Detox Side Effects

Getting professional help for a substance abuse problem is a step in the right direction to recovery from addiction. Sobriety will not come easy after a long-term substance dependence, but detox helps many people get their bearings and prepare their minds and their spirits for the long haul.

Most people who enter a treatment center will start with a medical detox. The procedure runs 24/7 for three to 10 days and is monitored by medical professionals and addiction specialists.

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Completing a medical detox is important because it is the first stage in becoming stable so addiction counseling and therapy can begin. That can’t happen until a person is physically and mentally well enough to participate in treatment.

A medical detox provides multiple benefits. First, there’s the assurance that the person in recovery is not alone in enduring the various challenges of drug withdrawal, which can be overwhelming and debilitating for people who have been abusing substances for a long time. It also:

  • Helps manage the effects and symptoms of substance withdrawal
  • Ensures medical help is available for unexpected emergencies during a critical period
  • Lessens the chance of relapse, or the return to using addictive substances
  • Provides recovering clients with access to treatment options after detox is finished

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All of these benefits illustrate why a detox supports the mission of stopping addiction in is track. The other option, which involves quitting long-term drug and alcohol abuse quickly, is risky and could prove to do more harm than good in the long run. Chronic substance use can lead to an on-again, off-again cycle of abuse that ends in a relapse, overdose or death.

Dealing with addiction outside of the expertise and help of a treatment center will be challenging for most people. While treatment helps put these challenges into perspective, it’s still important to realize that recovery will take time and a great deal of effort.

The onset of withdrawal symptoms is indicative that a medical detox is needed. Symptoms need not be underway or worsen before a person gets help. In many cases, however, a person usually is experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they start the process. Those symptoms, which can range from mild to severe, include:

withdrawal symptoms
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever or chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Exhaustion
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Muscle pain
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia

Detox also may involve medications that are given to help users manage withdrawal symptoms, which can range from mild to severe.

Side Effects Can Happen During Detox

A medical detox is designed to make withdrawal easier, but it does not erase the side effects that happen during this period. These side effects come about as the brain and body adjust to changes in drug or alcohol intake. An imbalance can bring on changes such as fatigue, anxiety, and depression, and even thoughts of suicide. Other factors that can help shape a person’s detox experience include the manner in which a substance was misused/abused and the kind of substance that’s abused. Here are the effects of some substances.

Alcohol

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can affect one’s physical and mental health, and threaten one’s life and well-being. No one should detox without professional help. Doing so is risky and can result in relapse, permanent injury, overdose, and death. Common alcohol detox side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Appetite loss
  • Agitation and mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens
  • Seizures

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines (called benzos for short) are central nervous system depressants that act similarly to alcohol. Users take them for their sedative effects that bring about relaxation and calmness. This is one reason they are prescribed for people who are managing anxiety disorders and sleep disorders. Ativan, Valium, and Xanax are some of the widely known benzos. Similarly to alcohol, the detox side effects of benzodiazepines are dangerous, so medical monitoring is needed to ensure the withdrawal process is handled properly and safely.

Seizures and hallucinations are among the most serious benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. Recovering benzo users also may experience rebound anxiety and rebound insomnia, which are stronger in intensity than regular insomnia and anxiety symptoms. Rebound insomnia can keep someone awake for days, and rebound anxiety has been tied to severe panic attacks.

Other benzodiazepine detox side effects include:

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired motor functions
  • Suicidal thoughts and behavior
  • Migraines
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Impaired memory
  • Chest pains
  • Delirium
  • Convulsions

Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome is another thing to be on the lookout for during detox. Full-on psychosis is a sign that this condition is present. Symptoms can become increasingly hard to predict. It is better to have medical professionals standing by to address any situations that result from having benzo withdrawal syndrome.

Opioids

Opioids, otherwise known as painkillers, are some of the most dangerous drugs available. Opioid withdrawal is not a life-threatening process, but it can be difficult and uncomfortable. A person who is dependent on prescription opioids, such as Vicodin or OxyContin, or the illegal opioid heroin may experience intense detox side effects that signal that a relapse is not far behind. This is why it is strongly advised that people with opioid use disorder strongly consider completing detox under medical supervision.

Common detox side effects of opioids are:

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    • Muscle pain and aches
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
    • Anxiety
    • Insomnia
    • Depression
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Excessive sweating
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Depression
    • Exhaustion
    • Tremors
    • Mood swings
    • Drug cravings

    People with severe addictions may have stronger detox side effects. These symptoms also may be present during opioid withdrawal:

    • Irregular or elevated heartbeat
    • Extremely high blood pressure
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Panic attacks
    • Uncontrollable muscle spasms
    • Suicidal thoughts and behavior

    Stimulants

    The side effects that come with stimulants are largely psychological as stimulants bring on feelings of euphoria that flood the brain with dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter that mainly regulates the brain’s “pleasure center,”

    When stimulant use slows or stops, users “crash” and experience intense drug cravings and severe depression. To alleviate this discomfort, some users go back to using, which increase the chances of relapse and self-harm. Stimulant detox symptoms include:

    • Muscle weakness
    • Exhaustion
    • Dehydration
    • Mood swings
    • Concentration difficulties
    • Extreme depression
    • Feelings of hopelessness
    • Suicidal thoughts and behavior
    • Anxiety
    • Insomnia
    • Dehydration
    • Paranoia
    • Disturbed sleep and vivid nightmares
    • Intense drug cravings

    Managing Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

    The effects of years of substance use and abuse can linger for weeks, months, and even years after someone has stopped using. This period is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), which is a set of withdrawal symptoms that affect the person mentally or physically. For this reasons, users may want to continue to receive ongoing care as an outpatient treatment client. Support from a professional can help make symptoms easier to manage.

    There are different PAWS symptoms, and they vary according to the drug used. Overall, however, symptoms that occur during this period include:

    • Trouble with concentrating
    • Memory impairment
    • Anxiety, panic, fear
    • Depression
    • Anger, hostility, aggression
    • Sleep disturbances (for example, insomnia)
    • Sensitivity to stress
    • Exhaustion, fatigue
    • Irritability, unpredictable mood swings
    • Loss of interest in sex
    • Unable to feel pleasure or happiness

    If you or someone you know has PAWS and chooses not to get outside help, some things that can help you manage include:

    • Getting sufficient rest
    • Eating healthy meals and a balanced diet
    • Exercising regularly
    • Finding an outlet to manage stress
    • Joining a supportive network of people who understand recovery

    It is advised that you consult with your personal physician to develop the best plan for you.

    Recovery from Addiction Can Begin Right Now

    At California Highlands Addiction Treatment, we view detox as an important part of one’s recovery. We know that this is a critical time that the body and mind are adjusting to running without the influence of drugs or alcohol. This is not an easy process to get through for many, but we can make it easier to manage. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction or substance addiction, perhaps it is time to consider getting help from people who care about your future. An addiction left untreated is taking an uncertain risk that no one can afford to take.

    Start regaining control of your life in our quality detox program while undergoing treatment at. We can help you forge a new path out of addiction and find a new life. Call 888-969-8755 to speak with one of our addiction specialists for more information.

    Sources

    Dodds, T. J. (2017, March 02). Prescribed Benzodiazepines and Suicide Risk: A Review of the Literature. Retrieved April 13, 2018, from http://www.psychiatrist.com/PCC/article/Pages/2017/v19n02/16r02037.aspx

    Pétursson, H. (1994, November). The benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. Retrieved April 19, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7841856