A substance use disorder is a clinical term used to describe addiction to drugs or alcohol. According to guidelines set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, withdrawal is one of the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder. Withdrawal, which occurs when people with addictions stop using drugs or alcohol, involves unpleasant symptoms as a result of the substance of abuse no longer being active in the body.
When a person enters withdrawal, he or she may experience painful symptoms, making it difficult to permanently stop using the substance of abuse. In fact, people may return to drug or alcohol use to avoid withdrawal symptoms. In cases where a person wants to stop using drugs and/or alcohol but withdrawal symptoms are making the process more challenging, an alcohol and drug detox program may be necessary to manage symptoms and begin the journey toward lasting recovery. Detox programs can also provide life-saving medical treatment in cases where withdrawal becomes dangerous.