drugs
Importance of Detox in a Medical Environment
October 13, 2017

Potential Effects of Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal

drug addiction

When it comes to the potential effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal, there is a great deal of variation based on many factors. The symptoms that patients may experience range, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, insomnia, and anxiety. Opioid withdrawal may cause diarrhea, dehydration, vomiting and other effects. Severe cases of alcohol withdrawal have been known to sometimes cause life-threatening conditions. Effects range from physical symptoms to social consequences. In order to provide a better overview of what to expect, we need to look at the effects based on the substance(s) used.

Effects of Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal

See the charts below for the full breakdown of the symptoms and side effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol Withdrawal Effects

Effects to Self and FamilyEffects to BodyWithdrawal SymptomsDetox Protocol
Slows down thoughts, reflexes and actions Altered perception Mood-altering DisinhibitingCardiovascular, Liver and kidney disease Inflammatory to the GI tract Neuropathy Psychological disordersSeizures Anxiety or depression Hallucinations, delirium Tremors Heart attacks, strokes Can be life-threateningFrequent assessment Valium/Ativan, ancillary medications
Alcohol Withdrawal Effects

Benzodiazepines Withdrawal Effects

Types of Benzodiazepines: Ambien/Ambien CR, Xanax, Librium, Serax, Dalmane, Restoril, Buspar, Sonata, Lunesta, Fioricet, Soma, Zolpidem, Chlordiazepate, Chlordiazepoxide, Klonopin, Tranxene, Valium, Ativan, Doral, Halcion, Rozerem

Effects to Self and FamilyEffects to BodyWithdrawal SymptomsDetox Protocol
Neglect of responsibilities i.e. work, home, school, children
Legal problems
No interest in doing normal things
Confusion, dizziness, poor short term memory
Mood swings
Poor judgment
Altered perception
Visual Changes
Danger operating machinery due to drowsiness
OD an emergency; signs may include nervous system changes, decreased vital signs, cold/clammy skin, bluish lips
Crankiness
Headaches
Bad dreams
Loss of libido; sexual dysfunction
Skin rashes
Weight gain
Menstrual problems
Depression
Seizures
Feeling nervous/tense
Confusion/depression
Fear, paranoia
Anxiety, panic
Changed senses
Shaking
Pain, stiffness, muscle aches, spasms
Flu-like symptoms
Sleep difficulties
Valium/Ativan taper to reduce seizure risk, maximize comfort
Drug accumulates with prolonged, heavy use
Elderly more sensitive to benzos due to decreased liver, kidney function
Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Effects

Opiates Withdrawal Effects

Types of Opiates: Opium, Hydromorphone, Oxymorphone, Heroin, Morphine, Oxycodone, Talwin, Codeine, Methadone, Meperidine, Hydrocodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Percodan, Lortabs, Norco

Effects to Self and FamilyEffects to BodyWithdrawal SymptomsDetox Protocol
Damage to internal organs after long-term use
Depression of body processes and central nervous system
Cognitive decline
Strong psychic dependence; high risk of cross-addiction
Intense cravings
Nausea, vomiting, constipation
Drowsiness, tiredness
Decreased libido
Respiratory depression
Seizures
Dizziness
Weakness
Loss of consciousness, coma
Confusion, clouding of mental function
Cold, clammy skin
Reduced vision
Extremely uncomfortable/frightening
Recurring symptoms over a longer period of time than other detox because excretion more gradual
Persistent
Most challenging detox
Use of Buprenorphine, ancillary medications
Push fluids, exercise, rest, nutrition
Managing anxiety/sleep issues
Relaxation techniques
Biofeedback
Support from various staff/peers
Learning new skills/developing supports to deal with symptoms, cravings
Participation in programming encouraged soon as able
Work together with staff to achieve maximum comfort
Opiate Withdrawal Effects

Cocaine or Crack Withdrawal Effects

Cocaine in powder form or after it is cooked and becomes crack cocaine.

Effects to Self and FamilyEffects to BodyWithdrawal SymptomsDetox Protocol
Sudden mood swings
Increased risk of suicide and violence towards others
Damage to the central nervous system
Anxiety, paranoia
Skin irritability
Heart attacks, heart failure
Respiratory problems, failure
Malnourishment
Can be fatal
High incidence of stroke, seizure, respiratory failure, MI, convulsions, death, aggression, suicide, hallucinations
Baclofen, ancillary medications
Cocaine or Crack Withdrawal Effects

Marijuana Withdrawal Effects

Marijuana when smoked or eaten.

Effects to Self and FamilyEffects to BodyWithdrawal SymptomsDetox Protocol
Decreased motivation
Poor performance at work, school
Poor communication due to difficulty focusing
Isolation from others due to mood/behavior changes
Gateway drug
Altered perception
Fertility issues
Increased heart rate and blood pressure
Decreased appetite
Kills brain cells and damages the central nervous system
Damage to the immune system
Difficulty forming/ recollecting memories
Withdrawal is not dangerous
Increased appetite
Mood fluctuations
Assessment and testing for permanent damage
No detox medications needed
Marijuana Withdrawal Effects

Methamphetamine Withdrawal Effects

Methamphetamine when smoked, snorted or injected.

Effects to Self and FamilyEffects to BodyWithdrawal SymptomsDetox Protocol
Family, financial, legal, job loss, school
Irritable, hostile, violent
Confrontational personality
Increase in risky sexual behaviors
Increased risk of sexually transmitted/blood-borne viruses i.e., Hepatitis B, C, HIV
Permanent damage to the body even if stop i.e., teeth
Violent mood swings i.e. depression/insomnia to anxiety/paranoia
Brain damage to the dopamine system
Gateway drug
Similar to that of cocaine and other stimulants
Anxiety, sleep issues
Depression
Detox medications similar to those used for cocaine and other stimulants
Methamphetamine Withdrawal Effects

Barbiturates Withdrawal Effects

Barbiturates include: Brevital, Pentothal, Surital, Amytal, Nembutal, Seconal, Tuinal, Fiorinal, Butisol, Lotusate, Alurate, Luminal, Mebaral

Effects to Self and FamilyEffects to BodyWithdrawal SymptomsDetox Protocol
Behavior disturbances
Dulled effect
Cognitive changes
Dependence primarily psychic, affecting the mind/CNS
Cross addiction
Unpredictable, frightening, may be life-threateningDetox with Valium/Ativan and ancillary medications
Barbiturates Withdrawal Effects

In addition to differences based on the substance used, the length of use, amount used, and any individual life or health circumstances can affect which of these symptoms present. It is important to remember that the effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal is different for each and every person, so be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.


If you or someone you love may be suffering from an addiction, don’t hesitate to call for help today. The best way to support someone who is going through withdrawal is to help them get admitted to a drug and alcohol medical detox facility. Get the recovery process started to build a new successful life!

Compass Detox utilizes a 40-bed capacity, spread out over our 18,000 square foot top-of-the-line facility. We’re located in Pembroke Pines, Florida, just 30 minutes outside of Miami. A wide range of high-end amenities are available to our visitors during every step of the detox process. We want you to be comfortable and cared for while you’re here.

For more information, please call us at (800) 263-3869.

Brooks V.
Brooks V.
Brooks has been a freelance journalist for the better part of two decades, as well as spending a decade as a crisis intervention counselor. Through his own work and researching the work of others throughout the many facets of the detox, crisis intervention, and mental health worlds he has been able to tell the stories of those worlds in an effort to help addicts and those with mental illnesses understand and navigate them.