Are there terrible withdrawal pangs from taking drugs?
Written by: John Dicey | Last updated / reviewed: 06 June 2021
Reviewed by: Colleen Dwyer
Many believe that drug withdrawal is difficult and unpleasant, and this belief would create a tremendous fear of quitting drugs for anyone, but withdrawal is not as bad as people fear.
The reality is that drug users go into withdrawal whenever they finish taking their drug. It is an illusion that there is physical withdrawal pain from the drug itself. We are never badly addicted to the chemical itself.
Perhaps you feel that you have to suffer a few days of withdrawal to get free.
The fact is that the really unpleasant aspects of withdrawal are not caused by the drug itself but because the person taking it believes the drug is a crutch and a pleasure that they must resist for the rest of their lives. All this creates an awful tug-of-war in their mind: on the one hand they want to take the drug, while on the other they know that if they do use it will destroy them. We don’t dispute that mental stress can create powerful physical symptoms – sweating and shaking, just as a child that has been deprived of its toy will exhibit similar pronounced physical symptoms that in themselves have no real physical cause. The cause is mental: the child is focussing on what it can’t have, to the exclusion of everything else.
Of course, if the parent gives in to the child and lets it have its toy, those symptoms will disappear in an instant.
And if the person gives in to their craving, the sweats and the shakes start to subside with the first hit. In fact you don’t even have to wait for the first puff, snort, or injection: the discomfort starts to subside while you prepare to take the drug! They don’t disappear when the person takes it; they disappear when they decide to take it.
It’s the addict’s mind that craves the drug, not their body. The belief that the drug provides some kind of pleasure or crutch is an illusion.
Are we saying no one ever goes through any discomfort as a result of drug withdrawal? No we’re not, and if you do experience any discomfort you should go and see your doctor. What we’re saying is that most of what people mistake for physical withdrawal is in fact caused by the mind. It is extremely rare for anyone to actually suffer purely as a result of physical withdrawal. We’ve seen thousands of extremely heavy drug takers quit without going through any real pain. Quite the reverse: once people finally get it clear that they’re not making any sacrifice, they’re delighted to be free.
Some people do go through a little discomfort – perhaps becoming a little jittery or having a few sweats for a couple of days. So what? They’ll be the happiest days of your life. You have a horrific disease and you’ll have found the cure. The agony that you would inflict upon yourself by remaining an addict would be a million times worse. Imagine you told someone with cancer there was a permanent cure, but they might have the sweats and the shakes for a few days. How do you think they would respond?
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