Commonly Asked Questions about Addiction and Treatment
How long do drug withdrawal symptoms last?
The duration of drug withdrawal symptoms can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of substance used, the duration of use, the degree of dependence, individual metabolism and health status, and whether one quits cold turkey or with medical assistance.
Generally, withdrawal symptoms can be divided into acute and post-acute phases:
Acute Withdrawal: This is the initial phase of withdrawal, where physical symptoms are typically the most severe. Depending on the substance, acute withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours to a few days after the last use and can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. For example, alcohol withdrawal symptoms often start within 8 hours of the last drink and can last up to a few days or weeks, while opioid withdrawal symptoms usually start within 12-30 hours of the last dose and can last approximately a week.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS): Some individuals may experience a second phase of withdrawal known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. PAWS refers to a group of symptoms that occur after the acute withdrawal phase, predominantly psychological, such as anxiety, irritability, mood swings, depression, and sleep disturbances. PAWS can last from a few weeks to a year or more after the cessation of substance use.
It's important to remember that withdrawal can be dangerous and even life-threatening in some cases, especially when it comes to substances like alcohol and benzodiazepines. Therefore, withdrawal should always be done under medical supervision. The support and treatment offered by medical professionals during detoxification can also help to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and make the process safer and more comfortable.
Can I force my adult child to get help for their addiction?
While it's natural to want to help your adult child struggling with addiction, it is essential to recognize that you cannot force them into treatment if they are unwilling. As an adult, they have the right to make their own decisions, and treatment is most effective when the individual is motivated and ready to change.
However, there are several ways you can support and encourage your adult child to seek help for their addiction:
- Express concern: Openly share your concerns about their substance use in a non-judgmental and empathetic manner. Use "I" statements to convey your feelings and avoid blaming or accusing them.
- Offer information: Provide your adult child with information about addiction and the available treatment options. Encourage them to research these options and consider the benefits of seeking help.
- Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries to protect yourself and other family members from the negative consequences of your adult child's addiction. For example, you might decide not to provide financial support if it enables their substance use.
- Encourage support group attendance: Suggest that your adult child attends support group meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These meetings can offer valuable peer support and help them understand that they are not alone in their struggle.
- Consider an intervention: If your adult child remains resistant to seeking help, consider organizing a professionally guided intervention with the assistance of a certified interventionist. An intervention involves gathering loved ones to express their concern and present an united front in encouraging the individual to enter treatment.
- Seek support for yourself: Dealing with a loved one's addiction can be emotionally taxing. Connect with support groups, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, which are specifically designed for family members of individuals with addiction. These groups can provide valuable resources and coping strategies.
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.