Have you ever worn something that was labeled “one size fits all?” If you have, you know that claim isn’t exactly true. Even if the item “fits,” it looks very different on a size 6 waist than a size 26. In fact, many manufacturers play it safe and just slap on a “one size fits most” label instead.
Why is it so hard to make the “all” claim? Well, it’s because each person is a unique individual, with a one-of-a-kind shape and size. And the same holds true for withdrawal. Every person who experiences withdrawal has a slightly different background, biological make-up, medical history and pattern of drug use. With so many factors involved, it’s no surprise that withdrawal symptoms are different for everyone. We know there are some common symptoms, but everyone still has their own unique experience. The characteristics and severity of symptoms vary greatly. From mild to lethal, withdrawal experiences run the gamut.
Alcohol Withdrawal – From Tremors to Tremens
His last drink was three days ago. Before that, Jerry had been drinking heavily for years. But last week, Jerry’s best friend died from liver complications caused by alcohol abuse. It was a wake-up call for Jerry. Now, 72 hours into his sobriety, Jerry was experiencing severe withdrawal.
Possibly due to his age (63) or his poor general health, Jerry was hit with the most severe form of withdrawal – delirium tremens (DTs). He became confused, his heart rate spiked and he was running a fever. Due to the sudden chemical imbalance in his system, Jerry’s body was in overdrive. Fortunately, his symptoms stabilized and he did not join the one to five percent whose DTs are fatal.
Darren’s experience in withdrawal took a different turn. After years of drinking, he was ready for a change after losing his license due to a DWI. Just one day into his alcohol-free life, Darren began having hallucinations. He saw lights that he knew weren’t there. He heard voices that weren’t there either. Darren’s hallucinations continued for about a day, then slowly subsided.
Jimmy had an easier time with withdrawal than both Darren and Jerry...although it didn’t feel easy to Jimmy at the time. About ten hours after his last drink, he started throwing up and developed an intense headache. His hands started shaking. He began to sweat profusely. It felt like the worst flu he’d ever had. Jimmy was tempted to take a few sips to “cure” his sickness, but he stuck it out and felt better in a couple of days.
Heroin Withdrawal – From Ill to Irritable
VJ was in one of the worst moods of his life. Everyone told him that quitting heroin would make him happier. He hoped that was true in the long run, because he wasn’t feeling it now. It had been two days since his last hit and he’d hardly slept at all. He felt anxious and irritable. Anyone who talked to him in this state was likely to regret initiating conversation. Two days later, however, VJ was feeling much better. His withdrawal symptoms had peaked and started to subside. He was finally safe to approach again.
Tom felt like he had a terrible case of the flu. After a few months of using heroin, he ran out of money and couldn’t afford another bag. He hadn’t used heroin in over two days. As a result, he was feeling nauseous, had cold flashes and was suffering from diarrhea. He hoped this wouldn’t last long.
Three days after his last heroin use, Ryan wasn’t happy. Truth be told, he was way less than happy. Showing symptoms of depression, his psychological withdrawal symptoms were turning out to be more serious than his physical ones. Besides craving the drug frequently, he felt hopeless. It was hard to function. He would have preferred Tom’s flu.
The Lethal Difference
Ceasing drug or alcohol use after long-term abuse is always a shock to your system. While withdrawal symptoms vary greatly from person to person, the abrupt chemical change can cause medically dangerous side effects. That’s why, if you or a loved one have decided to quit, it is always safest to undergo a medically-supervised detox program. Find a trusted facility and additional resources here.
Why do Some Withdrawal Symptoms Last Longer?
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