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San Diego Sober Living - Recovery

Understanding the Impact of Withdrawal on Addicts

In the June 2023 issue of the Journal of Addiction Medicine, researchers from the University of Washington conducted a review of studies related to managing the recovery of opioid addicts, and they concluded that the FDA guidelines for attenuating withdrawal symptoms through methadone therapy are wrong. One of the most aggravating factors in the American opioid crisis is the high level of fatal relapse, which often occurs among patients who are experiencing severe and harmful cravings. Withdrawal management is at the heart of all addiction recovery efforts. For some patients, it could be a matter of life or death.

Definitions of Withdrawal

Even though the definition of withdrawal tends to be a slight point of disagreement in the medical community, there’s a strong consensus on classifying the condition according to each substance. For example, the International Classification of Diseases has different codes for withdrawal from opioids, liquor, stimulants, and all other psychoactive substances that have a certain potential for abuse. These conditions can go from onset to chronic in no time. They can present multiple comorbidity risks, and they can turn critical for alcoholics and opioid addicts if they’re not managed adequately.

Physical & Psychological Withdrawal

Of the most commonly abused psychoactive substances in the United States, the two that present the most substantial risk of withdrawal are liquor and opioids. All addictive substances will create psychological cravings to some extent. However, alcoholics and opioid addicts can be impacted by delirium tremens (DT) and anomalies in the vascular, cardiac, and autoimmune systems. DT and seizure episodes are physiological effects of withdrawal that can turn fatal. The psychological impact can also become deadly if it devolves into manic depression and suicide.

Prevalence of Severe Withdrawal

Anyone who engages in substance abuse will experience withdrawal from time to time. For example, some addicts experience terrible hangovers after binge drinking or intense cravings after taking opiates. Severe withdrawal affects up to 50 percent of opioid users. This percentage is closer to 20 percent for alcoholics and less than 5 percent for stimulant users. The problem for alcoholics is that the mortality rate among those who experience severe withdrawal is higher than for other addicts.

Treating Withdrawal through Lifestyle Management

Physicians can prevent death from withdrawal through various treatment plans that involve boosting the immune system, addressing electrolyte imbalances, controlling arrhythmia, and preventing seizures. Psychological cravings must be treated at the behavioral and cognitive levels. When they enter programs such as those that provide coastal sober living, Solana Beach alcoholics and addicts are immersed in a lifestyle with an anti-withdrawal structure. The environments in these facilities provide a neutral stimulus. The absence of substances to abuse and the programs themselves work as conditioned stimuli. In other words, the transition to a sober lifestyle is similar to classic conditioning, and the goal is to stimulate neuroplasticity so the physiological effects of withdrawal can go through their gradual healing processes without interruption.

Addiction impacts every aspect of physical and mental health, and it’s a serious problem that requires professional treatment. If you or someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, seek help from a medical professional or another person you trust to help you explore options for treatment and continuing support, such as recovery coaching. Solana Beach men who need help with forming new sober lifestyle habits can reach out to the dedicated team at Casa Pacifica Sober Living for the guidance they need. Give us a call today at (760) 230-2996.

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