The Process of Prescription Medication Withdrawal for Addiction Recovery

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Contributor: Libby Lyons, MSW, LCSW, CEDS writer for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope.

Detoxification is generally a safe process when undergone in a supervised medical setting. Since detox for certain individuals and substances can potentially be severe – and in some cases, deadly – it’s not usually advised for individuals to detox on their own at home.

Facing Withdrawals

When a person takes a drug, or consumes alcohol regularly, the body becomes accustomed to having certain levels of substance in it. Once the substance is removed, the body may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the substance used, withdrawal symptoms can even start to appear within a couple hours.

Man struggling with withdrawls.Usually, they tend to at least appear within the first 24 hours after the last drug dose. The severity of the detox process varies according to the individual’s unique body composition and metabolism; the particular drug and dosage that was being used; how long the drug has been taken and; if there are any other addictions involved.

When withdrawal from prescription drugs is occurring, the addicted person may notice a shift in depressive symptoms, difficulty with concentration, decreased appetite, fatigue, agitation and irritability, runny nose, difficulty with sleep, sweating, nausea, body cramps, diarrhea, trembling and/or shaking.

Other symptoms may include rapid heart rate, breathing changes, increased headaches, and possibly seizures, stroke, and hallucinations. Drug detox will last at least as long as the withdrawal symptoms last, and also for as long as it takes for the client to stabilize physically and mentally. Withdrawal symptoms for other drugs may not be as physically difficult.

Prescription Medication Withdrawal Program

As the individual starts a prescription medication withdrawal program, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, and a short-term medication plan might be used to ease discomfort of withdrawal. For example, if you are having a hard time sleeping, you may be prescribed a non-addictive sleep medication. If you experience bone aches or muscle pains, you may be offered a pain reliever.

Girl siiting as she goes through withdrawls.For opioid drugs such as heroin and prescription painkillers, you may have the option to take longer-term medications. Over time, you will often get to lower the dose of the medication until you are completely drug-free. It is important to remember that detox from prescription medications is only the first step and that preexisting psychological issues will also be address and treated.

Therapies to address detox as well as comorbid psychological issues include individual therapy, family therapy, medical services for chronic illness, educational and group classes/therapy, relapse prevention, and life skills groups.

When entering treatment for prescription substance abuse, the individual will first go through the detoxification process and then work on comorbid and chronic medical treatment to prevent relapse and further substance abuse.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What types of withdrawal symptoms were difficult for you or your loved one during their detoxification from prescription drugs? What steps did were taken to get through the pains of withdrawal?

Image of Libby Lyons and familyAbout the Author: Libby Lyons, MSW, LCSW, CEDS is a specialist in the eating disorder field. Libby has been treating eating disorders for 10 years within the St. Louis area, and enjoys working with individuals of all ages.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 24, 2016
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.