Drug and Alcohol - Medication-Assisted Treatment - Sobriety

Why Do People Experience Withdrawal Symptoms?

Why Do People Experience Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms are part of the addiction recovery process. Although unpleasant, they can be much more bearable with the help of a drug rehab.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

Medication-Assisted Treatment


June 8, 2022

Withdrawal symptoms are a major hurdle for those pursuing sobriety, and its detrimental effects can make the journey through the treatment phases of drug rehab seem incredibly difficult.

The emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms one experiences can be uncomfortable, even painful. However, navigating withdrawal is an essential part of the drug and alcohol addiction rehab process. Despite the discomfort of unique withdrawal symptoms, navigating withdrawal while maintaining sobriety is necessary for setting the groundwork for a healthy, sober future.

How people experience withdrawal can vary, as can the severity of withdrawal symptoms, but it all revolves around changing the way the mind and body function when it comes to the use of drugs and alcohol.

The Effects of Addictive Substances

Withdrawal occurs in a number of different situations, like when an individual decides to cut their use of addictive substances outright, commonly known as “cold turkey,” or if an individual decides to decrease the frequency or amount of their use, even if they don't stop using the substances entirely.

A person's use of addictive substances has a myriad of effects on the body and mind and can cause the chemical balance in their body to shift out of “homeostasis,” or the body’s sense of “normalcy,” to compensate for the presence or lack of the substance.

Not only does the use of addictive substances carry a number of physical ramifications — from liver disease to damage to the skin, gums, teeth, or heart depending on the substance being used — but using drugs or drinking alcohol also affects the brain by hijacking neuroreceptors, especially those tied to feelings of satisfaction.

The use of addictive substances can then become expected by the body and mind, as both have integrated the addictive substances into their new, altered form of homeostasis. Those struggling with addiction can feel as if they cannot function without the substance because they have become accustomed to its use and created new homeostasis that relies on these destructive substances.

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal is the body’s rapid shift away from addictive substances, as the neuroreceptors and chemical balance in the brain are challenged due to the cessation of addictive substances. Just as the body and brain adapt and adjust to expect the use of substances — and even build a tolerance to them — they must also readjust their chemistry in the absence of those substances.

There are also psychological effects that can facilitate withdrawal symptoms that are equally important to processing withdrawal.

Depending on an individual’s frequency and intensity of use, they may not just see addictive substances as an expectation, but as a fundamental part of their needs. Their denial may be perceived as a major concern for their emotional and physical well-being. This is far from the truth and, in fact, reveals how serious the problem of drugs and alcohol is.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a commonly used metric that gauges one's needs to reach the pinnacle of self-actualization and a feeling of self-fulfillment. Its lower parts are comprised of an individual’s psychological needs and basic needs. 

The use of addictive substances also influences how one perceives these needs and can often alter one’s perception to believe that drugs or alcohol are necessary to meet them. The denial of these perceived needs can cause the body and mind to react negatively, and feelings of anxiety, depression, and other physical and emotional effects can occur on top of the biological shift happening in one’s mind.

Addiction and Psychological Needs

Psychological needs can include a sense of community and belonging, as well as feelings of self-esteem. However, anxiety can limit one’s engagement with supportive communities or promote feelings of self-doubt. One may turn to addictive substances to push down these anxieties, but such use can develop to the point that an individual believes the use of addictive substances is necessary for socialization, making social situations difficult without drinking or using drugs.

Addiction and Basic Needs

An individual's more basic needs can also be affected by addiction. Drug and alcohol use may cause an individual to believe that their substance of choice is necessary even for a feeling of safety. Those struggling with withdrawal may view its uncomfortable symptoms as danger, and they may reengage with addictive substances not out of desire but because their bodies believe they are necessary to end the pain.

Even though addictive substances are in no way necessary for survival, addiction can cause an individual to believe otherwise. This perspective can intensify the effects of withdrawal as the mind rapidly shifts to a new norm in sobriety, also making this time especially dangerous for relapse.

Altered brain chemistry and perception of needs can be detrimental to health and promote continued use of these dangerous substances, and withdrawal occurs when these false needs aren’t met.

While uncomfortable, withdrawal also signals the path to a healthier future. Going through detox and withdrawal is a necessary part of the journey toward a healthier life free from addiction.

Overcome Withdrawal Symptoms With The Edge Treatment Center

Overcoming withdrawal is never easy, but it is always possible with the right support, dedicated programs, and education. At The Edge Treatment Center, we understand the need for professional care to navigate this time, and we are prepared to create a personalized program to address your needs and goals in recovery.

For more information on our unique approaches and available programs, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your unique situation, contact The Edge Treatment Center today.

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