Drug Withdrawal Overview
Withdrawal is the natural process the body goes through to cleanse itself when someone who has developed a substance abuse disorder stops using. When an individual uses drugs, their body develops a physical and mental dependence on the substance. Many drugs cause dopamine spikes in the brain that lead to feelings of happiness and euphoria, in other words, a “high,” and the body will need to produce dopamine without the aid of a drug.
The longer drug use continues, the more dependent on the drug the brain becomes to produce the dopamine transmitters. Therefore, when the drugs are removed from the body, the brain struggles to produce feelings of happiness and euphoria on its own. This is one of the side effects of withdrawal from drugs—withdrawal can also lead to many other physical and emotional symptoms, some of which are extremely harmful or even fatal without medical supervision.
The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on many things. Factors that can influence withdrawal include what drug(s) was/were being abused, how long they had been abused, whether a person is physically dependent on the drug(s), and the actual method of withdrawal itself. Those who withdraw by the “cold turkey” method, completely halting their use of drugs all at once, may have much more severe symptoms than someone who gradually reduces the amount of the substance within their system through a tapered approach.
Here is a rough timeline of withdrawal depending on the type of drug that had been abused: