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How to Lessen the Physical and Mental Anguish of Withdrawal

Types of Addiction

stop-the-pain-of-withdrawalOne can be physically or mentally addicted to a drug. Often it is a case of both. Alcohol is not exempt. In fact, alcohol dependence (alcoholism) carries with it some of the most severe and dangerous withdrawal symptoms of any drug, including but not limited to hallucinations and seizures. Illegal opiates such as heroin are known for their highly addictive characteristics and heavy withdrawal factor. Synthetic painkillers (called opioids) which approximate the numbing and euphoric qualities of opium-derived drugs are similarly addictive.

Other drugs have their own level of mental and physical addictiveness. The anti-anxiety drugs (called benzodiazepines) can bring about severe – even life-threatening – reactions (such as seizure) when a person abruptly stops taking them without qualified medical supervision. Cocaine withdrawal on the other hand, while it does involve physical reactions, is more psychological in nature, involving intense cravings, paranoia, and depression.

Approaches to Detoxification

No matter the drug, in the case of addiction, professional detoxification is essential. Inpatient and outpatient programs exist. While outpatient systems can work for some, they have the drawback that the individual returns each day back into their normal surroundings. In many cases, environmental factors contribute to their drug or alcohol problem. These influences, individual to each person, are helping to fuel or exacerbate their addiction.

When one enrolls in an inpatient drug rehab center, he or she has the opportunity to “step outside” their usual surroundings. While going through detox, they are not continuously bombarded by potentially upsetting or even hostile influences. And as they progress through rehab, they are helped to take apart these problems and deal with them. Afterwards they return to their normal lives, but with a new way of looking at things without the burden of addiction.

The method of detox is important. A “cold turkey” approach normally incites fear – and for good reason. It’s a painful ordeal and in many cases very dangerous. A supervised medical detox is a much safer and more comfortable approach. When this is combined with holistic techniques for relieving pain and discomfort, all done in a calming atmosphere, the process can be much easier than one might imagine.

How to Lessen the Symptoms of Withdrawal

Even the word “withdrawal” can incite a physical reaction in many people. The anguish associated with withdrawal is notorious, even the subject of gruesome TV and movie scenes – images of an addict writhing around in a hospital bed in a cold sweat night after night. Fortunately, modern techniques make such a scene virtually a thing of the past. In alignment with this, here is a guide to lessening the pain of withdrawal:

Understand the Nature of Your Addiction

When you arrive for detox, an addiction specialist should discuss with you the specifics regarding the drug (or drugs) you have been addicted to. Each drug has its own type of withdrawal symptoms – both physical and mental. Even if one is doing a medical detox, which involves medication to ease the discomfort and pain of withdrawal, one should know roughly what they could expect. They should stay in good communication with the medical staff throughout the process.

Follow the Rules

Even if one is not prone to rule following, it is a good idea to do so during withdrawal and rehab for your own sake. Assuming you want the program to work, follow instructions. Failing to do so will slow you down and endanger yourself and others. Smuggling drugs or booze into the facility is about the worst idea anyone could think of in regards to detox and rehab.

Positive Environment

One should surround themselves as much as possible with positive elements and positive people. Individuals that get you down and tell you what a failure you are will not be the people you want around. Any detox set-up should be very positive and encouraging. The environment should be calming, peaceful, and contain minimal stress. It should be an environment that encourages one to look outward rather than inward. There will be a time for introspection during the rehab phase after detox, but even then the purpose is to help a person turn their attention outwards and into the future.

Grasp Consequences – Good and Bad

One very effective way to deal with coming off drugs is to analyze the consequences.

Let’s say that when someone was on drugs, he or she was often paranoid, depressed, and broke. They were physically ill and in pain a lot of the time. They got fired, family life was turbulent, and they had no purpose in life except obtaining and doing drugs. This person could list these things out and put it up on the wall.

Then, they can list all the positive things they hope to achieve by quitting drugs. They wish to have self-confidence, get the joy out of life again, make good money, and feel healthy and energized. They want a good job with room for advancement, a stable family life, and to make progress towards worthwhile goals. They can post the second list on the wall next to the first list. Then they read these lists first thing in the morning every day and refer to them often in order to keep these ideas in mind and stay motivated.

They can also put pictures or reminders on the wall and around the room of all the things they love and want to get back to when they get clean. Pictures of family, images that remind them of why they’re there or that rekindle their dreams and aspirations – any of these could help to motivate them.

Holistic Elements

Clients can combine certain holistic methods with detox. Examples of these are yoga, meditation, acupuncture, faith-based or spiritual practices, massage, chiropractic – to name a few. These methods can help greatly in the overall endeavor to get clean and stay that way.

Nourishment

You’ve got to eat properly. A lot of foods these days are full of toxins. Processed sugar, saturated fats, chemicals, preservatives – these are not good for your body and cause more mental and physical distress than is generally realized. Anxiety, depression, exhaustion, susceptibility to illness (impaired immunity) – and a slew of physical disorders – can all be traced back to poor nutrition.

Establishing a sound diet of lean meats, fish, poultry (preferably organic), plant-based proteins, fresh fruits, and LOTS of fresh vegetables will go a long way towards general health and well-being and will aid the detox process.

Vitamins and Minerals

Along with sound nutrition, taking daily vitamins and minerals will help. In particular, the B vitamins are essential. These B vitamins get considerably depleted by drug and alcohol abuse. This deficiency can cause depression, anxiety, and other problems. At the very least, a daily multi-vitamin is vital. Utilizing the array of superfoods is also an excellent idea.

Exercise

Just like nutrition, lack of exercise contributes to fatigue, exhaustion, and depression. While going through detox, you may not be in a frame of mind to get daily exercise, but as soon as you feel up to it, doing a daily run or workout can work wonders for your physical and emotional health.

Sleep

You’ve got to get enough sleep. Many drug addicts and alcoholics have a lot of trouble with sleep. When a body is not rested, it releases the “panic” chemicals – neurotransmitters that tell you there is imminent danger. Insufficient sleep also causes depression, fatigue, body aches, and headaches. None of this is any help for someone trying to kick a drug habit. A detox program should provide ways to help a person sleep. An addict’s sleep habits can be wildly erratic, up for days and crashed over and over again. It is vital to restore normal sleep patterns.

Medical Help

An addict can have other illnesses that could have been brought on or worsened by their drug abuse. Many people are diabetic and drug use does not help this condition in the slightest. Anyone going through detox should see a doctor and get standard medical guidance.

Summary

When you arrive at detox, you should consult with the counselors and specialists to formulate your specific program. Each drug is different. Each person is different. Through a consolidated effort, you can get through detox with relative ease and emerge drug-free, ready for the next phase of rehab.

Sources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Symptoms of Withdrawal

Vitamin Deficiencies

1 Comment

  • Diane C

    It’s good to know that their are programs out there that help the individual get through the physical and mental pains of going through their rehab program. That is why I can see how in-patient care would be the better way to go as you are their in a safe environment with people who are trained to help with whatever comes up and get you through it, Then as you are feeling better, you can start the other parts of rehab with getting more exercise and better nutrition. It really sounds like a great program.

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