Author: Charles Frank

Drug Withdrawal Symptoms, Treatment, and Management

how to get off drugs

You might experience some, all, or none of these, depending on the length and intensity of your addiction. Like Pavlov’s dogs, when drug use is paired with particular people, places, things or feelings, eventually they can become linked. These people, places, things or feelings create an anticipation of drug use, even when there is no drug around, which can result in a strong desire to use.

Extra opioids, alcohol and drugs can increase your risk of an overdose. When it’s time for you to stop taking opioids, ask for your healthcare professional’s help. Together you can create a plan to stop opioids slowly, called a taper. Tapering means slowly lowering over time the amount of opioid medicine you take until you stop completely. You may be eager to reach your goal, but your body needs time to adjust to lower levels of opioids, and then to none at all.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to stopping a drug,” she explains. “You may need to slow your taper or even pause it for a while. It may take some trial and error to find what works best for you.” One minute, you might feel exhausted, as if life is no longer worth living; the next, you might feel the urge to run away because it feels like something awful is about to happen.

Drug addiction is dangerous because it becomes all-consuming and disrupts the normal functioning of your brain and body. When a person is addicted, they prioritize using the drug or drugs over their wellbeing. This can have severe consequences, including increased tolerance to the substance, withdrawal effects (different for each drug), and social problems. Some people have greater vulnerabilities and risk factors than others.

Outpatient Detox

After a program like this, you might transfer to a residential facility with less supervision or a fully outpatient program after you’ve gone through detox and your health is stable. Withdrawal happens when a person who has become reliant on a substance discontinues the use of that substance. Learn more about substance use and withdrawal, symptoms, treatment, how to cope, and how to help someone going through withdrawal. For examples of why you might want to cut back on your drugs—and how to do it—here are stories from three people who successfully reduced their need for prescription drugs. The Association of Intervention Specialists (AIS), Family First Interventions, and the Network of Independent Interventionists are three organizations of professional interventionists.

Cocaine is highly toxic, even in small doses, and can cause acute cardiovascular or cerebrovascular emergencies and seizures. Make sure to talk with a healthcare provider before going through a substance detox (stopping use of a substance). In some cases, the process can be dangerous, as there are potential complications. As with anxiety and depression, fatigue is common and normal for people withdrawing from drugs and alcohol.

how to get off drugs

While most cocaine withdrawal symptoms go away after a week to 10 days, some symptoms may last years. Occasionally, withdrawal symptoms go on for months, or they go away and then come back. If it happens to you, talk to your doctor about getting more help. While a person is free to say anything they want during an intervention, it’s best to be prepared with a plan to keep things positive and on track. Blaming, accusing, causing guilt, threatening, or arguing isn’t helpful.

Outpatient care, also called ambulatory care, might include medication-assisted withdrawal to make the process easier. If you’re detoxing from opioids, you might get methadone or buprenorphine. If you’re quitting alcohol, you might get anti-seizure medication or benzodiazepines to help with the withdrawal, and naltrexone or other medications to help you stop drinking. Some people who don’t require a lot of supervision might simply check in with their regular doctor’s office or a home health agency at scheduled intervals during their detox. Some people attend a daytime program at a hospital or substance abuse treatment facility but go home at night. Substance addiction and withdrawal are challenging for those who use substances, as well as for those around them, including friends and family members.

Surround Yourself With Support

Withdrawing from drugs should be done under the guidance of a medical professional to ensure safety. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, these groups that were often out of reach to many are now available online around the clock through video meetings. Such groups are not considered part of a formal treatment plan, but they are considered as useful in conjunction with professional treatment. Roughly half of all adults being treated for substance use disorders in the United States participated in self-help groups in 2017.

  1. However, you won’t regret your decision once you come through withdrawal.
  2. Physical symptoms of anxiety can make you feel as if something scary is happening.
  3. This may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in which the patient learns to recognize problematic thinking, behaviors, and patterns and establish healthier ways of coping.
  4. It’s important that your family members know how to use naloxone.
  5. Occasionally, withdrawal symptoms go on for months, or they go away and then come back.

For example, stopping many antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, heartburn meds, and sleeping pills can worsen the symptoms the medication was meant to treat. If mood changes are severe, last longer than other withdrawal symptoms, or include thoughts of harming yourself or suicide, get help immediately. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 (or have someone do it for you) for support and assistance from a trained counselor. Physical symptoms of anxiety can make you feel as if something scary is happening. Your breathing and heart rate might increase, sometimes to the point where you feel you can’t catch your breath, or that you’re having a heart attack, even though you’re not. Enlisting positive support can help hold you accountable to goals.

So there are quite a few things going on that can make it difficult to give up drugs and stay off them once someone has become dependent on them. As an example, people who smoke cigarettes often do so when they are drinking alcohol. Alcohol can then become a trigger for smoking for someone trying to quit. They may go out for a drink and suddenly feel the need to have a cigarette, even if they have been off them for months or years. A well-known experiment by Ivan Pavlov in the 1890s shows another way relapse can occur.

Other risk factors for drug dependence

Lofexidine was the first medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat opioid withdrawals. Compared to a placebo (a pill with no therapeutic value), it significantly reduces symptoms of withdrawal and may cause less of a drop in blood pressure than similar agents. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown effective in helping people overcome addiction. In one study, 60% of people with cocaine use dependence who underwent CBT along with prescription medication provided cocaine-free toxicology screens a year after their treatment. Make sure you have support while tapering off them, especially if you’ve been taking these drugs for a long time and have become dependent on them. Any pain you do have after tapering off opioids can be managed in other ways.

Counseling gets at the core of why someone began using alcohol or drugs, and what they can do to make lasting changes. This may include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), in which the patient learns to recognize problematic thinking, behaviors, and patterns and establish healthier ways of coping. CBT can help someone develop stronger self-control and more effective coping strategies. The severity of addiction and drug or drugs being used will play a role in which treatment plan is likely to work the best. Treatment that addresses the specific situation and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems is optimal for leading to long-term recovery and preventing relapse.

The brain disease theory suggests drugs hijack the brain in some way that removes control. But in reality, while the effects on the brain can make it more difficult, people who are dependent on drugs are often able to manage their drug use. We have also had different experiences throughout life that affect how we think, feel and process the world around us. This might explain, at least partly, why some people have trouble with drugs and others do not. When dopamine is depleted from chronic use, a person might feel really flat for months, even when they stop using. This can be a strong motivator to use drugs to feel pleasure again.

Health Check: what makes it so hard to quit drugs?

These include psychological therapies, such as behavioural and cognitive therapies, and some medications. This can provide the extra support that some people who are dependent on alcohol or other drugs need to make changes. Your healthcare professional may recommend that you have naloxone available to lower your risk of an overdose. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids during an emergency if you stop breathing. Narcan and Revive are naloxone nasal sprays you can buy without a prescription. It’s important that your family members know how to use naloxone.

If you have withdrawal symptoms, tell your healthcare team right away. Follow all instructions about how to manage your withdrawal symptoms. Your pain might flare up after you stop taking opioids, but only temporarily.