Coping Withdrawal Symptoms of Substance abuse

Coping Withdrawal Symptoms of Substance abuse

“Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you.” Aldous Huxley

Substance Abuse is a major concern worldwide, India being no exception. Alcohol, which was once used as the part of rituals and medicaments, now has become a worldwide problem that attracts high attention of mental health professionals. Alcohol as an addictive phenomenon, is not yet fully conceptualized by the society, therefore the patients are not worried about their addiction, and the majority of the referral is not seriously to identify the situation. Ethyl alcohol is one of the ten most dangerous drugs for human health. Its marked ability to induce physical dependence (Nutt et al., 2007) and abuse affect the whole organism particularly serious damage to the digestive, central nervous and cardiovascular system.

Today, Alcohol is the third largest health care problem in India. It hampers the socio-economic-political arena of a human being. Patients often approach to the treatment facilities when the situation becomes grave enough that they themselves might not be able to handle their behaviour and pattern of addiction. Majority of such patients are brought to De-addiction Centres by force or persuasion. Although short term treatment of substance abuse is quite effective, preventing relapse often proves to be far more challenging. A majority of those patients who are brought by force or persuasion relapse within a year of starting treatment, with the first three months being the most vulnerable period.

Relapse can be a frustrating experience and it usually has several adverse consequences for patients, caregivers and therapists. Alcoholism is a common illness and a chronic disease characterized by cravings for alcohol, inability to limit alcohol use and continuing to drink despite side effects such as physical and social problems. There are many alcohol-dependent patients in hospital departments, which entail high costs in medical services. Repeated hospitalization has become a major setback that challenges the efficacy of treatment and the treating team in most of the de-addiction centres all over the world.

Types of Substance Abuse

According to the mental health clinician’s handbook, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), all of the substances, have disorders of two types: substance use disorders and substance-induced disorders. Substance use disorders include abuse and dependence. Substance-induced disorders include withdrawal, intoxication and various psychiatric aspect (dementia, psychosis, anxiety, mood disorder, etc.) that the substance induces when it is used.

List of Addictions to Substances

Substance use disorders in the DSM V provide a list of addictions relating to the following substances:

● Alcohol

● Tobacco

● Opioids (like heroin)

● Prescription drugs (sedatives, hypnotics, or anxiolytics like sleeping pills and tranquilizers)

● Cocaine

Cannabis (marijuana)

● Amphetamines (like methamphetamine, known as meth)

● Hallucinogens

● Inhalants

List of Impulse Control Disorders

The DSM V lists disorders where impulses cannot be resisted, which could be considered a type of addiction. The following is a list of the recognized disorder which is related to impulse control:

● Intermittent explosive disorder (compulsive aggressive and assaultive acts)

● Kleptomania (compulsive stealing)

● Pyromania (compulsive setting of fires)

● Gambling

List of Addictions – Behavioural

It has been strongly suggested one of the types of addictions is behavioural addiction. The following is a list of behaviours that have been noted to be addictive:

● Food (eating)

● Sex

● Pornography (attaining, viewing)

● Using computers / the internet

● Playing video games

● Working

● Exercising

● Shopping

Need for Psychosocial Interventions

Today, blending medications and psychosocial interventions in the treatment of substance abuse is the norm and has considerable support in the research literature. Successful treatment of substance use disorders may involve the use of multiple specific interventions which may vary over time for any individual patient and which may involve more than one clinician. Collaborative treatment integrates medication and psychotherapy approaches for the patient.

Coping strategies and stress of Substance Abuse

Coping denotes to the beliefs and actions we use to deal with stress. Coping has been defined as “a conscious, rational way of dealing with the anxieties of life”. According to Lazarus and Launier, coping represents the efforts, having both actions orientated and intrapsychic dimensions, to manage, that is to master, tolerate, reduce, minimize, environmental and internal demands and conflicts, which tax or exceeds a person’s resources. A research (Orford & Guthrie, 1976) found that the coping strategies like pleading, threatening, and arguing; avoiding, keeping out of the way; withdrawing sexuality; being indulgent (giving a drink to help with hangover, going without to give the drinker money, etc.); controlling access to drink (Pouring it away, making rules not to allow it in the house, etc.); attacking or competing; taking greater control or responsibility (e.g. over money matters or childcare); seeking outside help; are taking steps towards separation. According to Lazarus & Folkman, behavioural and cognitive efforts used to manage external and internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding once resources.

There is a good amount of empirical evidence available on psychosocial stress. The classic stress theory and coping refer to general everyday challenges that threaten or exceed individual coping resources as distress. If alcohol is consumed in such acute stress situations, it contributes to the development of a chronic stress syndrome; at the same time, however, alcohol may serve to maintain the distress syndrome if it is consumed as a self – administered remedy for chronic psychological stress. Stress has been a ubiquitous explanation for a broad variety of illness and maladies, ranging from the physical (e.g., heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders) to the emotional and behavioural (e.g., depression, substance use). Consistent with this understanding, numerous studies have demonstrated that life stressors increase the likelihood of alcohol and drug relapse for substance abusers after addiction treatment and are associated with poorer addiction treatment outcomes.

The importance of coping behaviour in preventing relapse has led to the implementation of coping skills training as a major component of nearly all empirically supported treatments for alcohol use disorders. Yet, there is scant evidence that the implementation of effective coping strategies following coping skills training is a mediating mechanism of improved outcomes. Given these discrepant findings, it is critical to gain a better understanding of individual variation in the coping-drinking relationship following treatment. Prolonged long term stress may tax the coping resources of substance abusers in early recovery who may have depleted resources such as social support, financial assets, and occupational opportunities before entering treatment. Experiencing long-term stress may also result in adaptation or habitation, decreasing the likelihood of initiating effective coping efforts and increasing negative affective states that are common precursors of substance relapse.

What are the withdrawal symptoms in Substance Abuse & how to manage it?

Perhaps, one is drinking alcohol or abusing drugs, dealing with withdrawal symptoms can be difficult, and when unsuccessful, can lead to relapse. A person is coping with cravings means instituting good habits that is effectively circumnavigating his/her attention from the substance to the new, healthy practice. If you’ve tried to quit before, you know that this can be the worst part of beginning recovery. If you’ve relapsed in the past, you may not know that these feelings do not last forever.

Identifying Withdrawal Symptoms

Substance alters a person’s ability and quality to think rationally and exercise good judgment. It happens especially when experiencing withdrawal symptoms, our brain will always try to rationalize just about any reason to make taking substance a good idea. Substance Withdrawal symptoms can include:

● Increased sensitivity to pain

● Irritability

● Emotional instability, anxiety and depression

● Restlessness or insomnia

● Sweating, hot flashes

● Flu-like symptoms: weakness, body aches and headaches

● Lack of or increased appetite

These symptoms alone don’t always lead to relapse. There are another social, emotional and psychological problems that can contribute to relapse as well. These symptoms include:

A negative or positive emotional state – moving to substance abuse because the patient feel bad or because patient want to increase their good feelings

Social situations – turning to substance abuse due to social pressure, because you’re in circumstances in which substance use is occurring, or because of conflict with another person

Physical discomfort

Strong cravings or temptation to use drugs

Testing personal boundaries – many people use just “one more time” because they think they can stop at any point

Physical Activities

Healthy life routine activities like yoga and exercising are very helpful in keeping your mind off that. Yoga is likely to help balance and centre a person, as well as meditation and can prove valuable in avoiding cravings. For example if a person has smoking problem and is unable to quit smoking for fear of gaining weight. The workout just a few times in a week or month can negate this result and make it easier for them to quit.

Support Systems

Support of family and friends, and even counselling groups, can be very encouraging for someone if want and is working to quit. Also talking about your habits can help quell the desire to use.


Withdrawal symptoms from substance abuse are depression, anxiety and many physical effects. Having knowledge about what to expect during withdrawal from the substance, one can make a healthy action plan to help combat the desires. If one is prone to anxiety or other mental illness, identify ways to work through the panic. Meditation, breathing exercises, and sensory strategies can help with this.


There are medications available to help with withdrawal from a variety of substances. Methadone and Disulfiram are two most important treatment method which would treat withdrawal from heroin and alcohol, respectively.

There are multiple factors associated with withdrawal from substance abuse. Also, treatments may be meted out in professionally guided brief or extended interventions, or in the self-help approaches. All these, taken together, can be instrumental in achieving maintenance of abstinence, the return of the drug user to the mainstream life, and promotion of well-being in the patient and his family. However, it needs to be kept in mind that pharmacological, psychosocial and coping strategies approach to the management of withdrawal from alcohol/drug abuse tends to go hand in hand i.e. they are complementary to each other, and the best results have generally been obtained by a combined approach. Hence, in the treatment of patients with alcohol/drug abuse (or dependence), psychosocial management and coping strategies of the patient is of equal, if not less, importance as pharmacological management.

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