Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Drug Withdrawal Overview

What is drug withdrawal?
A person with drug withdrawal has suddenly stopped drugs after taking them regularly for a prolonged time. Drug withdrawal occurs because the body is physically dependent on the effects of a drug. When the drug is stopped, the body must adjust to the absence of the drug. Nerves throughout the body become excessively stimulated without the drug, which causes the symptoms of drug withdrawal.

What are the symptoms of drug withdrawal?
Symptoms of mild drug withdrawal include anxiousness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, insomnia, headache, nausea, tremors, and vomiting. Symptoms of serious drug withdrawal include rapid pulse, fever, palpitations, excessive sweating, difficulty walking, rapid breathing, hallucinations, confusion, and seizures.

How does the doctor treat drug withdrawal?
Treatment depends on the class of drug that is causing the withdrawal symptoms. Treatment for drug withdrawal includes: mental health counseling, social services, support groups, drug detoxification, and medications to curb withdrawal symptoms.

Continue to Drug Withdrawal Risk Factors

Last Updated: Aug 18, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Drug Withdrawal References
  1. Britton JW. Antiepileptic drug withdrawal: literature review. Mayo Clin Proc. 2002 Dec;77(12):1378-88. [12479528]
  2. Giannini AJ. An approach to drug abuse, intoxication and withdrawal. Am Fam Physician. 2000 May 1;61(9):2763-74. [10821156]
  3. Kosten TR, O'Connor PG. Management of drug and alcohol withdrawal. N Engl J Med. 2003 May 1;348(18):1786-95. [12724485]
  4. Williams D, McBride AJ. The drug treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms: a systematic review. Alcohol Alcohol. 1998 Mar-Apr;33(2):103-15. [9566471]
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