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What Are the Types of Withdrawal?

The first stage in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction is detox. During detox, clients will have withdrawal symptoms that could range from uncomfortable and distressing to dangerous and even fatal. The types of withdrawal a person experiences during detox depend on factors like overall health, length and severity of addiction, and the specific substance (or substances) of misuse.

At Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, we know that the first step of any journey is the most difficult. Recovery from addiction is no different. That is why we offer inpatient detox services so our clients can begin their recovery safely.

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal refers to the period of addiction recovery where a client adjusts to no longer having drugs or alcohol in their system. People with an addiction also have a physical and mental dependency on substances. In other words, their body and mind rely on substance misuse for normal functioning.

When a person stops using or drinking, they will have some form of withdrawal. This is because substances affect every system within the body. For example, drugs like stimulants suppress a person’s appetite whereas sedatives could help regulate sleep cycles. 

However, other withdrawal symptoms occur as a resurgence of problems that substance misuse helped to mask. Many people with an addiction misuse drugs and alcohol to self-medicate for underlying issues. Therefore, when the substances are no longer masking these issues, the problems resurface in the form of physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.

How Severe Are Alcohol and Drug Withdrawal Symptoms?

The severity of alcohol and drug withdrawal symptoms depends on factors unique to each person and their addiction. The following factors influence how severe withdrawal symptoms could be:

  • A person’s overall state of physical health
  • Presence of a co-occurring mental health disorder or dual diagnosis
  • The length of a person’s addiction (i.e., weeks, months, or years)
  • The amount or dosage a person uses as well as how often they use (daily vs. weekly, for instance)
  • Type of substance that a person misuses
  • Using more than 1 substance (polysubstance abuse)
  • Getting professional help versus attempting to withdraw alone

Often, the discomfort of withdrawal leads people back to using again for relief. As their withdrawal symptoms peak, they give in to intense cravings. That is why getting professional help at a detox facility is important. An inpatient detox facility eliminates the availability of substances to keep a person safe from relapsing during early recovery.

Detox facilities also help those with severe withdrawal symptoms by offering medical and psychological monitoring. Sometimes, withdrawal symptoms can be fatal due to disruptions in respiratory functioning, digestive problems, or heart health issues. In severe cases, a person could be in danger due to confused or delusional thinking during withdrawal.

Which Substances Lead to the Most Severe Withdrawal Symptoms?

Most substances will lead to mild or moderate withdrawal symptoms. For instance, symptoms like insomnia, nausea, anxiety, irritability, and flu-like symptoms are common regardless of the substance. While these symptoms could be distressing, they are rarely life-threatening.

However, opioid or alcohol withdrawal can be among the most challenging and dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms from these substances can even be fatal, especially when people attempt to quit “cold turkey” without professional support. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help to lessen the severity of these symptoms.

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

According to MedlinePlus, severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include the following:

  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Deep sleep lasting a day or more
  • Shakes and tremors
  • Fever and body aches
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Severe confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood changes
  • Respiratory problems like rapid and shallow breathing
  • Seizures

These symptoms are also called “delirium tremens” or DTs due to the severe mental confusion associated with them. Medical monitoring is vital to helping a person safely manage these symptoms.

The Dangers of Opioid Withdrawal

Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous due to the high risk of relapsing as well as some medical complications. When a person attempts opioid detox alone, they are at risk of using again for symptom relief. However, many people overcompensate for the time that they didn’t use. Thus, they could overdose by taking a higher dosage than usual.

In addition, clients can have different types of withdrawal. These types are characterized by how long withdrawal symptoms last.

Withdrawal Type 1: Acute Withdrawal

Acute withdrawal is the most common type of withdrawal during detox. During acute withdrawal, a person’s symptoms will peak, usually within a few days after their last use, regardless of the substance. The peak symptoms of acute withdrawal can last 1 or more days. However, most people will peak around day 3 and their symptoms will taper after that.

Common symptoms of acute withdrawal may include the following:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for substances
  • Depression
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea 
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Appetite changes
  • Bodily aches and pains
  • Profuse sweating

Most detox programs last one to two weeks, as acute symptoms will taper in severity by that point. Still, different people have different types of withdrawal experiences. Some will have protracted withdrawal.

Withdrawal Type 2: Protracted Withdrawal

Protracted withdrawal refers to the length of time that withdrawal symptoms persist. While most people have symptoms for 1 to 2 weeks, some have protracted withdrawal. This means that acute symptoms last longer than expected.

Some factors influencing protracted withdrawal include the severity of the addiction, underlying mental health issues, physical health problems, and the substances a person uses. An inpatient detox program followed by residential treatment can help those with protracted withdrawal symptoms begin their recovery journey.

Begin Your Recovery From Addiction Today

Based in Los Angeles, California, Harmony Place is committed to providing support for individuals grappling with various substance dependencies. We understand the unique challenges that accompany different types of withdrawal and are equipped to guide you through each stage, from the initial inpatient detox to aftercare and involvement in our alumni programs. Our primary goal is to provide a comprehensive and compassionate approach to recovery, helping you regain control over your life.

In an effort to make our services more accessible, Harmony Place accepts health insurance from a wide array of providers. This includes Anthem rehab coverage, Aetna, Cigna, Blue Shield of CA, Carelon, and Humana. By working with these insurance providers, we hope to alleviate the financial stress often associated with treatment, enabling you to focus on your journey towards recovery.

Contact Harmony Place today to begin your recovery from addiction.