Can You Die from Withdrawal? | Futures of Palm Beach
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Man Suffering from Withdrawal Symptoms

Can You Die From Withdrawal?

Generally, symptoms start out mild and heighten for most substance abusers around two to three days after last use of the substance in question. Many people admit themselves to detox programs every year to help deal with the discomfort felt during withdrawal. An approximate 28,955 people were in detox on a typical day in 2011, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports. The symptoms a person can experience during withdrawal vary from one substance to the next and also change based on how much of, and how often, a substance is used. That being said, typical symptoms that stem from withdrawing from just about any substance include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cramps
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue and/or insomnia
  • Coma
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Trembling

Which Drugs Have Deadly Withdrawal Symptoms?

Some symptoms are fairly mild while others can get quite intense. Withdrawal from certain substances even poses the risk of death, such as withdrawal from alcohol and benzodiazepines.

Around 17 million people were addicted to alcohol in America as of 2012, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states. Withdrawing from alcohol dependence is more dangerous than most are aware of. In a professional treatment setting, side effects can possibly be prevented, or at least managed, with medications like benzodiazepines. Any complications can also be addressed quickly if they arise.

Some patients who detox from alcohol dependence will incur a serious side effect known as delirium tremens (DTs). DTs usually occurs two to four days after the last drink, but it can happen up to even 10 days later. DTs causes the alcoholic to become disoriented and experience confusion and hallucinations. Over 5 percent of alcoholics who attempt to detox without medical assistance will experience seizures during acute alcohol withdrawal, NIAAA reports. Of those who experience DTs, 5- 25 percent will die. Without any kind of formal treatment involvement, only around 20 percent of alcoholics will beat their addiction permanently, reports

The easiest and safest way to withdraw from benzodiazepines is gradually tapering off them, sometimes while taking another type of benzo under medical supervision. Typically, benzo addicts start feeling withdrawal symptoms within 6-12 hours of their last dose, at which point symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, and insomnia may set in.Professional detox is recommended so that the tapering schedule is supervised, and side effects can be controlled.

Without medical intervention, risks to the withdrawing patient can include experiencing depersonalization, hallucinations, panic, and even death. Most often, patients who die during benzo withdrawal have attempted to quit abruptly by going cold turkey.

This only further solidifies the need for a structured treatment regimen.Some addicts develop post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), which can make withdrawal symptoms persist for a few years after detox. These patients are at increased risk of relapse, which can be deadly if they don’t account for their newly lowered tolerance. That being said, one of the biggest risks most benzo abusers face is that these aren’t the only drugs they’re using. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that in 80 percent of instances in which benzos are being abused, other drugs are too, most notably opioids.

Withdrawal from opiates, either prescription painkillers or heroin, carries significant risks and should not be entered into without professional help. About 12 hours after the last dose, opiate abusers can expect to begin experiencing mild symptoms, such as insomnia, diarrhea, agitation, and muscle aches.

As withdrawal progresses though, generally five or six days into it, more intense symptoms, like anxiety, panic attacks, and vomiting, can show up.For the opiate addict who tries to break their habit at home, the risk of death is much higher. The biggest risk of death during opiate detox comes from the chance of relapse

As the body begins to withdraw from the substance, tolerance lowers and as such, the required dose needed to get high does, too. Most addicts fail to account for this, and when they relapse, they overdose. According to the Washington Post, 16,235 people died from prescription opioid painkiller overdoses in 2013 and 8,257 from heroin overdoses.

Additional Complications

Sometimes, death during withdrawal can stem from emotional instability. Individuals afflicted with depression, anxiety, rage, or paranoia during withdrawal may act out with self-destructive behavior.

Suicide is a real risk among substance abusers. Psychology Today attests to the rate of suicide among substance abusers who fail to seek treatment being as high as 45 percent. Often, matters are far more complex than the mood swings that come alongside withdrawal. In many cases, mental health is a larger concern.

Depression and anxiety are often at an all-time high during withdrawal from a substance. On top of that, approximately 50 percent of people who are severely mentally ill are also substance abusers, according to Helpguide. Letting a mental health disorder grow makes it harder to treat in the long-term, and it may very well lead right back to substance abuse.

It’s Time to Get Help

Treatment for alcoholism is often managed with benzodiazepines to calm symptoms; they work fairly effectively, considering the only way to withdraw from alcohol is to cease drinking. The benzodiazepine addict benefits most from a treatment protocol that focuses on tapering the dosage over time in incremental doses that decrease by about 25 percent for every quarter of time that one expects to be withdrawing, as recommended by AFP.

Addiction to opiates is one of the most severe substance dependencies there is. Whether you’re battling prescription opioid pain relievers or heroin, the treatment approach is the same. The most popular form of managing withdrawal from opiate addiction is via a methadone maintenance program, something the California Society of Addiction Medicine reports to be 60-90 percent effective in all patients.

Buprenorphine is another option for patients wishing to detox slowly and avoid the harsh and abrupt effects of detoxing from opiates, though success rates are more variable for this drug. Recent research points toward a 49 percent success rate, per the National Institutes of Health.

Regardless of which method you choose, the objective is the same — gradually weaning you off of opiates. If you are ready to accept help, call Futures of Palm Beach today. We can answer your questions about the detox process and help you get started.

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