Substance use disorder often causes people to isolate themselves from loved ones. When they decide to quit using drugs or alcohol, they need a positive support group like their closest friends and loved ones. Learn how to help someone going through withdrawal and the resources available.

What Happens to Your Body During the Process of Withdrawal?

Going through withdrawal can be uncomfortable and challenging, both physically and mentally. The body goes through various changes while adjusting to the lack of drugs or alcohol.

Depending on factors such as the type of drug and length of addiction, withdrawal can be life-threatening. Seeking professional help, attending a comprehensive treatment program, and having a solid support system can make the withdrawal process easier.

Common Alcohol and Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the substance a person abuses. Common symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Cravings
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in mood
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Changes in appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Shakiness
  • Confusion
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

Withdrawal from alcohol and certain drugs can sometimes cause severe withdrawal symptoms such as hallucinations, seizures, and delirium. The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on the type of substance, the length of time, and the amount a person uses.

Why is Drug Detox Important for Withdrawal?

There are many reasons why drug detox is important for withdrawal. The most significant reason is to help someone safely rid their body of drugs or alcohol. Drug detox also helps prepare a person to transition into a treatment program to focus on recovery.

How to Deal With Withdrawal Symptoms?

how to help someone with withdrawal symptoms

If you are asking how to help someone going through withdrawal, the answer is to get them into treatment. In treatment for withdrawal, a person receives support, medication, and the care needed to minimize symptoms and prevent complications.

Some people can stop using certain substances and manage their withdrawal symptoms without treatment. However, quitting substances such as benzodiazepines or alcohol can be potentially dangerous.

The FDA-approved medications used during detox depend on the type of substance a person abuses and their specific needs. Some of the drugs include:

  • Methadone – a long-lasting, full opioid antagonist medication to stabilize and maintain recovery from opioids
  • Ativan (lorazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam) – a long-lasting benzodiazepine to treat benzo addiction
  • Buprenex (buprenorphine) – a partial opioid antagonist used to control cravings and reduce withdrawal symptoms from opioids
  • Librium (chlordiazepoxide)
  • Catapres (clonidine) – reduce specific symptoms of opioid withdrawal such as anxiety, tremors, chills, and sweating.

Other medications include anti-anxiety medications, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and others to treat nausea or sleep issues. Treating withdrawal doesn’t treat addiction; a person should enter a treatment program for further treatment.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that can help treat a wide range of mental health conditions, including addiction and substance withdrawal symptoms.

While CBT alone may not directly target the physical symptoms of withdrawal, it can be a valuable tool in managing the psychological and emotional aspects associated with withdrawal. CBT can help treat withdrawal symptoms through:

  • Education about the withdrawal process and what to expect physically and mentally
  • Identifying and challenging negative thoughts
  • Developing coping strategies
  • Problem-solving
  • Relapse prevention

While CBT can help manage withdrawal symptoms, it is most often used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. How to help someone going through withdrawal is to encourage them to fully participate in the detox program and transition into a treatment program such as an inpatient or intensive outpatient program.

Other Forms of Treatment

Every person and every addiction is unique. So, there are various treatment programs to meet the needs of each person. Other forms of treatment include:

  • Residential or inpatient treatment program
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Outpatient program (OP)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment

Inpatient treatment, or residential treatment, is an intensive treatment where people stay at a specialized facility for a specific period to receive comprehensive and structured treatment. During inpatient treatment, individuals live in a controlled and supportive environment, away from triggers and distractions.

The treatment involves therapy, medical supervision, and various activities tailored to their needs. Inpatient treatment offers round-the-clock support and monitoring by healthcare professionals, ensuring high-quality care. It allows individuals to focus entirely on their recovery and learn important long-term healing skills.

A partial hospitalization program (PHP) is a treatment program that provides intensive care to individuals who need significant support but do not require 24-hour supervision. It’s like a middle ground between inpatient treatment and outpatient care.

In a PHP, individuals attend treatment sessions at a specialized facility during the day and return home in the evenings. The program typically involves therapy sessions, educational workshops, medication management, and other therapeutic activities.

It offers a comprehensive approach to addressing mental health issues, addiction, or other conditions. PHPs provide a higher level of support than regular outpatient care while allowing individuals to maintain some level of independence and continue their daily routines outside of treatment hours

An intensive outpatient program (IOP) is a structured treatment program that offers more support and treatment than traditional outpatient care but with greater flexibility than inpatient treatment. In an IOP, individuals attend therapy and group sessions several times a week while living at home.

The program is designed to address mental health conditions, addiction, or other concerns. It provides a range of therapeutic services, including counseling, education, support groups, and skill-building activities. The duration of an IOP can vary depending on the individual’s needs, but it typically offers a step-down approach, gradually reducing the frequency of sessions as progress is made.

Outpatient treatment helps individuals overcome substance abuse without staying at a treatment facility. It involves attending therapy sessions, support groups, and other treatment activities at a clinic or counseling center.

Outpatient treatment offers flexibility, allowing individuals to live at home and continue their regular responsibilities while receiving support for their addiction. It typically includes counseling to address the underlying causes of addiction, develop coping skills, and create a relapse prevention plan.

Medication-assisted treatment may also be provided to manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Outpatient treatment is an option for individuals with milder addiction issues or those transitioning from more intensive treatment programs.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

How long withdrawal symptoms last depend on many factors, including the type of substance used. Other factors include:

  • How much you typically use
  • How you took the substance (snorting, smoking, injecting, etc.)
  • Multi-drug use
  • How long you have abused the substance
  • Individual factors such as genetics, metabolism, and weight

The intensity of your alcohol addiction influences the severity of withdrawal. Light to moderate drinkers typically experience mild to moderate symptoms, which may not require medical attention. However, due to the potential for seizures, it’s important to have a doctor trained in alcohol withdrawal monitoring your condition.

Heavier drinkers risk developing seizures, delirium (confusion and psychosis), and other life-threatening symptoms. Even light drinkers with long-term alcohol abuse history may still be at risk.

Withdrawal symptoms can appear within a day or two of quitting alcohol, and for chronic, heavy drinkers, symptoms may start as soon as a few hours after the last drink. Mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically last for a week or two, while more severe symptoms can persist for several weeks or longer.

The most dangerous symptoms can arise as symptoms peak, typically between 36 and 72 hours of last use. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol usually subside within ten days.

The timeline for benzodiazepine (benzo) withdrawal can vary based on factors like the specific benzos used, dosage, duration of use, and the individual. Due to the potential risks, it’s crucial to undergo benzo withdrawal under medical supervision.

For short-acting benzos like Xanax, withdrawal symptoms usually start within 24-48 hours after the last dose and peak within the first week. Symptoms may include anxiety, insomnia, irritability, tremors, and heightened sensitivity.

Long-acting benzos like Valium can have a delayed onset of withdrawal symptoms, typically beginning within 2-7 days after the last dose. The most intense symptoms usually occur around the second week.

Acute withdrawal generally lasts for several weeks, with symptoms gradually improving over time. Some individuals may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and cognitive difficulties, which can persist for months or longer.

Opioids encompass a wide range of legal and illegal substances with varying strengths and purposes. Some common opioids include heroin, hydrocodone, and morphine. The withdrawal experience from opioids can differ based on the specific drug used:

For individuals dependent on short-acting opioids like heroin, withdrawal symptoms may start within a few hours after the last use, peak between 36 and 72 hours, and persist for about 5 to 10 days.

Longer-acting opioids take longer to clear from the body, so withdrawal symptoms may be delayed compared to shorter-acting opioids. With drugs like methadone, symptoms may begin as late as 48 hours after the last dose, reach their peak around day 3, and gradually decrease for up to 21 days.

Detox Safely at Chapters Recovery

At Chapters Recovery Center, our main focus is supporting individuals in entering a new chapter in their lives. We have designed our programs to cater to each patient’s unique needs to encourage lasting recovery.

After completing our detox program, seeking comprehensive treatment for continued recovery is crucial. We are dedicated to delivering such treatment and provide a wide range of options.

If you are ready to break free from addiction or wondering how to help someone going through withdrawal, we are here to help you. Contact us today for further details about our detox program.