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Three Drugs with the Worst Withdrawal Symptoms

Modern science has produced an ever-increasing array of drugs and other products that are able to greatly improve the quality of life for millions of people around the world with long-term mental and physical health ailments. But the dark side of the power of synthetic drugs is also seen in the abuse of many drugs for their psychoactive effects and mood-altering abilities.

Due to the powerful nature of many of these synthetic drugs, they can be extremely addictive and cause dependence and increased use over the long term. This is only one of the dangers of abusing such substances. While every drug is unique in the ways that it affects the body and mind, and every person may have slightly different reactions to drugs depending upon their genetics, health, and current physical and mental state when taking the drug, there are certain substances that are typically more addictive and harsh in their withdrawal symptoms than others.

Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is an ongoing dependence on the use of a drug in order to experience its effects. Because of the powerful psychoactive nature of many of these abused drugs, addiction to them can be especially dangerous and costly.

The NSDUH reported that in 2017 about 38% of adults in the U.S. struggled with illicit substance abuse and over 12% of adults dealt with simultaneous alcohol and drug abuse. These numbers are significant and communicate the need for greater awareness and resources to help those in need.

Development of Drug Addiction

Typically an addiction involves the increased use of the drug in order to keep reproducing the same effect. Addiction may develop slowly over time, and at first it can be difficult to differentiate between a bad habit and an addiction. A drug addiction is characterized by a constant craving for, compulsive use of, and dependence upon the substance.

Typically, drugs affect the brain by causing it to produce huge amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that it uses to experience pleasure. Because of the massive overload of dopamine that drugs can produce, the brain starts to become addicted to that pleasure and seek it out more and more. This is essentially how drug addiction is developed on the physical level. The more a person uses powerful psychoactive drugs, the more their brain will adapt to such use and cause the need to take more of the substance for the same pleasure kick.

Without such dopamine surges causing it to become disoriented, the brain is more free to pursue healthy activities that will reward it with appropriate amounts of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that cause pleasure and reward. A big part of treating drug addiction is to recondition the brain to be able to experience pleasure in appropriate and healthy ways.

Some of the most obvious signs of drug addiction are:

  • Continued use of a drug after its medical use is no longer needed
  • Increased tolerance of a drug leading to increased dosages
  • Unpleasant symptoms after the drug wears off, such as depression, excessive sweat, headaches, or confusion
  • More extreme physical reactions such as seizures, fever, lack of hunger, or shakiness
  • Constant awareness of the drug and thinking about it excessively
  • Seeking to hide your use of the drug
  • Losing interest in things you normally enjoy

A drug addict will have a very hard time staying away from the drug, and they may go to extreme lengths to obtain it, even if they can’t afford it and may risk losing their most important relationships or their job.

Recognizing Addiction in Others

It’s also important to be able to recognize addiction in others, such as close family and friends. Some of the most tell-tale signs of addiction that can usually be spotted in others are the following:

  • Starting to miss regular appointments or disappear for long periods of time
  • A sense of distance or constant preoccupation even when you’re with them
  • Visits to multiple doctors for the same issues (a sign of seeking out the drugs themselves)
  • Significant changes in mood and personality
  • Sudden and unexplained financial troubles
Causes of Drug Addiction

There are many aspects of how a drug addiction is formed, and every situation is unique, but there are some significant factors that are common to most of these addictions.


Biology is part of the big picture. Genetic factors such as gender and ethnicity can affect the risk of drug addiction for a person, accounting for anywhere from 40% to 60% of a person’s risk level. The presence of other types of mental disorders might also make one more prone to addiction.

The biological element does not excuse continuing the use of harmful drugs, but it helps to shed light on a person’s choices and can be a helpful insight for doctors and therapists when treating a patient for drug addiction.


Environment also plays a big part in one’s risk of developing a drug addiction. Exposure to drugs at an early age through parents or other relatives and friends, or consistent exposure to drugs throughout life, significantly increases the chances of a person developing their own addiction. The younger the person is when they begin drug use, the higher their chance of developing addiction. Physical and sexual abuse also correlate to an increase in drug abuse.

Other environmental factors that have been seen to increase the chances of drug abuse are aggressive or violent behavior at a young age, lack of parental involvement, and poverty.

Consequences of Drug Addiction

Some of the unfortunate long-term consequences of drug addiction include:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Behavioral changes
  • Altered sense of reality
  • Memory problems
  • Increased stress
  • New difficulty learning

Needless to say, drug addiction is an extremely unfortunate reality, and it’s well-worth avoiding the substances that can cause it. If you suspect that you are addicted, it is imperative that you get the help you need. There are countless rehab centers all over the country that you can call for help, and you can also start by simply finding a reliable online assessment to determine whether you are addicted. Many of these online assessments can also help connect you to someone who can help.

If a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, don’t stand by and do nothing. While you can’t force them to do anything, strongly encourage them to find the help they need through professional rehab and counseling, and be as helpful as you can in making that happen. For example, you might offer to drive them, help take care of logistics for them, or even go with them if it helps them make the right decision.

Types of Withdrawal Symptoms

The actual withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction to any drug can vary. These symptoms are dependent upon the individual person, what drug they are withdrawing from, and how long they’ve been using it.

There are essentially two categories of withdrawal symptoms: physical symptoms and psychological symptoms.

Physical symptoms of drug withdrawal include the following:

  • Digestive issues such as vomiting and diarrhea
  • Realistic nightmares
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Significant fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • General restlessness

While these physical symptoms can be significantly unpleasant, psychological symptoms can be even worse and can cause a person to feel trapped by a desire to take more of a substance. These psychological withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Increased depression and anxiety
  • Panic attacks and paranoia
  • Lack of focus
  • Memory loss

The worst drug withdrawal symptoms are referred to as “delirium tremens,” and these include increased heart rate and body temperature, seizures, hallucinations, and uncontrollable shaking. While rare, there are cases where withdrawal from drugs can even be lethal.

3 Drugs with the Worst Withdrawal Symptoms

1. Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are prescribed by doctors to treat anxiety, but they can quickly become addictive and cause problems for many. They use GABA receptors to have the effect of depressants on the brain, and as a result users can become overly dependent upon them to escape from panic attacks and other intense feelings of anxiety. Generally, shorter-acting benzodiazepines are the most addictive, and mixing these benzodiazepines with other drugs is particularly dangerous.

Benzodiazepine withdrawal can cause insomnia, confusion, muscle pain, seizures, and many other unpleasant and painful physical symptoms. In order to avoid addiction and extreme withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepines, it is imperative that those who are legitimately prescribed such drugs ease off of them at the rate prescribed by their doctor.

2. Alcohol

The most widely used of all addictive substances, alcohol is abused by more than 17 million people in the U.S. alone. Alcohol is sometimes disassociated with psychoactive drugs because of its long history and common use in public social settings. This is understandable considering its widespread legitimate use as a social drink and ingredient in cooking and baking. However, when abused, it is a powerful and addictive material capable of altering the mind both in the short and long terms.

Because it is a depressant, when a person comes off of the alcohol’s effect, they can experience an increase in feelings of anxiety and stress that were previously kept at bay. If a person becomes addicted to alcohol for a long time and tries to quit drinking, they can experience intense withdrawal symptoms such as seizures and delirium tremens. Alcohol abuse can also cause major liver problems that can even lead to death. With support from family, friends, and professional providers, however, alcoholics can find freedom from their addiction and live fruitful, productive lives again.

3. Opiates

Opiates such as heroin are some of the most addictive drugs used. It produces a euphoric state that lasts for a half hour or less, but the tradeoff is several hours of terrible side effects, including cognitive function issues and fatigue. Lethal overdose is an unfortunate possibility when a heroin addiction goes too far.

Heroin is one of the most commonly cited drugs for those who enroll in addiction treatment facilities. Tragically, less than one quarter of those who seek treatment for their heroin addiction are able to stay off of the drug long-term. The treatment for heroin addiction often involves a medical detox, which must be guided by a doctor who can prescribe a medication that will help the person transition off of heroin carefully.

Other Addictive Drugs

Other drugs that are often abused and can have significant withdrawal effects include crack cocaine, crystal meth, and even prescription stimulants such as Adderall.

Crack cocaine, which produces a short-lived high that leaves the user wanting more, is a particularly powerful and addictive drug. Only 25% of those addicted to it are able to stay off of it long-term after treatment. While its most extensive use historically was in the 1980s, it continues to be sold and abused to this day.

Crystal meth is another particularly dangerous drug, as it causes high amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine to be released in the brain, resulting in intense euphoria that quickly becomes addictive. It can also cause hallucinations, which in turn can result in self-harm or risky actions that can be physically dangerous or even lethal.

Adderall (and other such prescription stimulants) can also become addictive and cause significant withdrawal after discontinuation. One of the most significant withdrawal symptoms associated with these drugs is lethargy.

Other Common Drug Addiction Issues

Drug withdrawal symptoms are certainly a primary part of drug addiction, but there are other important factors to consider as well. Addiction can affect just about every part of a person’s life, including the following.


One of the most significant ways that drug addiction can negatively impact a person’s life is weakening and disintegrating their most important relationships. Because of the centrality of family relationships for many people, this can be devastating.

The fact that individuals struggling with drug addiction often begin to prioritize their drug use over even their closest family and friends is an example of just how strong the grip of drug addiction can be. Parents may end up losing their children as a result of their inability to raise them and take care of them. Others may lose their spouse as a result of becoming abusive or neglectful and letting their marriage slip away because of their addiction.

Because family and friends are often aware of someone’s addiction, it’s important for them to pay attention to the signs of addiction that they see so they can step in and help their loved ones get the professional help they need.

Career and Productivity

Another significant way that addiction affects the life of an individual is in their work and career. Withdrawal symptoms alone can be debilitating and keep one from applying themselves to their responsibilities and succeeding at work. Furthermore, their preoccupation with drugs can start to cause them to miss work altogether and eventually get fired. This in turn adds financial stress to the burdens they are already hiding from in their addiction.

The effect of psychoactive drugs on the brain can also impair one’s ability to think critically about their future and what they want to achieve in their career. This also affects their long-term mental health and satisfaction in life.

Drug Addiction Treatment

Treatment for drug addiction is not just about removing withdrawal symptoms or finding relief from temporary discomfort. A good, robust treatment will include tools that are able to get to the bottom of the addiction and set the person up for a lifetime of sobriety and freedom.

Counseling is a vital part of finding long-term health after drug addiction. While there are other factors involved in addiction (such as physiological makeup and stress), oftentimes there are elements of a person’s current or past life that are painful and have not been addressed, causing the person to seek drugs to escape from their reality. Professional counselors who have expertise in addiction and addiction treatment can help to pinpoint those underlying issues and start taking steps toward finding the emotional healing that is needed to put them to rest.

Relationships are another key aspect of healing from drug addiction. Connection with other loved ones can help to sustain good habits and healthy rhythms in life, and accountability can also be maintained by staying in community on a regular basis. The support network of good family and friends can make a huge difference in the success of rehab and treatment.

There may also be medication involved that can help curb desires for the drugs in question or reduce other painful withdrawal symptoms during recovery. Such medication must be prescribed and carefully monitored by a doctor who knows the patient and can follow up with them to make sure it is working.

Regardless of the specific rehab needs of any individual, it all starts with reaching out to get professional help.


Get the Help You Need

Remember that while drug addiction is problematic and can be difficult to tackle, it is absolutely treatable and does not have to continue. You are never alone, and there are caring professionals who are ready to help.

If you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms or know someone else who is addicted, don’t hesitate to contact us at Clean Recovery Centers. We can help you take the next steps toward a healthier and brighter future free of drug addiction and the many issues that come with it.


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