FEB 23, 2016 12:08 PM PST

The Science Behind Withdrawal Misery

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Addictive substances can be as dangerous as opioids or heroin, or as commonplace as alcohol or caffeine. Though the effects of these drugs are different, they all have the potential to cause addiction through triggering neurotransmitter release and altering how the brain functions. With regular exposure, the brain builds up a tolerance to these substances, which is partly why the body can react so violently if the substance is taken away in a flash.

Withdrawal syndrome is the body's response when a frequently-used drug is suddenly removed from the system. Symptoms of withdrawal can be very physical, manifesting as nausea, sweating, shaking, and even hallucinations. These unpleasant side effects can come within hours and can last for as long as months, making it extremely difficult to quit these substances, especially for opioids and other dangerous narcotics. Watch the video to learn how the brain's compensation system plays a big role in addiction and withdrawal.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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