Drug withdrawal syndrome: its types and symptoms

It is common to hear the expression “being with the frog” when talking about drug addicts who experience tremors, nervousness or outbursts of anger when they are not using drugs.

These are situations in which these people suffer tremendously and exhibit varying symptoms. It’s a familiar way of talking about the abstinence syndrome, a problem we will discuss in this article.

    What is withdrawal syndrome?

    It is understood by abstinence syndrome to all symptoms caused in the body that is physically and mentally dependent on a substance in the face of its abrupt withdrawal. Withdrawal may refer to stopping use altogether or reducing consumption in quantity and / or frequency, and the symptoms are not due to another medical or mental illness (although this may exacerbate the symptoms of some diseases).

    Usually, the withdrawal from consumption is intentionally provoked by the addict, in order to eliminate the aversive consequences that the addiction brings in his life. They can also arise due to unintentional circumstances in which it is not possible to access the substance in question, such as hospitalization, travel or imprisonment. A third option is that the subject cannot acquire it when he does not have the will to quit consumption, for lack of suppliers or the financial capacity to acquire it.

    Withdrawal syndrome generates a high level of suffering and discomfort. The specific symptoms of this type of syndrome will depend on the type of substance consumed, being generally the opposite of those which would manifest with intoxication by these substances. An intense urge or craving for consumption usually appears in response to the discomfort generated by the absence of the substance. Other common symptoms are tremors and spasms, headache, muscle pain, digestive problems such as nausea and vomiting, dizziness, restlessness or hallucinations.

    The evolution of symptoms and their intensity depend not only on the type of drug but also on the type, quantity and frequency of previous consumption, being linked to the level of dependence and addiction presented by the subject. Besides the drug consumed itself, the problems associated with withdrawal syndrome will intensify if the cessation of consumption occurs in an environment where it is easy to acquire it. In addition, the way we see the world or perceive and deal with problems will have an effect, having more discomfort, for example inhibited people who do not say theirs (especially negative ones).

      Why is this happening?

      The reason for withdrawal syndrome is something that many people, especially those who suffer from it, wonder. The direct reason is abrupt stopping or reducing consumption, Which was carried out in such a way that the subject’s body. The body gets used to the substance, building tolerance to it (which in turn increases consumption in quantity and frequency) and accustoming the body to working with the substance.

      The body, balanced before the acquisition of addiction, learns to maintain a new equilibrium in which the drug or substance in question comes into play. The substance, which initially served as a booster, eventually loses part of this role and becomes something. something necessary to avoid the discomfort associated with its lack.

      Abrupt withdrawal causes the body, which was dependent on this substance, to suddenly find itself missing something that made it work. The balance or internal homeostasis that the body has learned to maintain with the medication, it suddenly becomes imbalanced, generating a withdrawal syndrome until it can remain balanced on its own. But depending on how the withdrawal is done, the imbalance can have very serious repercussions.

        The need for a gradual withdrawal

        It is important to keep in mind that withdrawal of the substance should not be done suddenly. And it is that while stopping use in people addicted to drugs is essential and something that can save their lives (figuratively and literally), suddenly cutting off the supply of a substance our bodies depend on. . This can have fatal consequences. . Withdrawal syndrome is not something to be taken lightly: it is a dangerous reality which in many cases can have lifelong consequences, lead to coma and even lead to death.

        In this sense, it is necessary to take into account the type of drug: getting rid of coffee is not the same as getting rid of cocaine or heroin. Also the level of existing dependency. Withdrawal is necessary, but it should be done in a controlled manner (often using different drugs, for example), in a structured and gradual manner to avoid serious physiological effects and reduce the risk of potentially fatal withdrawal syndrome.

        It is necessary to let the body get used to working without too much substance until it comes to functioning completely without. sometimes the use of substitute substances may be necessary, Like methadone, so that consumption of the substance does not occur but dangerous symptoms are controlled, hospitalization in detoxification centers or hospitalization of the subject to remain stabilized. In some cases, a subject has been induced into an induced coma to gain better control of the situation.

        Alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opiates are some of the main substances with life-threatening withdrawal syndromes. mainly due to cardiorespiratory insufficiency. It is therefore necessary to guide their removal.

        Different types of withdrawal syndrome

        As we have seen, the type of symptoms will largely depend on the substance, the degree of dependence on it, and even the biological characteristics of the addict. Here are some of the most well-known withdrawal syndromes collected by DSM-5.

        1. Tobacco

        The withdrawal syndrome caused by tobacco is probably one of the best known and most experienced in the world, with quitting it being something that many consumers have considered. Irritability, insomnia, anxiety, problems concentrating, depression and eating disorders are its main symptoms. It’s annoying, but it’s one of the less harmful withdrawal syndromes and is generally safe.

          2. Alcohol

          Chronic alcohol users who stop using this substance may have different types of withdrawal syndromes of varying severity. Common symptoms are tachycardia and sweating, insomnia, tremorss, agitation and anxiety, hallucinations and convulsions. In extreme cases, the subject may develop delirium tremens, which can lead to the patient’s death.

          3. Stimulants

          In this category we include amphetamines, cocaine and other stimulants. Abstinence from these substances generates dysphoric mood, increased appetite, fatigue, nightmares and sleep problems as some of the more well-known symptoms.

          4. Sedatives, hypnotics and anxiolytics

          The use, dosage and follow-up of consumption and withdrawal recommendations make it possible to avoid this type of withdrawal syndrome, which can occur both in people who use them for therapeutic purposes and in those who do so recreationally and / or uncontrolled when consumption is suddenly withdrawn. Tremor, autonomic nervous system overactivity, tachycardia, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and anxiety are some of the most common symptoms.

          5. Opiates

          Abrupt withdrawal from opium and its derivatives (such as heroin) generates a potentially fatal abstinence syndrome. The dysphoria, nausea, pain, diarrhea, fever, insomnia or procrastination are some of the common symptoms in subjects abstaining from opium derivatives.

          6. Cannabis

          Cannabis is a very popular substance for consumption, especially among young people, and which is perceived as generally harmless. However, the existence of an abstinence syndrome has recently been described. it can occur in people who consume it every day or almost every day. This syndrome is characterized by restlessness, depression, loss of hunger, nervousness and restlessness and sometimes disorders such as fever, spasms, abdominal pain or headache can occur.

            7. Caffeine

            Although many people can argue, frequent consumption of caffeine for a long time and daily can lead to a certain level of dependence on this substance, as well as withdrawal syndrome with its abrupt stopping. Typical symptoms of this syndrome are fatigue and sleep, headaches, flu-like symptoms, irritability or dysphoria.

            Bibliographical references:

            • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fifth edition. DSM-V. Masson, Barcelona.

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