What is Post-Acute Withdrawal?
Once your body becomes accustomed to the presence of a specific chemical substance, you will experience symptoms of withdrawal once you stop using this substance suddenly. In most cases, symptoms of withdrawal take place in three distinct stages: early withdrawal, acute withdrawal, and post-acute withdrawal. During early withdrawal, physical and psychological symptoms first begin to develop. They are generally pretty mild, and can be easily managed with best rest and over-the-counter medication. If you have been struggling with a moderate or severe substance use disorder, there is a good chance these symptoms will continue to progress in severity. The symptoms of acute withdrawal typically last for between three days and one full week. They might include gastrointestinal issues like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, muscle aches and pains, profuse sweating, headaches, anxiety and panic attacks, insomnia and a range of other health concerns. Once the more severe symptoms subside, they might be replaced by lingering symptoms of post-acute withdrawal.
Different Types of Post-Acute Withdrawal
Post-Acute Opioid Withdrawal
The most severe and disruptive symptom of post-acute opioid withdrawal tends to be intense drug cravings. These cravings can generally be eliminated with a combination of behavioral therapy and medication assisted treatment options like Suboxone maintenance (in severe cases).
Post-Acute Alcohol Withdrawal
Because alcohol is a depressant drug, misusing alcohol for an extended period of time often leads to compromised dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. This can lead to lasting symptoms of depression — which are the most common symptom of post-acute alcohol withdrawal.
Post-Acute Benzodiazepine Withdrawal
Because benzodiazepine medications like Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan are most commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders, stopping benzodiazepine use suddenly can result in severe anxiety and panic attacks. In many cases the symptoms associated with post-acute benzodiazepine withdrawal need to be treated with an alternative medication (one that is also effective for the treatment of anxiety).
Post-Acute Stimulant Withdrawal
The symptoms associated with post-acute stimulant withdrawal often include sleep related issues like insomnia, racing thoughts or an inability to stay asleep throughout the night. People who misuse stimulant drugs of any kind for a prolonged period of time might also experience symptoms of anxiety for several months after the final use.