Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Distraction to Combat Withdrawal Symptoms
When people make the decision to quit their addiction they will be faced with the prospect of withdrawal symptoms. The individual is likely to have a few days where they will experience a bit of discomfort. In most cases the symptoms of withdrawal will never get any worse than the symptoms of a mild flu. The benefits of escaping an addiction make such unpleasantness well worth it. The individual will be able to do a great deal to lessen their discomfort. One possible option is to use distraction.
When people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs attempt to quit, or reduce their consumption, they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Addictive substances are toxic but the body learns how to live with them. In fact the body adapts so well that when these substances are removed it comes a shock to the system. As the body acclimatizes to the new conditions the individual is likely to experience different symptoms.
The types of withdrawal symptoms that people can experience will vary depending on the drug they have been addicted to. These symptoms may be physical or mental in nature. The most common physical symptoms include:
* Nausea and vomiting
* Shaking or tremors
* Restless leg syndrome.
* Muscle pain
* Body aches and flu like symptoms
* Loss of appetite
* Inability to sleep
* Stomach upset
* Heart palpitations
* Changes to the pulse rate
* Changes to the respiratory rate
* Elevated blood pressure
* Restlessness and an inability to get comfortable
The most common mental symptoms of addiction withdrawal include:
* Feelings of anxiety and impending doom
* Inability to concentrate
* Audio or visual hallucinations
* People will often describe their mind as feeling fuzzy.
* Feelings of confusion.
* Thoughts of suicide
* Mood swings
* A sense of depersonalization. This is where the individual feels as if they are watching themselves as if they were on the outside looking in.
* Intense cravings
Some individuals will experience withdrawal symptoms that are so severe that they can become life threatening. Delirium tremens is most associated with withdrawal from alcohol or barbiturates. The symptoms of this extreme type of withdrawal include:
* Convulsions of the clonic tonic variety. This is where the individual loses consciousness and shakes violently.
* Intense hallucinations that usually involve moving animals.
* Extreme confusion.
* Dangerously elevated pulse, blood pressure, or respiratory rate.
* The individual will usually experience a high sense of anxiety.
Distraction can be defined as turning away from the original focus of attention or interest. If the individual is thinking about something that do not wish to think about they can use distraction as a means to accomplish this. Anything that can help the individual move their focus away from that thing they want to avoid will be a distraction.
The Buddha once used an analogy of the two arrows to explain how people increase their own suffering unnecessary. There is no requirement to be a Buddhist in order to appreciate the logic of what he is saying. He explained that when people suffer it is like being hit with an arrow. If the individual goes into aversion and panic mode and it will double their suffering. It is like they have been hit by a second arrow. It may be impossible to avoid the first arrow, but it is almost certainly possible to avoid the second – that way the individual will cut their suffering in half.
If people are too focused on their withdrawal symptoms they will suffer a great deal more as a result. The individual will leap upon even the vaguest symptom and magnify it. Withdrawal symptoms are not usually there all the time but it can seem that way to people who are focused on them. By distracting themselves the individual will be paying less attention to their symptoms. They will thereby avoid the Buddha’s second arrow.
There are many types of distraction that can be effective when dealing with withdrawal symptoms including:
* Going for a walk. It is hard for people to change their thoughts if they are still in the same environment where they had these thoughts.
* Listening to favorite music. This should not be music that the individual associates with alcohol or drug use.
* Spending time with other people is a wonderful distraction.
* Watch some television. There are claims that too much TV is a bad thing, but it can be a good distraction for people who are dealing with cravings.
* Hard exercise is another good way to change a current mental state.
* Some people find that cleaning their home is a useful distraction. They also benefit from a nicer living environment afterwards.
* Helping other people is probably the best type of distraction for cravings. By focusing on other people the individual will be less focused on themselves.
* Those individuals who are in rehab can distract themselves by doing things such as playing board games with other clients.
Those who can play a musical instrument may find that this helps keep their mind off their cravings.
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