Five Factors That Influence Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

Everybody is different.  We are all unique in the ways that we think and feel.  We are also unique in the ways that our bodies respond to different kinds of stimuli.  When it comes to taking the leap into healing from addiction to drugs and alcohol, the biggest fear among abusers and addicts is that of severe withdrawal symptoms.  There is no real way to predict the severity of your withdrawal symptoms.  There are some people who have few withdrawal symptoms and respond very well to detox, and there are others who have severe symptoms and do not handle detox well at all.

man experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms


There are some factors involving your life and experience that can lead to more severe withdrawal symptoms. Here are five of the most common.

Older Age

Older people tend to experience more severe symptoms than younger people.  There can be some reasons for this phenomena.  Older people tend to have used their drug of choice for longer which can mean that the withdrawal period is longer since there is more of a buildup in the system.  People who have used their drug of choice for longer are more likely to have experienced some kind of drug or alcohol related injury or illness.  These past experiences can lead to some treatment challenges in the present.  Older people tend to have more illnesses in in general and could be on other kinds of medications which will also affect the detox process.

Longer Use History

As mentioned above, older age can be a reason for a longer history of drug and alcohol abuse.  But a longer history of abuse is not limited to users of an older age.  People who started their drug or alcohol use at an early age can have just as long of a history of use as an older person.  The longer you engage in drug or alcohol abuse, the more your body and brain will adapt making it just that much harder for it to adapt when you stop using your drug of choice.  Sudden cessation after a long period of use will cause major changes in neurotransmitter activity and will likely cause some more difficult withdrawal symptoms.

Co-occurring Disorders

Having the dual diagnosis of a mental health disorder and a drug or alcohol addiction can make withdrawal symptoms very unpredictable.  Many people with co-occurring disorders have been using drugs or alcohol as a self-medication technique.  Since the drugs of addiction can actually lead to an increase in the psychotic behavior of a person with a mental illness, it is often difficult for treatment teams to distinguish between the mental illness and the effects of the addiction.  Trained practitioners have long recommended that patients with co-occurring disorders receive an integrated approach to their treatment which weaves the common treatments for mental illness in with the common treatments for drug or alcohol addiction.  This kind of approach may make withdrawal symptoms slightly easier to overcome.

Lack of Support

A good support system is one of the key components of a good recovery program.  The family and friends of the addict often come together to offer that support. However, a patient who lacks the basic support system may actually have a harder time with withdrawal symptoms.  People going into recovery need others around them who can offer a shoulder to cry on or be there to talk through some of the challenges that detox and rehab present.  If a patient goes into detox knowing that he or she is not going to have any kind of outside support, the withdrawal symptoms are more likely to overcome them.  They may feel that it is too difficult to go through alone if no one cares about the outcome.

A Negative Outlook

“Mind over matter” is the old saying.  Chances are good that if you go into detox and rehab thinking that you are going to fail, you probably will.  If you go into recovery thinking that your symptoms are going to be terribly difficult and painful and too hard to bear, they probably will be.  Everyone has heard a story about withdrawal symptoms that were difficult to overcome, but these are the thoughts that should be pushed from your mind.  Your negative attitude toward your treatment and toward your detox will affect how that detox proceeds.

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