Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms and Dangers

by | Feb 18, 2018 | Addiction Treatment | 2 comments

Addiction impacts families every year. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (1), nearly 23.5 million Americans abuse drugs or alcohol each year, but only a small portion actually seek an addiction treatment program. When a loved one abuses drugs or alcohol, you should encourage and help them seek a medically supervised detox and treatment program to reduce the risks associated with addiction withdrawal symptoms.

What is Withdrawal?

According to the National Institutes on Health (2), withdrawal refers to the discomforts and physical symptoms that develop when an individual stops using a particular substance. In most cases, withdrawal symptoms cause physical discomforts and general restlessness. It is not usually life-threatening, but certain substances cause more severe reactions.

Factors that impact the severity of withdrawal symptoms include:

  • The duration of an addiction
  • Physical tolerance and the dosage of the abused substance
  • The specific substance that a loved one abuses
  • The individual and their specific reaction to the substance

Each person reacts to drugs or alcohol in a different way. As a result, the development of an addiction varies between individuals. Withdrawal symptoms also vary in severity based on the specific situation. Pay attention to a loved one’s behavior and reaction when the substance is not available. It will help determine if he or she has a physical dependence on a drug.

Signs and Symptoms of Withdrawal

Specific withdrawal symptoms associated with drug abuse and addiction vary significantly between different drugs. The most common withdrawal symptoms that occur for most substances include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as chills or body aches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • General restlessness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Anxiety or general feelings of doom
  • Depression or other changes to mood

According to Web MD (3), withdrawal symptoms start as soon as 4 to 12 hours after discontinuing substance abuse. Most substances cause physical discomfort and altered mood, but are not dangerous to physical health and well-being. Unfortunately, severe symptoms develop in some situations, particularly when an addiction persists for several years before the individual seeks treatment.

Web MD (4) says that severe withdrawal symptoms are potentially life-threatening, so a medically supervised detoxification program helps reduce the risk. If a loved one shows signs of severe withdrawal symptoms, obtain medical attention as quickly as possible. Signs of severe withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Tremors and intense shaking
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Fever, particularly a high fever
  • Fast heart rate
  • Hallucinations
  • Difficulty breathing

Seek medical attention if a loved one shows signs of severe withdrawal symptoms. Generally, a medically supervised detox and treatment program helps reduce the health risks by treating the withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment for Addiction Recovery

Even if your loved one started using a substance for legitimate medical reasons, the possibility of developing a physical dependence or addiction raises health concerns. Licensed addiction treatment plans identify the root cause of substance abuse and provide personalized plans that encourage long-term goals for sobriety. Withdrawal symptoms mean that a physical tolerance developed and a loved one must address the symptoms in a safe environment.

The dangers associated with withdrawal symptoms can direct impact the success rate of becoming sober. Starting treatment in a formalized setting provides a chance to address the physical dangers and focus on realistic long-term solutions. Encourage a loved one to enter a treatment program when withdrawal symptoms develop so that he or she has the tools to obtain recovery goals. Professional treatment offers a personalized plan of action that addresses the underlying causes of addiction and helps individuals succeed in their goals.


  1. DrugFacts: Treatment Statistics, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, March 2011,,
  2. Opiate Withdrawal, The National Institutes on Health,,
  3. Alcohol or Drug Withdrawal, Web MD, March 12, 2014,,
  4. Alcohol Withdrawal, Web MD, February 16, 2015,