The journey from addiction to recovery is not easy. When people try to recover from alcohol abuse or from an addiction to narcotic drugs like heroin, they might find it difficult to deal with the cravings long after they have become sober. Alterations in the brain developed after years of abuse cause an individual to experience symptoms of withdrawal long after he or she had undergone a drug addiction treatment program.
The severity and the duration of the withdrawal depend on the drug abused. For example, benzodiazepines are associated with the most intense withdrawal symptoms that last for years after treatment. Since neurotransmitters associated with drug dependency take time to return to normal, the detox process can also take time to show beneficial results.
Rollercoaster of symptoms in people with PAWS
In the first stage of withdrawal, which generally starts once a person stops using drugs, a person fighting drug addiction suffers from physical cravings for the drug and often feels that he or she is about to die. The second stage of withdrawal is associated with intense emotional and psychological symptoms. Also known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), the second stage of withdrawal can continue for years. Certain medications such as acamprosate, which is generally used to expedite alcoholic recovery, can also be used to mitigate the symptoms of PAWS. However, the duration of the treatment, which includes medication and behavioral counseling, differs from person to person.
Some of the characteristic symptoms of PAWS are:
Mood swings: PAWS is characterized by extreme irritability as the brain tries to cope with the cravings. Most substance abuse drugs have mood-altering properties and in the absence of these, an individual could experience extreme mood swings.
Depression: Depression resembling a major depressive episode can be apparent in many people who are trying to control their chronic drug abusing habits.
Fatigue: Chronic fatigue syndrome is a common occurrence in people experiencing PAWS. In this, a person experiences fatigue for no apparent reason, apart from other symptoms such as extreme tiredness, exhaustion, problem concentrating and unexplained pains.
Anxiety: Alcohol and drugs such as benzodiazepines help in inhibiting the brain activity. Therefore, when they are stopped suddenly, a person may suffer from mental disorders like anxiety.
Sleep disorders and lack of interest: Overuse of stimulants is associated with sleep disorders. Anhedonia or inability to enjoy or have interest in any activity is the consequence of regular drug abuse.
Tips for preventing relapse and facilitating recovery
While meeting the goals of detox is only the tip of the iceberg, the most challenging task is to manage the symptoms of PAWS, when the chances of relapse or remission are more frequent. In most of the cases, medication and therapy including counseling can help, the essence of any treatment plan is self-control. By identifying triggers for relapse and keeping anxiety at bay one can easily control the cravings.
Certain situations can easily trigger a relapse. Anger, hunger, loneliness and fatigue are the commonest predictors of a relapse. Therefore, self-care after a successful treatment program is extremely important for recovery. It is essential that the person not only eats right, but also avoids situations that could be triggers for relapse.
Key to ensuring a successful recovery is relaxation. Anxiety, sadness and depression often drive one to experiment with drugs or alcohol post recovery. Relaxation can be in the form of mindfulness therapy or certain forms of exercise such as Tai Chi, yoga and controlled breathing, which can also help in preventing anxiety attacks. These can also help in preventing cravings from taking over.
Road to recovery
Those who have a long history of drug addiction need medicinal detox. Apart from healing the body holistically, medicinal detox helps in reducing the cravings for substances. If you know someone who may need treatment to get rid of drug addiction, get in touch with the California Detox Helpline to know about various addiction treatment centers in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-780-2495 or chat online to get a prompt assistance.