Drug Withdrawal



Many substances can precipitate withdrawal symptoms after abrupt cessation, particularly in cases of long term use. Withdrawal is divided into two main types: psychological and physical.


Psychological withdrawal is the mentally perceived need for that substance and is manifested as anxiety, nervousness, and irritability.




Physical withdrawal can be quite dramatic and serious affecting organic changes in body functions. In this case, the body has physically become addicted to the substance, and its withdrawal will precipitate physical side effects.




Changes in heart rate, rhythm, and blood pressure commonly occur. Mental status changes (confusion), seizures, changes in body temperature, sweating, nausea, and vomiting can also be present.


Some substances precipitate mostly psychological withdrawal with only mild physical withdrawal (eg. caffeine and nicotine).
Substances known to produce MAJOR physical withdrawal, in addition to psychological withdrawal, include:


  SLEEPING PILLS (Dalmane, Halcion, others).

  NARCOTIC PAIN MEDICATIONS (Percodan, Dilaudid, Darvon, others).


  BARBITURATES (phenobarbital, Seconal, Nembutal, others).


  BETA-BLOCKER ANTIHYPERTENSIVES (propranolol, and several others).


  SEDATIVES (Valium or diazepam, Librium, Ativan, and other benzodiazepines).




Treatment is aimed at curtailing the uncomfortable symptoms associated with withdrawal. Control of blood pressure, seizures, and vomiting will be accomplished by the physician. Psychological withdrawal usually requires professional counseling.


Your doctor will organize a reasonable schedule which reduces these medications over time so that serious withdrawal symptoms can be avoided. Formal hospitalization into a treatment/rehabilitation unit is necessary in most cases.




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