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Best Ways to Manage Drug Withdrawal

Abusing drugs over long periods of time creates significant changes in the brain and body. If you decide to abruptly quit use, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. 

Depending on the severity of abuse and other factors, these symptoms can be life-threatening. Despite this, people try to detox “cold turkey,” meaning they detox outside the watch of medical personnel. 

Because of the serious complications that withdrawal brings, it’s always best to go through detoxification while under the care of medically trained professionals. 

Detoxification centers can ensure a safe recovery from dangerous symptoms. They can also help continue the recovery process by providing access to rehabilitation centers and aftercare services. 

These include:

Below we’ll explore how you can best manage drug withdrawals. 

What Does Drug Withdrawal Look Like?

Addiction withdrawal symptoms form once the short-term effects of drugs wear off and drug ingestion ceases. This is when the body starts the arduous process of ridding itself of foreign toxins. 

Several factors affect the harshness and longevity of withdrawal symptoms. 

These include:

  • duration of drug use 
  • physical and mental health history 
  • amount of drugs ingested 
  • purity and type of drugs
  • age
  • cutting agents used in the manufacturing process 
  • if other substances have been combined 

Withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable and can manifest in physical and mental ways. The detoxification process is sometimes compared to an extremely bad fever, with more bodily symptoms. 

Symptoms can include: 

  • fatigue 
  • sweating 
  • agitation 
  • irritability 
  • racing thoughts
  • runny nose
  • watery eyes
  • weakness 
  • loss of appetite 
  • shakiness 
  • clammy skin
  • disorientation 
  • delirium 
  • dehydration 
  • extreme drug cravings

It’s commonly known that withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be fatal. However, many believe detoxing from narcotics, such as heroin or cocaine, is not life-threatening. This is not true. Death is possible from extreme dehydration that can take place during the withdrawal process from narcotics and stimulants. 

Best Ways to Manage Drug Withdrawal

Detoxing with trained professionals is always the best option for proper withdrawal management

Medical detox options are:

  • detoxification centers 
  • inpatient rehabilitation facilities


It’s better to enter any of these options when the withdrawal process is about to start, rather than when symptoms are already underway. Let’s explore how these options best manage drug withdrawals. 

Detoxification Centers 

Detox centers are specifically set up to assist patients during the rough withdrawal process. Trained professionals have adequate knowledge and experience in detoxing patients from all types of drugs. 

Patients will stay in the center for about three to seven days, during which patients can expect: 

  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in cases where this is needed
  • a constant flow of vitamins, liquids, and appropriate foods 
  • 24/7 monitoring 
  • an inability to relapse due to being in a drug-free environment 
  • emotional support 
  • exposure to long-form treatment 

For those in active addiction, or who have just stopped drug use, a detoxification center is the best way to manage withdrawal symptoms. 

Inpatient Rehabilitation 

Inpatient rehabilitation facilities also provide medical care and around-the-clock supervision of patients. Even though detoxification centers are best equipped to nurse active withdrawal symptoms, inpatient rehabs can help relinquish symptoms as well. 

Live-in rehabs assist in reducing cravings for drugs by creating a therapeutic and comforting environment. They also focus on treatment after the detox process subsides. 

In an inpatient rehabilitation facility, patients can expect:

  • behavioral and cognitive therapy 
  • group and individual therapy
  • education on how addiction works in the brain and body
  • dual diagnosis treatment, for those with co-occurring mental health disorders
  • trauma-informed care (in some facilities) 
  • field trips to 12-step group meetings and fun sober activities 
  • learning how substance use recovery and diet, exercise, and rest are pivotal in fully recovering from withdrawal and substance use disorders
  • an emotional support system made up of staff and other patients 

Patients usually live on-site for a month or up to a year in some cases. Psychological symptoms of withdrawal can linger for months, so inpatient rehabs are appropriate for these individuals.

After Detoxification  

Just because withdrawal symptoms subside does not mean recovery ends. Ongoing treatment in the form of outpatient rehabilitation, 12-step meetings, and therapy can ensure long-term recovery from a substance use disorder.

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