When we talk about drug and alcohol addiction, what we’re really talking about is an entire body experience. It’s a physical dependence where the person almost cannot continue to function without their drug of choice.

This can be confusing as it relates to alcohol because alcohol is such a commonly used and abused substance. And there is a very fine line between problem drinking and addiction. And you may not even be able to tell the difference until someone decides to stop drinking.


If you think you may have a problem with alcohol and want to know for sure, the best way is to try and stop drinking. Try for only a day and see how it goes. If that goes well, extend your “break” as long as you can. If you cannot seem to stop for even one day, there’s a chance you may be addicted to alcohol. And if you are addicted, you can expect some level of physical withdrawal when you stop.

In this post, we’re going to talk about what that withdrawal may look like and why it varies for different people.

Drug of choice

To start, withdrawal can be a vastly different experience depending on the type of drug you’re abusing. For example, alcohol withdrawal is reportedly one of the most difficult and dangerous withdrawal experiences. Withdrawal from alcohol can even lead to death. So if you are struggling with alcoholism, it’s probably best to seek professional care as you detox.

Going cold turkey on your own could be quite dangerous. If you’re withdrawing from prescription tranquilizers or sedatives, you may also expect a particularly difficult and dangerous withdrawal. Symptoms include seizures, increased heart rate, and hallucinations. It’s not going to be a walk in the park to withdraw from any drug, but some withdrawals are potentially more dangerous than others, and it’s important to be prepared and under proper care.

Duration of use

The longer you abuse a drug, the more dependent your body will be on that drug. And that’s why, as a general rule, the longer you’ve abused a drug, the worse the withdrawal stands to be. Think about the level of shock your body will go through when you give something up that you’ve been relying on for years or even decades.

Regardless of your drug of choice, you should consult a professional if you decide to quit any substance of abuse after extended use. It’s better to be safe than sorry. And when you have the right medical care, you’ll be less likely to relapse when symptoms of withdrawal appear.

Level of physical reliance

You can experience a drug dependence that will be difficult to quit, and you may even experience some mild withdrawal symptoms. But you can expect that the experience will be different when you need two bottles of wine versus two gallons of vodka to get through the day.

You might be tempted to think that addiction is addiction. And you’d be right to an extent. But things get a bit more nuanced when the intensity of drug or alcohol use is amplified.

You’re likely to have more intense withdrawal symptoms when your body relies on larger quantities of a drug because it’s a much more stark contrast when compared with being sober.

Physical health

If you already have physical health issues, withdrawal may be more dangerous or more intense for you, regardless of your drug of choice, duration of use, or level of physical reliance.

For example, if you already suffer from depression, your symptoms are likely to be much more intense when you experience physical withdrawal from a substance like alcohol or prescription stimulants. The same holds true for any withdrawal and physical ailment or disability.

So although there aren’t any specific studies on physical fitness and addiction withdrawal, it stands to reason that someone who is more fit would have a less intense withdrawal if all other things were equal.


There’s so much we still have to learn about the role of genetics in addiction. And with that said, there are even more mysteries surrounding genetics and withdrawal. But it’s not much of a stretch to believe that genetics do play a role. After all, people are genetically predisposed to certain conditions (and likely addiction itself) that could exacerbate withdrawal symptoms.

We can’t say for sure that genetics play a role in withdrawal intensity, but if you have a close family member that had a particularly difficult withdrawal under similar conditions, it’s probably best to be prepared for something similar. In the best case, you’ll have an easier ride.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot left to learn about why people have different levels of withdrawal, but nonetheless, withdrawal is a necessary part of recovery. It’s better to suffer for a short time with withdrawal symptoms than to suffer a lifetime with addiction.

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