Addiction Recovery: The Stages of Withdrawal

During the process of addiction recovery, you undergo many stages of withdrawals. These symptoms can be either physical or emotional reactions to sobriety and can last anywhere from several months to several years.

Acute Withdrawals

The first stage of the addiction recovery process is acute withdrawals. Acute withdrawals are intense emotional or physical withdrawal symptoms that you experience within the first few weeks of sobriety. Depending on the type of drug, acute withdrawal symptoms can differ. For some drugs, such as alcohol, opiates, or methamphetamine, you will experience physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms. For other drugs, like marijuana, you may only experience emotional withdrawals.

Physical withdrawal symptoms include sweating, increased heart rate, muscle tension, muscle tremors, dizziness, headaches, and nausea or vomiting. Emotional withdrawals can include anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and depression. Depending on the extent of the drug use, the severity of these withdrawal symptoms will differ.

Post-Acute Withdrawals

After acute withdrawals, you experience the post-acute phase of addiction recovery. This phase typically occurs a few weeks into sobriety after the initial withdrawal symptoms have worn off. In the post-acute phase, your brain chemistry is returning to normal. The symptoms of the post-acute phase are psychological and include mood swings, tiredness, low enthusiasm, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.

Like acute withdrawals, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the person and the severity of drug use. Symptoms can last anywhere from a couple months to a couple years, but keep in mind the symptoms are not continuous. Instead, post-acute symptoms come in waves. You may have several good days in a row, then a few days of post-acute symptoms.

Post-acute episodes cannot be avoided, nor are they caused by any external factors. Your brain is simply adjusting to sobriety. As you continue the addiction recovery process, your post-acute symptoms will gradually become less-frequent and less-severe.

Final Stages of Addiction Recovery

When the post-acute phase of addiction recovery ends, you no longer have withdrawal symptoms, but that doesn’t mean you are fully recovered. Addiction recovery is a long, hard process that requires will-power and dedication. On some days or in certain situations, you may get cravings for your former addictions, but you must remind yourself why you chose sobriety over addiction. Staying strong and fighting cravings will eventually pay off, and after five years of sobriety, you dramatically decrease your chances of having a relapse.

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