What Is Withdrawal?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are 7,800 new drug users in the U.S. every day — over half of which are under 18 years old. The moment these teens begin to use drugs, they put themselves at risk for addiction and tolerance (needing more of the drug to feel its effects). Even teens educated on these risks still use illicit drugs or alcohol each day, despite at least 92% of 12th graders disapproving of regular drug use when asked.
But over time, a drug user’s body and mind become dependent on certain chemicals or sensations stemming from the drug. This dependence essentially rewires the brain so that it forgets how to function without the effects of the drugs or alcohol. When the addict is kept from the drugs or alcohol, addiction withdrawal can set in.
In some cases, the deprival of the drug can cause an addict to react violently. Withdrawal can range from mild to severe, but in more severe cases, these side effects are almost more crippling than the side effects of the drug itself.
Many addicts in the U.S. — of which there are up to 2 million younger than 18 — don’t realize they’re addicted until they begin to feel the effects of withdrawal symptoms. While these side effects may come on subtly at first, before long, they can quite literally consume a young person’s life. During a serious withdrawal — or in order to avoid one — addicts will go to great lengths for their next drink or hit of drugs. It can expedite their downward spiral into self-destruction. And with certain drugs, withdrawal can kick in after a single use.
Around 39% of high school seniors report drinking alcohol and 25% report using at least one illicit drug. Even if your teen has no drug problems of their own, chances are that your teen at least knows someone who has a substance abuse problem. In one study, 40% of teens who smoke marijuana experienced withdrawal symptoms when they stopped using. These kids were more likely to have problems with school, work, finances or relationships. They also met the criteria for marijuana dependence or diagnosable mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Drug withdrawal symptoms are both physical and psychological. Coping with drug withdrawal — especially in cases regarding teens — may require help from family and friends. It may also require missing out on several days of school or other obligations, as certain side effects may be absolutely debilitating. But as long as progress is being made — and the addict does not relapse, or slip back into their drug use — even the most serious withdrawal symptoms are simply necessary towards getting clean.
Drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary based on the substance (or substances) at hand, how heavily the teen used them, and the user’s body size and brain chemistry. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of Appetite
- Trembling or “The Chills”
- Stomach Pain
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
Withdrawal symptoms usually peak around the second or third day of sobriety (48–72 hours after the last use). However, each person’s addiction, chemical makeup and body responses are different, leading to great variability in withdrawal experiences. For example, the withdrawal symptoms from meth and heroin addiction are notoriously intense. Withdrawal can be excruciating and can last for weeks. But even the so-called “lighter” substances, such as weed and alcohol, can produce a painful, lengthy withdrawal period.
Only a healthcare professional can help you determine which treatment options can help your child. After evaluating your teen, they can give your family an approximate withdrawal timeline. It’s important that your child’s withdrawal is closely supervised by an addiction professional — with each relapse, the “withdrawal clock” is reset, and healing is further delayed. Many drug treatment centers offer supervised detox services, which ensure your teen remains medically stable and unable to access substances during withdrawal.
Does My Child Need Rehab for Substance Abuse?
If you see signs of addiction in your child, or if your child has relapsed after prior treatment, do not delay in taking action. Your first step is to talk to a professional such as your family doctor or — if applicable — your child’s established therapist. Let them know what’s going on, and you can develop a plan.
Without treatment, teens struggling with substance problems may never have the impetus to get clean until their addiction causes serious, life-shaking trouble. Even then, many teens are so deeply addicted that they cannot muster a desire for recovery. It is crucial that you act now.
If you need guidance or have questions about teen treatment, our rehab advisors are available to speak with you, confidentially and free of cost. Don’t lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel — recovery is always possible. Addiction may be strong, but your love for your child is stronger. Reach out for support and help your teen begin down the path to sobriety. We can guide you there.
- “DrugFacts: Nationwide Trends.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), June 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.
- “Adolescents | Drug War Facts.” Drug War Facts. Common Sense for Drug Policy, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.
- “Study: Marijuana Withdrawal Symptoms Common in Teens Treated for Substance Use.”Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
- “About Addiction: Signs and Symptoms.” NCADD. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 25 July 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
- “Opiate Withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health, 5 Apr. 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
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