Signs of Drug Withdrawal

Drug withdrawal refers to a set of symptoms that occur as a result of cessation from a drug or medication that one has habitually used for a prolonged period, which sometimes requires a medically managed detox. The signs of drug withdrawal are as varied as the substances that produce their effects. One can experience withdrawal symptoms from stimulants such as:

  • methamphetamines
  • sedatives such as Valium
  • long-lasting tranquilizers such as barbiturates
  • opiates such as heroin

These symptoms could persist throughout the numerous stages of treatment, past detox into Residential Treatment, and sometimes into continuing care if the individual’s usage was severe enough.

The development of signs of drug withdrawal are exclusively precipitated by dependence, which in turn necessitates habituated use, and usually occurs in tandem with addictive pathology. Look at addictive pathology as an umbrella term that covers a wide range of behaviors, disorders, and personality traits. When taken together, these elements indicate the presence of addiction. In cases where addiction is present, there is a constellation of characteristics that give shape to the treatment measures best suited to the individual, and orient the trajectory of the protocols that will be employed to help them get clean.

At Casa Palmera, we treat each client as an individual. We give each person the dignity of a personalized assessment that strives to avoid assumptions with regards to their care. For the person looking to get clean or a loved one attempting to help a spouse, son, daughter, etc., acquire help, this is of the utmost importance.

A Predictable Path

Heroin withdrawal, for example, follows a predictable course. It manifests with a predictable set of symptoms which last for a specific set of time. These symptoms occur regardless of one’s personality traits or psychological characteristics. As such, detoxing someone from heroin requires certain steps that are as universal as the symptoms themselves; as such, a person can successfully achieve detox with the assistance of assumptions that usually pertain to the physical aspects of the detox process. It should be noted, however, that even symptoms as predictable as heroin, it is nonetheless necessary to take into account emotional and psychological considerations that are unique to the individual. Without this consideration, comprehensive treatment is impossible.

This holds for stimulants and sedatives alike. Each substance, medication, or drug, manifests common features that will occur at stages. These stages occur regardless of the personality traits each person brings to the table. Some scenarios require scrutiny that honors them as individuals requiring a unique set of interventions. This is especially true where a person has become dependent on a drug but demonstrates little or none of the addictive pathology that typifies the addictive cycle.

Severity of Drug Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptomatically, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms is proportional to the quantity and duration of abuse. A long-term Methadone habit will be significantly more uncomfortable than a two month Vicodin habit. However, symptomatically there will also be similarities. And, in the same way, Addiction occurs in stages, withdrawal progresses through clearly defined stages. This is true of the entire treatment process.

Physical Signs of Drug Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms can manifest as both physical and psychological symptoms. Physiological adaptions in the central nervous system and brain due to chronic exposure to a specific substance cause these symptoms. The following list is not comprehensive. However, it should give you an idea of some of the more common physical symptoms that indicate withdrawal. These include:

  • Increased heart rate and/or blood pressure
  • Sweating, chills, runny nose and fever
  • Body aches, pains, and cramps
  • Hallucinations, seizures, confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting decreased appetite
  • Insomnia, restlessness
  • Anxiety, nervousness, increased stress
  • Volatile mood swings, suicidal thoughts, extended periods of depression

Med Compliance Dependency and Withdrawal

There are situations in which a person becomes unwittingly dependent on a medication a doctor has legally prescribed. This particular scenario presents certain complications about treatment protocols. One complication is that they otherwise manifest none of the drug-seeking behaviors and dual diagnosis illnesses that most addicts do. Someone with this is usually baffled, terrified, and resistant to the idea that they are in the same situation as a heroin addict who has spent years running the street and engaging in anti-social behaviors.

There are scenarios in which a person becomes addicted to a sedative – Valium, for instance – without demonstrating typical addictive pathology. In situations of this kind, professionals must tailor detox protocols to the individual. This is in spite of the fact at this stage of recovery, an individual can safely make assumptions because of the commonality of physical withdrawal symptoms.

The Essence of Drug Withdrawal Treatment

Unfortunately, treatment has become an industry, primarily concerned with the bottom line as opposed to the well-being of the client. Efficiency has become so pervasive that the integrity of the treatment process has degenerated. Today, more often than not, the treatment process is preoccupied with streamlining its protocols. It operates under generalized assumptions that have less to do with ensuring the client receives dignified care, as it does maintain census. With regards to the medical component of treatment, addiction is not the same as, say, high cholesterol, where treatment measures are standardized and adhere to a set of interventions that apply effectively to both elderly Caucasians as well as young African Americans.

Addiction is so complex with regards to its pathology that to make overly broad assumptions hinders the addict’s progress towards recovery. Casa Palmera’s treatment team is distinguished by how it approaches the person seeking help. Although there are elements and features of addiction that occur on a continuum of dysfunction – regardless of race, ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic factors – the bane of effective treatment is relying on presumptions that effectively evade the nuances of the person as well as their specific needs.

If you see the signs of drug withdrawal in yourself or a loved one, help is within your reach. Simply contact us to find out more about how we can guide you toward recovery.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.