What Is Post-Acute Withdrawal?
After a prolonged period of substance abuse, a drug user who enters recovery will go through three main phases: detox, acute withdrawal, and post-acute withdrawal. During the detox period, it is important that the patient be supervised by trained medical professionals as some drugs can cause life-threatening conditions during the detox phase. The acute withdrawal phase lasts five days to five weeks, depending on the drug. This is the time when the body begins adjusting to life without the drug.
Finally, the post-acute withdrawal phase occurs after the acute withdrawal phase and can last weeks or even months. During this time, a person in recovery may feel irritable, depressed, anxious, hostile, tired, have difficulty sleeping, have difficulty concentrating or may experience physical pains. These symptoms will continue until the body fully adjusts to being without the drug of choice. This often causes a great deal of physical and psychological discomfort while the body returns to a normal state.
How Can I Help a Loved One Suffering From Post Acute Withdrawal?
The first step in helping someone cope with post-acute withdrawal is to educate them on the process. Inform them that it is a temporary condition that will eventually go away. Though the urge to relapse may be strong now, post-acute withdrawal symptoms will end. Next, find a way to celebrate small wins. For example, if a recovering addict is used to turning to alcohol to cope with a stressful day at work, but instead decides to go for a walk or call a friend, that’s a huge accomplishment and it should be celebrated.
The hardest part of recovery is breaking bad habits and replacing them with healthy ones. It is also important to consult with a medical professional during the post-acute withdrawal phase. A physician may be able to prescribe medications to help with nausea, sleeplessness, anxiety or depression. Next, visit with a mental health professional. Oftentimes counseling, group therapy, and skills-building classes can make a significant difference in the way a person experiences post-acute withdrawal. Post-acute withdrawal is a neurological and physical condition that causes physical and emotional symptoms. However, by staying busy, staying positive and seeking help, you can overcome post-acute withdrawal and live a healthy, happy life in recovery.
Treatment Options at Promises
At Promises Behavioral Health, we are as committed as you are to helping your loved one suffering post-acute withdrawal. Therefore, we offer a variety of addiction treatment programs. These may include:
- Alcohol addiction treatment
- Cocaine addiction treatment
- Benzo addiction treatment
- Opioid addiction treatment
- Prescription pain pill medication
To learn more about helping a loved one suffering from post-acute withdrawal, or to enroll in a treatment program, call 844.875.5609 today.
Of the many misconceptions about addiction, one of the most persistent is the idea that after complete medical detoxification — which is the beginning of a phase called “acute withdrawal” — a person suffering from addiction is “healed,” and life can go back to “normal.” In other words, people tend to think that once the body is free is substances, the hard part is over, and the individual is well on the way to a successful recovery.
The reality of the situation, however, is that once a person decides on a path to recovery, they may experience post-acute withdrawal, also known as “protracted withdrawal.” Post-acute withdrawal is a condition common to all forms of substance abuse. It is an uncomfortable condition that can last for weeks or even months and makes maintaining sobriety extremely difficult.
What is Post-Acute Withdrawal?
After a prolonged period of substance abuse, a drug user who enters recovery will go through three main phases: detox, acute withdrawal, and post-acute withdrawal. During the detox period, it is essential that the patient be supervised by trained medical professionals as some drugs can cause life-threatening conditions during the detox phase. The acute withdrawal phase lasts five days to five weeks, depending on the substance. This period is when the body begins adjusting to life without the drug. Finally, the post-acute withdrawal phase occurs after the acute withdrawal phase and can last weeks or even months.
An easy way to think about the difference between the detox/acute withdrawal phase and the post-acute withdrawal phase is that the earlier stage involves the physical effects of no longer using a substance. The post-acute withdrawal phase, on the other hand, involves more of the psychological and emotional impact of the human body no longer having access to the substances upon which it has been relying. Both phases are challenging but in different ways.
Post-Acute Withdrawal: The Symptoms
During the post-acute withdrawal phase, which can last for weeks or months, several emotional and psychological symptoms are common. These include, but are not limited to:
Panic attacks and anxiety
Periods of annoyance, irritability
Inconsistent moods, mood swings
Lack of mental clarity
Inability to sleep
Short-term memory loss
Periods of manic behavior
Lack of concentration
Of course, not everyone experiences all of these symptoms. But these symptoms will continues until your body has fully gotten used to not having access to the substance or substances in question. In the interim, there can be a great deal of psychological discomfort, and the individual suffering from addiction issues should be aware of them.
How Can I Help Someone Suffering From Post-Acute Withdrawal?
First of all, a person going through detoxification, acute withdrawal, and then post-acute withdrawal should have access to healthcare professionals. The symptoms of post-acute withdrawal discussed above are no laughing matter and can have severe physical and mental consequences. That said, there are several ways that you can help someone you care about who is suffering from post-acute withdrawal symptoms. These include:
Educating them on the process. They need to understand what they are going through, but they also need to be aware that the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal are temporary and will eventually go away.
Provide them with alternatives. If an individual suffering from addiction issues is used to relying on alcohol to cope with a stressful day at work, you can help by encouraging alternatives. Suggest a walk or a movie, and let them know that you are there when they need anything.
Celebrate small wins. And when they do choose to reach out instead of reaching for a substance, celebrate in a healthy way! The hardest part of recovery is breaking bad habits and replacing them with healthy ones, and as a friend or family member, you can help in that process.
The Importance of Getting Help
In addition to the above, it is important to consult with a medical professional during the post-acute withdrawal phase. And as a friend or family member, you can encourage this behavior. A physician may be able to provide advice or even medication to help with nausea, insomnia, anxiety, or depression. And although it is important not to replace one crutch with another, it is also good to know your options.
Coping with Post-Acute Withdrawal
In the detoxification and the acute withdrawal phases, the physical symptoms of withdrawal are at their height. That said, many suffering from addiction can work through these phases, at least in part because many people suffering from substance use disorder can often handle the physical symptoms of withdrawal. But this is precisely what makes post-acute withdrawal so difficult.
Sufferers of post-acute withdrawal are dealing mainly with the emotional and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. And this is in addition to some of the lingering physical symptoms. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this makes relapse far more likely in this period.
As a result, recovering substance abusers must enter this phase of their recovery armed with the knowledge of what to expect. With a little bit of foreknowledge and the understanding that they can deal with whatever difficulty might come their way over the course of these weeks, an individual can handle the post-acute phase. But it also helps to have a network of support: the support of friends, of relatives, or co-workers, and of healthcare professionals trained to coach people suffering at the hands of substance abuse through this difficult time.