Prescription Drug Withdrawal

The overprescribing of potentially addictive medications, including opioids, sedatives, and stimulants, has fueled high rates of substance dependence. A problematic phase early in recovery comes when prescription drugs leave the body, triggering a withdrawal response.

Attempting to stop misusing prescription medications "cold turkey" rarely succeeds long-term due to intensely uncomfortable and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, withdrawal alone fails to address the entrenched behaviors and elevated relapse risks in substance use disorders. This highlights the importance of undergoing professional medical detox and receiving ongoing addiction treatment and aftercare.

Medically supervised detox provides 24/7 care, including medications, nutritional therapy, and monitoring of symptoms during acute withdrawal by clinicians specially trained in substance abuse protocols. Compassionate support marked by expertise, not stigma or punishment, offers the best avenue to start recovery strong.

While the road ahead still requires hard work, prescription drug detox eases entry into that journey. Understanding the detox process demystifies this first step towards hope and healing. Withdrawal may be difficult, but it begins with knowledge and ends with freedom from addiction's prison through professional treatment tailored to your needs.

schedule a call today

What is Prescription Drug Withdrawal?

Prescription drug withdrawal refers to the vast array of often severe symptoms that manifest when decreasing or ceasing the use of dependence-forming medications like opioids, sedatives, and stimulants.


Definition and explanation of withdrawal from prescription drugs

Withdrawal happens when the body gets used to high amounts of prescription drugs and then experiences severe neurological and physiological changes when the doses are suddenly reduced or the drugs are stopped. This dependence is why it is crucial to have medical detox under supervision.


The physiological and psychological aspects of withdrawal

Both physically and mentally, individuals will experience profound discomforts ranging from sweating, hypertension, nausea, and headaches to intense anxiety, insomnia, unstable mood, suicidal ideation, and drug cravings that feel unbearable without aid. Carefully administered medications and compassionate support provide that aid.


Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs

Categories of commonly misused prescription drugs that often lead to troublesome withdrawal upon cessation include opioids for pain, tranquilizers for anxiety, stimulants for ADHD, and sedative-hypnotics for sleep disorders.


Prescription drugs that commonly lead to dependence include:

  • Opioid pain relievers
  • Benzodiazepine tranquilizers such as Valium and Xanax
  • Amphetamine-based stimulants, e.g., Adderall
  • Sleeping pills like Zolpidem
  • Some antidepressants
  • Certain muscle relaxants

How These Drugs Affect The Body and Lead to Addiction


These substances interfere with delicate neurotransmitter activity related to our stress/pleasure centers through various mechanisms. With prolonged exposure, the brain adapts by down regulating normal processes, leading to tolerance, escalating misuse, and addiction syndromes.


Symptoms of Prescription Drug Withdrawal


Prescription drug withdrawal symptoms vary somewhat depending on the substance class but generally involve an array of profoundly uncomfortable physical effects coupled with psychological and emotional disturbances.


Detailed breakdown of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms


Common physical symptoms include headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, spasms, sweating, rapid heart rate and high blood pressure, sensitivity to sensory stimuli like light and sound, and insomnia. Usual psychological effects are anxiety, depression, mood instability, suicidal thoughts, and intense drug cravings and obsessions.


Differences in withdrawal symptoms among various drug types


For example, opioid withdrawal tends to involve more flu-like effects like muscle aches, whereas benzodiazepine withdrawal predominantly triggers anxiety, seizures, and insomnia. Regardless of category, symptoms are highly distressing and risky without medical aid.

The Detoxification Process

Prescription drug detox entails supervised withdrawal from the misused substance using protocols to alleviate symptoms and continual monitoring in case complications emerge.


Explanation of the medical detox process


Detox usually spans 3-10 days in a facility where vital signs and withdrawal effects receive regular monitoring. Medications, hydration, nutrition, and comfort measures manage symptoms while medical staff provide psychological encouragement and referral linkages for continued treatment after detoxification.


The role of healthcare professionals in managing withdrawal symptoms


Doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and psychologists closely oversee the withdrawal process by administering and adjusting appropriate medications to control specific symptoms based on close observation while optimizing nutrition, activity, and hydration levels to stabilize health. Around-the-clock availability to rapidly address severe reactions is paramount. 24/7 observation combined with pharmaceutical and behavioral interventions makes detox possible.


Duration of Prescription Drug Withdrawal


While withdrawal timelines vary based on substance type, dose amounts, length of use, individual physiology, and medications administered, prescription drug detox typically spans one week to 10 days on average. Psychological effects may persist longer.

schedule a call today

Typical Timelines for Withdrawal From Different Prescription Drugs

For example, opioid withdrawal symptoms tend to emerge within 6-30 hours of the last dose and peak around days 2-3 before improving after a week or so. The sedative withdrawal follows a similar trajectory. The initial withdrawal stage is often the most physically intense. PAWS can continue for months.


Factors Influencing the Length and Severity of Withdrawal


Variables impacting withdrawal duration and intensity include which substance, dosage amounts, length of use, presence of polysubstance abuse, individual metabolic rates, genetics, using medication assistance, relying on self-care methods, and accessibility of medical and emotional support. Relapse also prolongs withdrawal.


Managing Withdrawal Symptoms


An effective strategy for managing prescription drug withdrawal utilizes medications for targeted symptom relief combined with hydration, nourishment, rest periods, light therapy, supportive therapies, and psychological encouragement.


Medical and Holistic Approaches to Alleviate Withdrawal Symptoms

Certain pharmaceuticals help ease specific symptoms - anticonvulsants for rebound seizures, non-habit-forming antidepressants for mood stabilization, sedatives for sleep induction, anti-nausea agents, nutritional supplements, etc. Holistic nursing techniques like massage and mindfulness training also calm the stress response. Counseling addresses the development of emotions throughout withdrawal.

Importance of a Personalized Detox Plan

Customized detox protocols follow detailed intake and health assessments, take into account medical histories, and incorporate individual risk factors, home environments after discharge, and more to determine optimal tapering approaches combined with ancillary therapies based on presenting symptoms and vitals throughout withdrawal.


Risks of Unsupervised Withdrawal


Attempting to withdraw from prescription drug dependence without clinical supervision risks medical complications, including relapse, respiratory distress, cardiac crisis, seizures, malnutrition, and self-harm. Medically monitored detox minimizes these hazards through medications, IV fluids, nutrition, and continual observation.


Potential Complications and Risks of Detoxing Without Medical Supervision


Complications of unmanaged withdrawal encompass severe dehydration, acute heart strain, dangerously high or low blood pressure, increased risk of suicide, intractable muscle spasms, hypoglycemia, urinary tract infections from catheter issues, and delirium potentially resulting in accidental injury. Relapse also remains highly likely without the transition to further treatment. Discontinuation of alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines at home poses particular risks and is explicitly discouraged.


The Importance of a Safe and Controlled Detox Environment


A dedicated detox center insured potential risks through screening protocols at intake with access to rapid on-site medical intervention for any emergent issues, in addition to around-the-clock monitoring and support. This controlled setting provides the safest path through prescription drug withdrawal. Home-based detox lacks these protections.


After Detox: The Path to Recovery

Completing medical detox for prescription drug dependence marks only the starting point on the recovery journey. Embarking promptly into treatment for the psychological and behavioral components of addiction with community support offers hope for reclaiming one's best life.

Steps Following Detox, Including Therapy and Rehabilitation Programs


The recommended next step following medically supervised detoxification is entering a 30-90 day inpatient rehab or intensive outpatient program, which includes counseling, group peer support, life skills classes, dual diagnosis services, and aftercare planning for the transition back to independent living in recovery.


Emphasis on Long-Term Recovery and Relapse Prevention


Detox alone fails to change the mindsets and habits enmeshed in addiction. Developing healthy coping outlets, triggers avoidance tactics, sticking with MAT/therapy, and finding purpose and accountability through one's recovery community help reinforce lifelong sobriety.


Serving Southern California.

Wherever you are in Southern California, we have a local addiction treatment center near you.
"The Only Place To Be"


Evidenced based rehab and mental health treatment for men and women

© 2024 Crescent Moon Recovery: Alcohol & Drug Rehab Centers Orange County, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

chevron-down Skip to content