Drug withdrawal is a reaction the body can have if a person suddenly stops using drugs or alcohol. This can occur if the person has been using drugs or alcohol regularly. Depending on the type and amount, withdrawal can be a life-threatening condition. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. If you think you have this condition, call your doctor right away.
Drug withdrawal can be caused by medicines, alcohol, or illegal drugs. Some things that can cause withdrawal include:
These factors increase your chances of developing this condition. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Withdrawal symptoms are different based on what you used. Symptoms may include:
- Marijuana—loss of appetite, chills, weight loss, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, irritability, feeling restless or nervous
- Alcohol—shaking, hallucinations, seizures, confusion, anxiety]]>, sweating, nausea
- Barbiturates—weakness, tremors, hallucinations, lack of appetite, seizures
- Opioids—abdominal pain or cramps, muscle aches, panic, tremors, sweating, nausea, ]]>diarrhea]]>, fever, chills, irritability, goose pimples, runny nose, drug craving, inability to sleep, yawning
- Benzodiazepines—abdominal pain or cramps, fast heartbeat, vomiting, tremors, seizures, anxiety
- Cocaine—anxiety, feeling tired, ]]>depression]]>
- Amphetamines—depression, irritability, sleeping too much, muscle aches, abdominal pain
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms. She will take a medical history and do a physical exam. You will be asked which drugs you used, how often, how much, and for how long. You may also have blood and urine tests.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options]]> include the following:
This is the first step in treating substance abuse. You will be closely checked for signs of withdrawal. You may be given medicines to reduce cravings. These medicines will also help with symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe. Treatment is targeted to the specific symptoms and drugs used.
You may need to enroll in a rehabilitation program. This treatment uses behavioral therapy to prevent you from using drugs in the future. Behavioral therapy may include the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you how to recognize and avoid situations that may lead to drug abuse.
- Family therapy helps you and your family look at patterns of drug abuse. Strategies are suggested to avoid future abuse.
- Motivational therapy uses positive reinforcement to prevent drug use.
Residential Treatment (Therapeutic Communities)
Residential treatment is sometimes needed. The typical stay is 6-12 months. These facilities will help you learn how to live a drug-free life.
]]>Support groups]]> offer continued support for a drug- or alcohol-free life. Some support groups are Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and Alcoholics Anonymous.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
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Buprenorphine: an alternative to methadone. Med Lett Drugs Ther. 2003; 45:13.
Kosten TR, O'Connor PG. Management of drug and alcohol withdrawal. N Engl J Med. 2003; 348:1786.
Narcotic drug withdrawal. University of Michigan Health System website. Available at: http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/aha/aha_subabu_bha.htm. Accessed September 9, 2009.
NIDA infofacts: treatment approaches for drug addiction. National Institute for Drug Abuse website. Available at: http://www.nida.nih.gov/Infofacts/TreatMeth.html. Accessed September 9, 2009.
O'Connor, PG. Methods of detoxification and their role in treating patients with opioid dependence. JAMA. 2005; 294:961.
Opiate withdrawal. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated August 18, 2009. Accessed September 9, 2009.
Principles of drug addiction treatment: a research based guide. National Institute of Drug Abuse website. Available at: http://www.nida.nih.gov/PODAT/PODATIndex.html. Accessed September 9, 2009.
Professional Guide to Diseases. 9th ed. Ambler, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2009.
Last reviewed October 2009 by ]]>Marcin Chwistek, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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