This article is one of a series on the faces and forms of
addiction. It is a collaboration among Alden Brindle,
intensive outpatient director at Hope House; his wife
Marie, Hope House counselor; and writer Nancy Jackson.
Addiction has the following characteristics: tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, denial/deception, and loss of willpower. Hook removal
Today’s article focuses on withdrawal from addiction — the pain of doing without something one has become dependent upon. Last week’s article discussed the development of drug tolerance resulting from chronic drug use. Associated with drug tolerance is drug dependence.
A person physically dependent on a drug will experience negative physical symptoms upon quitting the drug — up to and including death. A person psychologically dependent on a drug will experience negative mental symptoms (called rebound effect) upon quitting the drug. Withdrawal symptoms depend on the type of drug, the dosage level of the drug prior to quitting, and the length of time on the drug.
Physical dependency is a significant factor in withdrawal from chronic use of opiods (heroin, Lortab, etc.) and downers including alcohol and Xanax. Quitting these types of drugs may require advice and supervision from a physician.
Examples of withdrawal from psychological dependency and rebound effect include the following:
1. Persons use marijuana daily to calm nerves. Upon quitting, they might feel very anxious.
2. Persons quitting antidepressants could become more depressed than they were before starting the medication.
3. Persons addicted to decongestants will be very congested upon quitting.
4. Persons on opioids pain medication may go through a higher level of pain upon quitting.
5. Persons quitting sleeping pills may suffer higher levels of insomnia than experienced prior to starting the prescription.
6. Persons taking stimulants such as meth or cocaine will “crash” upon quitting.
7. Persons quitting smoking tobacco may experience higher levels of stress and depression.
8. Persons addicted to romantic relationships will often feel very lonely when another relationship fails.
A person’s ability to move successfully through withdrawal is greatly influenced by attitude. A “can do” attitude often does succeed, and with much less suffering. Less ambiguity in quitting an addiction equals less suffering and greater success.
Complete surrendering of one’s addiction is a great catalyst for recovery from addiction, be it shopping addiction, relationship addiction, or drug addiction. Opening one’s heart to the pain and discomfort of withdrawal leads to recovery and freedom from addiction.
An authentic life requires confronting our self-deception (“Everyone smokes”; “I need pot to get through the day,” etc.), then becoming willing to suffer the pain of withdrawal from our addictive substances.
Recovery from addiction is possible. Recovery enriches both our own lives and our families’ lives. Let us set our hearts on finding the courage to live free of the prison of our addictions. And, ask for help if you need a hand. Agencies such as the Hope House, AA/NA meetings, churches, and mental health providers exist for this reason. In the end, each person is fundamentally responsible for finding his way to a wholesome and soulnurturing life.