Once a person decides on a path of recovery, he or she may experience post-acute withdrawal, also known as protracted withdrawal, which is a condition common to all forms of substance abuse. It is an uncomfortable condition that can last for weeks or 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 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 Someone 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.