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Common Symptoms and Treatment

Withdrawal Resources:
Common Symptoms and Treatment

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Withdrawal Summary

by Sean Callahan

While drug and/or alcohol withdrawal is not something anybody wants to go through, it is an unavoidable repercussion of dependency. Withdrawal symptoms range from a “hangover” after an alcoholic binge to life threatening seizures. Today medical detox is a necessary medical treatment for millions throughout the world suffering from the effects of drug and alcohol dependency. The overall goal of medical detox is the withdrawal off the illicit substance the process is to slowly help the patient move away from his or her dependence on drugs and/or alcohol in a safe and effective manner.


Some people are able to stop using drugs or alcohol on their own accord. However, this is not always the case.

For many who are addicted, professional treatment is a must.

Withdrawal is typically accompanied by a variety of symptoms, many of which can be life threatening if not dealt with in the appropriate manner.

Some of the many things that can cause withdrawal include:

  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Methadone
  • Amphetamines
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Barbiturates

These are the most common causes of withdrawal, however, we are going to focus on the following: alcohol, heroin, and cocaine.


Visit our Alcohol Withdrawal Page.

Alcohol withdrawal, also known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome, can be life-threating in those who have been drinking heavily for an extended period of time and then either stop altogether or attempt to reduce consumption.

Due to the fact that alcohol withdrawal symptoms can worsen in a short period of time, it is essential to receive professional medical assistance.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Generally speaking, the severity of this condition is related to the amount and duration of alcohol consumption.

Many symptoms can appear shorty after the last drink is taken. These symptoms can include some or all of the following:

  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Shaky hands
  • Vomiting

Additionally, withdrawal seizures can occur 24 to 48 hours after cessation. This is common among those who have gone through the detoxification process in the past.

Delirium tremens (also known as DTs) typically develop 48 to 72 hours after cessation. These can lead to death, due to multiple serious symptoms including:

  • Severe tremors
  • Low grade fever
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Profuse sweating
  • High blood pressure

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

Treatment of alcohol addiction is something that is best approached with the assistance of an experienced medical team.

There are both outpatient and inpatient detoxification treatment programs offered by hospitals and treatment facilities.

There are three goals associated with treatment:

  • Reduce the severity of the withdrawal symptoms
  • Prevent additional health complications
  • Begin the long term therapy required to avoid a relapse in the future

During the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, prescription drugs are often used. These can include but are not limited to: Valium, Librium, Ativan, and Serax. These medications can go a long way in helping control symptoms such as anxiety while also reducing the risk of seizures and DTs.


Visit our Heroin Withdrawal Page.

If not handled in the appropriate manner, heroin withdrawal can be deadly. This is well known for being one of the most difficult drugs to withdrawal from.

In addition to dealing with withdrawal symptoms during cessation, those who simply cut back on use may begin to experience potentially deadly symptoms.

Symptoms of Heroin Withdrawal

The symptoms associated with heroin withdrawal can be debilitating. For this reason, it is essential to receive the care of a professional medical team.

The use of heroin can grab hold of both the mind and body, making the withdrawal process extremely challenging.

There are many symptoms associated with heroin withdrawal, including but not always limited to the following:

  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chills
  • Profuse sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Vomiting
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability

Heroin Withdrawal Treatment

There are two primary methods of treating heroin withdrawal, both of which have been proven effective in the past.

For many years, methadone treatment has been one of the primary methods of treating patients dealing with a heroin addiction.

To take part in this type of treatment, patients must check into a facility that is skilled in this approach. Additionally, a medical professional must administer methadone.

With methadone, the brain and nervous system does not treat pain in the same way. This allows for the prevention or lessening of symptoms related to heroin withdrawal.

Suboxone is a newer approach, and one that a growing number of facilities and patients are considering.

The primary benefit of this approach is that it can be self administered. Once prescribed by a physician, the patient can rely on the medication to treat symptoms. This is often times used in situations when the patient does not check into a rehab facility.


Visit our Cocaine Withdrawal Page.

Just the same as other drugs and alcohol, cocaine withdrawal occurs when a heavy user quits taking the drug or cuts down on the amount consumed.

During the use of cocaine, the human body experiences a level of extreme joy. However, when the person stops using the drug it is followed by a crash. During this time, the patient craves more of the drug while also dealing with a variety of symptoms ranging from fatigue to anxiety among others.

In many cases, cocaine withdrawal is not accompanied by the physical symptoms often times seen in users of alcohol or heroin.

Symptoms of Cocaine Withdrawal

Despite the fact that cocaine withdrawal does not always have visible physical symptoms, every user reacts differently. Some of the most common symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Restless behavior
  • Depression
  • Increased appetite
  • Unpleasant dreams

During withdrawal, the intense craving for more cocaine is common. These cravings can last for many months after cessation, especially among those who were heavily relying on the drug.

Cocaine Withdrawal Treatment

The treatment of cocaine addiction starts with the least restrictive option and then moves forward from there, as necessary.

Even though the symptoms associated with cocaine withdrawal are not as serious as those associated with other drugs and alcohol, the process is very serious.

Cocaine addiction can be difficult to treat, and relapse is always a concern.

Outpatient and inpatient treatment programs are available, with both being proven effective.

At this time, there are no medications that can reduce the craving of cocaine, however, some studies have shown hope. For example, amantadine and bromocriptine may help reduce some of the most common symptoms among those who have a serious addiction.


This project was funded by the USA Addiction Treatment Partnership. A Florida based non-profit organization.

dan-callahanDan Callahan, LMSW is a licensed social worker in the State of New York. Dan has been a human service professional since 1983 and specializes in addiction treatment and recovery.

Dan studied social sciences and received a Bachelors of Science at the University of Stony Brook and completed a Masters in Social Work program at Fordham University School of Social Welfare, New York City in 1997.

Dan is the author of two addiction recovery works: A book of recovery essays, titled, “Recovery Thinking, 90-Days to Change Your Life” and a recovery workbook “Freedom Recovery, 90-Days to Recover” that is utilized as an out-patient recovery guide and an inpatient addiction treatment workbook.

Dan is the co-developer of the earth shattering “Break Free Plan” TM a successful recovery program that incorporates individualized addiction treatment beginning with the “end in mind” and that incorporates community, vocational, & family reintegration with recovery support whereas a skilled sober companion escorts the recovering individual home from their treatment experience.

Since 1988 Dan has been assisting individuals and families overcome addiction by locating appropriate treatment options including: mutual support, therapy, detox services, case management, inpatient and outpatient treatment, and other ancillary addiction recovery services.

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