the bloodstream elimination half-life, drug withdrawal symptoms can appear within a few hours to several days after discontinuation and may also occur in the form of cravings. A craving is the strong desire to obtain, and use a drug or other substance similar to other cravings one might experience for food and hunger.

Drug withdrawal symptoms range from mild to extreme. In the case of mild drug withdrawal, the person experiences nausea, vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, insomnia and tremors. More serious withdrawal symptoms include, but are not necessarily limited to fever, rapid pulse rate, heart palpitations, heavy sweating, respiratory distress, hallucinations. Other extreme physical manifestations are difficulty walking, confusion and the person may also have seizures. From mild to extreme, drug withdrawal symptoms can become life-threatening.

Although drug withdrawal symptoms are often associated with the use of recreational drugs, many drugs have a profound effect on the user when stopped. When drug withdrawal from any medication occurs it can be harmful or even fatal. This is why prescription warning labels explicitly say not to discontinue the drug without doctor approval. Drug withdrawal is a more serious medical issue for some substances than for others. While nicotine withdrawal, for instance, is usually managed without medical intervention, attempting to give up a benzodiazepine or alcohol dependency can result in seizures and worse if not carried out properly. An instantaneous full stop to a long, constant alcohol use can lead to delirium tremens, which may be fatal.

Getting over the withdrawal symptoms is an important part of treatment and recovery. If a person is in constant discomfort, extreme or otherwise, it is difficult to move forward in the process. Depending on the drug of choice used by the patient, medical professionals can design a treatment plan to help ease the severity of the withdrawal symptoms and allow the patient to return to a more healthy state. This treatment includes medical intervention for drug detox and to curb withdrawal symptoms, mental health counseling, social services and group therapy.

Drug Withdrawal: Marijuana

About 10 percent of people use marijuana regularly, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The drug acts on the central nervous system (CNS), causing a euphoric effect. When a person stops using after a high dosage or after chronic use, drug withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and agitation are experienced. The user can also have anxiety and suffer from insomnia.

Drug Withdrawal: Benzodiazepines

People who use benzodiazepines such as alprazolam, lorazepam, diazepam and chlordiazepoxide build up a tolerance by six months of use, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Physical drug withdrawal symptoms can occur such as abdominal pains and twitching. Cognitive functions can also be affected, which include impaired memory and concentration. Other withdrawal symptoms of benzodiazepines are agitation, anxiety and paranoia.

Drug Withdrawal: Cocaine

Cocaine causes the user to feel euphoric, but when use is stopped, it can produce a "crash." Intense craving for the drug results, according to the NIH, along with fatigue, a depressed mood, increased appetite, agitation, suspicion and unpleasant dreams.

Drug Withdrawal: Opiates

The NIH states that 9 percent of the population misuses opiates, which include heroin, methadone, morphine and codeine. Drug withdrawal symptoms start within 12 hours for heroin and 30 hours for methadone. Early symptoms of opiate withdrawal include sweating, agitation, insomnia, muscle aches and anxiety. As the withdrawal progresses, the person can also have nausea, dilated pupils, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and goose bumps.

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