The dictionary defines withdrawal as, “the syndrome of often painful physical and psychological symptoms that follow discontinuance of an addicting drug”. With regular intake of substances like alcohol and drugs, your body develops a tolerance to it. By this, we mean that these substances become a part of the normal functioning of your body. They alter the chemical functions in your brain in such a manner that your body wouldn’t be able to function without the presence of these drugs. On quitting these drugs or alcohol, an individual is bound to experience certain withdrawal symptoms which are the body’s way of expressing severe cravings. Now as research shows, there are two kinds of withdrawal symptoms – acute and protracted symptoms. Let’s take a look at each.
The symptoms that you encounter immediately after quitting the substance in question are acute withdrawal symptoms. The average timeline for each kind of substance is as follows:
Beyond this timeline, the symptoms encountered fall under the category of protracted withdrawal syndrome. These symptoms are usually long term and take longer to leave.
The acute symptoms for different substances depend on a large number of factors – which includes the severity of the condition, the regularity of usage and the duration of the dependence on the drug. While there are some generic symptoms, these may vary from person to person.
During this phase, the individual may be prescribed certain medication which can both control the withdrawal symptoms and reduce their extent. This might make the recovery process a tad bit more comfortable for the patient, and reduce the chances of a relapse.
The main reason why protracted withdrawal symptoms are dangerous is because they are long term and usually psychological. While your body was dependent on the substance, it secreted huge amounts of dopamine which led to the feeling of high or euphoria on consumption. With regular intake, your brain loses its ability to produce these chemicals (and thus the sensation) on its own. Thus, when you quit the substance, your body begins to crave for it. These symptoms are psychological because one might encounter severe anxiety, mood fluctuations, paranoia, agitation and even clinical depression. That is why it is recommended that you seek professional rehab. With medical supervision and counseling, it can be easier to get past the prolonged symptoms or even deal with them. Medication and therapy happen to be the only solutions to the protracted withdrawal symptoms which may continue for more than a year after you quit.
Remember, sudden discontinuance of a substance you were dependent on can have deadly consequences. Medical supervision in some form is a must if you want to sail past the recovery process smoothly, without incident. Withdrawal symptoms (both kinds) can be impossible to deal with, without specialists to guide the way.