Withdrawal Symptoms. With continuous drug abuse, the addict begins to crave the sense of
euphoria that taking the drugs has produced. Due to the fact that this pleasant feeling is so overwhelming, the
addict is motivated to continue taking drugs.
When this happens, the brain, in effect, has been conditioned to "tell"; the addict that continued drug
abuse is the fastest and the most effective way for the addict to "feel good."
When an addict abruptly stops taking the drugs to which he or she is addicted, the brain triggers "messages"
that are sent to the addict, essentially informing him or her that something is terribly wrong and needs to be
The "messages" that the brain sends to the addict consist of a number uncomfortable, painful, and dangerous
drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms that can possibly lead to death if the proper treatment is not immediately
Unfortunately, the easiest and usually the most readily available way to avoid one's possible withdrawal
symptoms is to continue taking drugs and/or engaging in abusive and hazardous drinking behavior.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, The Brain and Tolerance
With regular drug abuse the brain gradually adapts to the drugs so that normal functioning is possible. Keep in
mind that this statement also applies to alcohol, since alcohol is a drug.
When an addict who has exhibited a pattern of continuous and excessive abuse, however, suddenly stops taking
drugs, he or she usually suffers from symptoms of withdrawal that can be so prolonged that they can take the body
days or weeks before it returns to "normal."
Essentially, then, symptoms of withdrawal are responses by the brain and by the body to the lack of the drug or
drugs to which they had become adapted.
This not only explains how physical tolerance develops but it also explains why increasingly more of the
particular drug is needed to get the same "buzz" or "high" with regular use.
Drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe and include both behavioral and
psychological components. The major factors that influence the severity of symptoms of withdrawal include the
- How long the drug was abused (has the abuse lasted years or is it fairly recent?)
- The type of drug that was abused (e.g., withdrawals from methadone are usually more painful and more severe
that withdrawals from heroin).
- The quality or "purity" of the drug (has the drug been "cut" with rat poison or cleanser or is it in its
- How strong the craving is for the drug (for instance, is the craving relatively mild or is it intense?)
- The amount of the drug that was abused (for instance, did the heroin abuser take 2 bags or 6 bags for his
or her "high"?)
- The health of the individual (is the person generally in good health or sickly?)
- The frequency that the drug has been abused (for example, did the person abuse the drug every 4 hours,
every 2 days, once per week, etc).
An Analysis of Twenty-Five "Common" Drugs
An analysis was done of the withdrawal symptoms of 25 well-known drugs (that also included alcohol). Included in
this list were the following drugs:
Common Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
The most occurring drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms in order of most occurring to lease occurring concerning
the above "common" drugs were the following:
- Intense craving
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Muscle pain
- Disturbed sleep
Based on the above, it is clear to see that getting "off" of most drugs, including alcohol, leads to terribly
uncomfortable, painful, and disgusting withdrawal symptoms.
As a consequence, breaking free from one's addiction to drugs and/or alcohol is an extremely difficult
In fact, since most drug addicts relapse within six months of attaining abstinence, it is highly advisable that
all addicts seek and receive comprehensive, professional, and long-term treatment (including long-term follow-up
counseling) for their addition.
Due to the fact that drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be hazardous, dangerous, and in some instances,
fatal, the first concern when experiencing drug or alcohol withdrawal symptoms should be who the addict should
contact about the withdrawals he or she is experiencing.
In other words, when addicts are suffering from symptoms of withdrawal, they should always see their doctor or
healthcare provider immediately so that he or she can assess the severity of the addict's situation and suggest the
best option for treatment.