In order to break free from addiction, drug withdrawal is a priority. There are multiple stages of drug withdrawal, and each is critical if your ultimate goal is sobriety. Identifying and understanding the stages of drug withdrawal is key in preparing for detox and effective addiction treatment. 

Here at 1st Step Behavioral Health, your long-term recovery is our priority. We’ll be here to guide you every step of the way. From pre- to post-treatment, you can feel confident that we’ll provide you with the resources you need. Keep reading to learn more about the stages of drug withdrawal. 

Stage 1: Making the Decision to Quit

guy goes through drug withdrawal

Drug withdrawal starts with acknowledging that there’s a problem. Often, it can be very challenging to admit that addiction impacts you or someone you care about. Deciding to seek help, and opting for professional drug addiction treatment, is the first step in the right direction.

During this time, patients can prepare by learning more about what withdrawal, detox and addiction rehab will consist of. This is also the time to select the right drug treatment programs to fit your needs and your lifestyle. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, so preparing for the road ahead can be helpful.

Stage 2: Withdrawal Symptoms Begin

The second stage of withdrawal happens once the first symptoms appear. This can happen a few hours after the last dose, or it could happen a full day later. Ultimately, the start time will depend on the severity of your addiction as well as your drug of choice.

Many patients are already familiar with these first withdrawal symptoms. That’s because trying to cut back on drug use, or skipping a dose, will often result in similar side effects. The difference is that in treatment, patients continue to push through the discomfort in order to break the chemical dependency once and for all.

Stage 3: Symptoms Increase in Intensity

If the second stage is an introduction to withdrawal symptoms, the third stage is when the symptoms begin to increase in strength. Often, this stage begins around 24 hours after the last time you use drugs. For many patients, this is the beginning of discomfort.

Many people compare this stage of withdrawal to a bad case of the flu. It’s certainly not pleasant, but most patients can work through any discomfort with the help of the staff. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms at this time can include the following:

  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability
  • Depression, anxiety or paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Drug cravings
  • Temperature regulation issues, chills
  • Severe dehydration

Stage 4: Symptoms Peak and then Decline in Intensity

The fourth stage of withdrawal is a double-edged sword. On one hand, this is the period where symptoms climax and are at their strongest. On the other hand, this is a sign that detox is coming to an end.

As the symptoms peak, patients may feel very uncomfortable. However, this is also a time when medical professionals in a rehab facility can offer helpful resources. Everything from sedatives to painkillers to IVs with electrolytes can reduce pain and make a difference in comfort levels.

Most importantly, these medical professionals will be on hand in case any symptoms become more serious and demand emergency medical attention.

Stage 5: Drug Withdrawal Can Appear Again in the Form of PAWS

Once withdrawal ends, a week or two after it starts, patients can begin to focus on maintaining their newfound sobriety. This will often require a long-term treatment program and a range of therapies. One of the biggest threats of relapse, however, is post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS.

PAWS may appear weeks or months into recovery and typically includes some of the original withdrawal symptoms as well as strong cravings. Fortunately, knowing what PAWS is and properly preparing for it can make it easier to resist cravings and remain sober.

There’s no denying the challenges that drug withdrawal creates. However, quality facilities like 1st Step Behavioral Health can help you through every stage of the process. Call 866-319-6126 to regain control over your life and your future.

Things You Need To Know To Survive Post-Acute Withdrawal

A patient’s awareness of the PAW phase is critically important during the drug withdrawal process. Although we offer full support, it is still important to understand the different elements of the PAW phase. As we mentioned before, having sufficient knowledge of PAWS is extremely helpful when it comes to preparing for symptoms.

Below, we’ve included some information to help you start to understand this phase. Drug withdrawal may not be an easy process, but it is most certainly worth it. The more knowledge you have, the more prepared you’ll be for the journey.

What is Post- Acute Withdrawal Syndrome? 

As the levels of these brain chemicals improve, they fluctuate in order to reach equilibrium. This is when most people experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

Post-acute withdrawal is one of the stages of drug withdrawal. The first stage that we have mentioned in the discussion above is called the acute stage. The acute stage typically lasts a few weeks during the drug withdrawal process. At this stage, abusers experience some physical withdrawal symptoms that may vary from person to person.

Many symptoms are dependent upon the drug being used, as well as how often it was used. Every person’s obstacle, including their internal struggle, is unique to them and needs to be treated as such.

Post-acute withdrawal is the second stage of this phase. It has fewer symptoms but may have a severe psychological and emotional impact on the person. These symptoms appear when your brain chemistry returns to its normal state. 

As the levels of these brain chemicals improve, they fluctuate in order to reach equilibrium. This is when most people experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

How can You Survive PAW Symptoms?

As PAW itself is one of the symptoms of drug withdrawal, it needs to be tackled smartly.  It usually appears after a few weeks since the recovery stage. Some people may experience intense symptoms, like irritation, low energy and lack of confidence, during this phase. 

That is why our therapists consider inpatient treatment for PAW to help patients stay motivated to overcome the symptoms. Keep reading below for a few tips on how to survive this phase.

Be Patient 

Easier said than done; we definitely agree with you. There is no denying that this struggle is real, but keeping yourself calm is the key to win this battle. In other words, try not to rush your recovery. 

Keep in mind that you will get through this phase one day. Bulldozing your way through this phase will make you exhausted. And once you’re exhausted, you will probably try to escape. 

Remember that PAW is a sign that you are heading in the right direction and recovering. 

Therefore, do not give up.

Practice Self-Care

To survive PAW symptoms, you need to treat yourself the best way you can. This is your recovery phase so try to be enthusiastic about beginning a new phase of your life. Self-care can include exercise, journaling, meditating, as well as any other activity you find fulfilling.

The goal is to take care of your mind and body during this process. Listen to your gut – what brings you joy? What gives you meaning?

Stay Motivated In Long-Term Sobriety

We are here for you throughout the entire road to recovery. We really encourage you to stay motivated during the stages of drug withdrawal. The results will be worth it. Keep in mind why sobriety is important to you and carry those values with you every day. 

Don’t lose Hope when PAW Triggers Relapse

PAW may surprise you with its inconsistent episodes. That means during the recovery phase, it is possible that you won’t go through any symptoms for weeks. Then suddenly, they will hit you hard. You may have severe mood swings; it may enervate your energy, leaving you stressed and hopeless.

Be prepared for this phase and remember that it won’t last a long time, even if it catches you off-guard. Pain has a tremendous power to bring upon growth and strength. No matter how intense the symptoms are, you can get through it.

The drug withdrawal process will leave you stronger and more grateful than before. You’ll learn and grow, with us right by your side. Find the silver lining and let it encourage you throughout the drug withdrawal process.

Let Us Take the First Step With You Today

We understand that the drug withdrawal process can be intimidating to start. Dependency often creates toxic cycles that create a certain level of comfort. This comfort can trick you into thinking that what’s happening is okay.

However, drug withdrawal is 100% necessary in order to live a truly fulfilling life. We encourage you to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is tremendous potential in your life for happiness and meaning. 

Stick through the tough parts with us and we promise you it’ll be worth it. You can contact us here or give us a call at 866-599-4920. 

Let 1st Step take the first step with you today.  

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About the Author: Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.