Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
When a person is a substance abuser, don't they realize their life is being destroyed?
Substance Use Disorder, commonly known as addiction, is a complex condition that can significantly impact a person's judgment, perceptions, and decision-making abilities. Here are a few reasons why someone struggling with substance abuse might not fully realize the extent of the damage it's causing to their life:
Denial: It's common for individuals suffering from addiction to be in denial about the extent of their problem. They might underestimate how much or how often they use, or they may not acknowledge the negative consequences that their substance use is causing.
Altered Brain Function: Addiction affects the brain's reward system and impairs cognitive function. This can distort a person's ability to clearly see the harm that their substance use is causing. They may focus intensely on the immediate rewards of drug use while minimizing or ignoring the long-term negative consequences.
Co-occurring Disorders: Many people with Substance Use Disorder also have other mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. These conditions can exacerbate feelings of denial or self-deception about the extent of the substance abuse problem.
Fear and Shame: Fear of withdrawal, fear of change, and shame about their substance use can also prevent individuals from admitting to themselves or others the full extent of their problem.
Lack of Awareness: Some individuals may not understand the signs and symptoms of addiction, or they may not recognize that they can seek help and that recovery is possible.
What are the symptoms of opioid withdrawal?
Opioid withdrawal can be a challenging process that presents both physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on factors like the type of opioid used, the duration and intensity of use, individual health status, and genetic factors. Here are common symptoms that might be experienced during opioid withdrawal:
- Muscle aches and pains
- Restlessness and agitation
- Runny nose and teary eyes
- Excessive yawning
- Goosebumps (hence the term "cold turkey")
- Abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Intense cravings for opioids
These symptoms can begin as early as a few hours after the last dose of the opioid and typically peak within 72 hours, though they may persist for a week or more. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms, which are primarily psychological, can continue for weeks or even months.
It's important to note that while opioid withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, it is generally not life-threatening. However, complications like severe dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea can occur, which is why medical supervision is recommended during the withdrawal process. Furthermore, the risk of relapse is high during withdrawal, and using opioids again after a period of abstinence can lead to a potentially fatal overdose, as tolerance may have decreased.
What does drug withdrawal feel like?
Drug withdrawal is a complex process that can feel different for everyone, depending largely on the type of substance involved, the duration and intensity of use, and individual factors like overall health and genetic predisposition. However, some general experiences and symptoms are often associated with the withdrawal process:
Physical Symptoms: Many people experience physical discomfort or illness during withdrawal. Depending on the substance, this can range from flu-like symptoms (such as fever, chills, sweating, muscle aches, and fatigue) to more severe symptoms like seizures or hallucinations. Opioid withdrawal, for example, is often compared to a severe flu, while alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening in severe cases.
Psychological Symptoms: Withdrawal can also involve psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and cravings for the substance. These can be just as challenging, if not more so, than the physical symptoms.
Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal from many substances, while vivid or disturbing dreams may occur when withdrawing from others.
Discomfort and Distress: Generally, withdrawal can be a very uncomfortable and distressing process. The body has become used to the presence of the substance, and it can react strongly when the substance is no longer available.
Cravings: One of the most challenging aspects of withdrawal for many people is the intense cravings for the substance. These cravings can be both physical and psychological, and they can be triggered by various factors, including stress, people, places, or things associated with substance use.