Which Drug is the Worst to Withdraw From?
Addiction is the compulsion to use mind-altering substances in spite of negative consequences. Those who have substance use disorders are compelled to keep using a variety of substances even when this behavior is leading to financial catastrophe, ruined relationships, major legal problems and health problems.
The way any drug affects a person can vary from one person to the next. At the same time, certain drugs are considered very highly addictive, and these drugs are likely to be among the hardest drugs for people to withdraw from. These drugs cause significant chemical changes in the brain, which interfere with the brain’s ability to experience pleasure, leading users to want to keep using them and setting off unpleasant and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms when they are discontinued.
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Illegal Street Drugs
The use of illegal street drugs may start out of curiosity or an urge to escape from unpleasant feelings, but many of these substances cause users to be overcome with cravings whenever they don’t have access to them. The drugs most difficult to withdraw from in this category include:
- Heroin – Users of this substance experience intense euphoria that is extremely difficult to give up. Attempts to quit lead to powerful withdrawal symptoms that often make users turn back to the substance for relief.
- Cocaine and crack cocaine – While both cocaine and crack cocaine can lead to strong psychological dependence, the high from crack cocaine lasts for a shorter amount of time and causes users to seek the drug out more often. Both of these drugs stop the reabsorption of dopamine by the brain, causing users to continually crave these drugs and leading to strong physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, agitation, paranoia and depression.
- Crystal meth – This is a manmade stimulant that leads to intense cravings that are very difficult to overcome. Initial withdrawal symptoms from crystal meth can last a week or longer, and strong cravings may continue to affect users who discontinue use.
It’s not uncommon for people to believe that prescription drugs are less dangerous than street drugs, but many prescription drugs are very powerful substances that can lead to serious problems with addiction, even when used as prescribed. Particularly when these drugs are misused, they can be very difficult to withdraw from.
- Opioids and opiates – Commonly prescribed to treat pain, this category of drugs can be highly addictive. Discontinuing use can set off withdrawal symptoms that may be mild or severe and range from muscle aches and anxiety to digestive disturbances. Symptoms may increase in intensity but usually subside within about 72 hours. However, some people continue to experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings for a few months after stopping use.
- Stimulants – Medications prescribed to treat ADHD, such as Adderall, can be addictive when abused. Withdrawal symptoms can be psychologically difficult to deal with, such as extremely low energy, low mood and lethargy. These symptoms may persist for several months after discontinuing use.
- Benzodiazepines – Often prescribed to treat anxiety, these medications cause rapid tolerance and set off very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms including panic attacks and extreme agitation for those who try to quit cold turkey.
Other Substances That Are Difficult to Withdraw From
When a person is physically addicted to drinking alcohol, it can be extremely difficult to stop drinking and can even be dangerous to attempt to quit cold turkey without medical supervision. Alcohol withdrawal can cause symptoms that range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. These symptoms may include tremors, sweating, insomnia, nausea and seizures.
Many people find that nicotine is one of the most difficult substances to withdraw from. Attempts to quit smoking may lead to irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, nausea, headaches and coughing. These symptoms usually peak two or three days after quitting but will go away if ignored.
Withdrawal from substances that have been used habitually can be extremely unpleasant and sometimes dangerous. Dependence on substances can be overcome with professional help and with commitment and a determination to stop addictive behavior.
If you or a loved one are struggling with drug addiction, please call us at (866) 339-3544 or submit the form below to learn more about our addiction treatment programs in Los Angeles.
Since 2004, Lori has worked with the behavioral health treatment community to bring awareness about mental health disorders and evidence-based treatments. Lori strives to help people better understand mental illness and provide support to those needing help and their families. As a mental health advocate, Lori works to be a voice for those suffering from substance abuse, dual diagnosis, borderline personality disorder, depression, anxiety, trauma, or any other disorder.