Breaking Through Denial, Recognizing Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

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You can experience uncomfortable drug withdrawal symptoms without knowing that your discomfort stems from withdrawal. Let’s say you’ve decided to cut back on a prescription drug you’ve been using for a bit too long. Or maybe you’ve decided to end hangovers forever by cutting alcohol out of your life. If the following symptoms come up soon after you stop using your substance of choice, they could be signs that you are addicted and that you are in withdrawal:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Lack of focus

You may recognize the symptoms of drug withdrawal and simply go back to your substance of choice, or even substitute another substance, to alleviate your discomfort. If the symptoms leave upon resuming your drug use, you’re probably addicted.

Withdrawal symptoms are wake-up calls, urging you to get help. But denial, which is a symptom of addiction, can get in the way, keeping you from hearing the wake-up call. Denial can come in the form of minimizing, rationalizing or completely rejecting the idea that you have a problem, in spite of the physical and emotional symptoms you are experiencing. Denial makes it particularly difficult for addicted individuals to get help, which can have dire results. If you ignore the symptoms and persevere with abstinence, they may increase in intensity, and the following more acute symptoms may appear:

  • Chest pain or heart palpitations
  • Labored breathing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Profuse perspiration
  • Social isolation
  • Tremors

Before symptoms of drug withdrawal become dangerous, it’s important to get professional help. Suddenly stopping alcohol or certain drugs can result in dangerous consequences, such as seizures, strokes or heart attacks. If you wait too long, you will have symptoms that require medical assistance, including grand mal seizures, hallucinations or delirium tremens. Professional detox facilities provide the triage, monitoring and support you may need to make it through your drug withdrawal safely.

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