Withdrawal is a very complex thing, and there’s no question that it’s one of the most difficult things anyone could ever go through. There are a wide number of factors that can affect withdrawal. Withdrawal from every kind of drug is a very different experience, and other factors, such as the presence of other chemicals, along with someone’s chemical make-up, can also have extreme effect. The most important thing to know about withdrawal, however, is that it doesn’t last forever, and is actually rather short (of course, it won’t feel short).
There are many treatment centers and drug and alcohol programs that can help, where trained professionals can work with the addict through every phase of withdrawal. It may not be very pleasant, but it is much safer than trying it alone. Checking with other addicts who have been through the same thing will usually give the best results, but there often isn’t time to wait for the advice to come in, in which case, contacting substance abuse hotlines can guide someone to centers that can help.
In withdrawal, what is happening is two fold. First, there are the immediate physical responses that will come when the body stops getting the chemicals it’s become used to. The longer the period of use, then, the more intense the withdrawals can be. In most cases, the body becomes clear of the toxins, or at least clear enough to start functioning normally again, after just a few days. For some substances, like heroin, it can be longer, up to a week or possibly even two. It still takes time to get rid of all the toxins, and some, like alcohol, can take the better part of a year to completely leave the body.
Second, there are mental and emotional responses, and these can take a lot longer to work through. In the initial stages, though, for the days when the body is withdrawing, the addict is reacting emotionally to the loss of the ability to take the edge off. The body is also going through cellular changes, and when the cells are at their hungriest, the mind will interpret the body’s responses as an emergency situation. This can lead to extreme emotional discomfort, possible mood swings, and other states of consciousness.
The mental faculties will return, however, and the body will adjust, but for the immediate period of withdrawal, there can be physical danger to the addict as well as an extremely difficult situation to get through psychologically. This is why it is so very important to get help during this time in particular. There is another side to it, and people do get through withdrawal every day, and it can lead to a new beginning and a new life.