How to Cope With the Side Effects of Prolonged Withdrawal

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Everyone who goes through treatment experiences some form of withdrawal symptoms that vary in degree from barely noticeable to severe. How you cope with them will depend on the skills and resources you have available. Rehabilitation facilities sometimes use medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help ease the symptoms. The most common treatment is psychotherapy. 

You can learn coping techniques and process mental health symptoms in a safe and healthy way by attending treatment. Sometimes the side effects of withdrawal continue for much longer due to lingering symptoms. Prolonged withdrawal can lead to an increased risk of relapse and the development of mental health disorders. 

What Is Prolonged Withdrawal?

Typically, withdrawal symptoms begin to taper off and disappear within a few weeks. However, they persist for much longer in rare cases - sometimes lasting up to a year or more. Prolonged withdrawal is called multiple things within the field of addiction recovery, including:

  • Protracted withdrawal
  • Chronic withdrawal
  • Extended withdrawal
  • Late withdrawal
  • Long-term withdrawal
  • Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), "protracted withdrawal, strictly defined, is the presence of substance-specific signs and symptoms common to acute withdrawal but persisting beyond the generally expected acute withdrawal timeframes." Everyone experiences withdrawal in a unique way. The symptoms and side effects vary depending on a wide range of factors, including:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Medical history
  • Substance abused
  • How long you have struggled with addiction
  • Dose of substance
  • Previous instances of relapse
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders

What Causes Prolonged Withdrawal?

No one single issue causes prolonged withdrawal, and often it is a combination of things. SAMHSA further states that sometimes "chronic substance use causes molecular, cellular, and neurocircuitry changes to the brain that affect emotions and behavior and that persist after acute withdrawal has ended." 

How long prolonged withdrawal lasts will depend on what prescription medications you are taking, the initial dose of the substance you abused, and overall health. Prolonged withdrawal can also involve slowly tapering off any drugs used to stabilize symptoms. The process can take weeks or months, depending on your circumstances and the initial prescription dose. 

4 Ways to Cope With Prolonged Withdrawal

You can do things to make it easier to remain hopeful about your recovery. Below are four tips for coping with the side effects, symptoms, and mental exhaustion of prolonged withdrawal.

#1. Create a Healthy Routine

Change your daily routines to make it easier to cope with the discomforts of prolonged withdrawal. Taking care of your mind and body can potentially lessen the impact of medication side effects. A healthy daily routine should include:

  • Regular nutritional meals
  • At least 7 hours of quality sleep
  • Staying hydrated by drinking at least 2.5 liters of water a day
  • Practicing daily self-care

#2. Distract Yourself With Hobbies 

Thousands of popular hobbies exist, and you can try out different ones until you find an enjoyable activity that does not exacerbate your symptoms. You may benefit from choosing hobbies that allow you to practice mindfulness or meditation techniques while doing them. Common distractions include:

  • Sports
  • Art

Social groups

  • Crafts
  • Video games
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Reading

#3. Share With Your Support System

When you struggle with recovery, let your support system know how you feel. Sometimes simply expressing your pain and discomfort in a safe and non-judgemental space can decrease stress and make the symptoms easier to bear. You have people who love and care for you. Use their support to help you through difficult moments. 

#4. Enjoy the Little Things 

Every day comes with good and bad moments. Consciously choose to enjoy the little positive things that happen to you each day. It can be helpful to write them down as a list or talk about them with your friends and family. The more you focus on positive events, the less stressed you will feel. 

Symptoms and Medication Side Effects Won't Last Forever

Even though it may feel like it some days, the effects of medications and the symptoms they treat will not last forever. Your body will learn to heal and adapt. If you feel overwhelmed by the continual mental and physical drain of coping with discomfort, you may want to work with your therapist or a trusted member of your support system to create achievable goals. For example, you may find it easier to deal with the challenges that come with post-acute withdrawal if you have something concrete to look forward to, including:

  • Decreased symptoms
  • Lowered medication dose
  • Improved mental and physical health

Chemical changes taking place in the body are responsible for the symptoms of withdrawal. How long it lasts and what side effects you experience will depend on a wide range of factors, many of which are outside your control. In some rare cases, the combination of medication side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and mental health disorders causes prolonged withdrawal. You can find relief from the symptoms by allowing experts like the ones at White House Recovery and Detox to guide you through the recovery process. They may use medication-assisted treatments depending on your mental and physical health. You can take steps to decrease the risks associated with withdrawal and lower the impact of symptoms. The dedicated staff at White House Recovery and Detox can help by providing healthy coping tools and medical supervision. You do not have to suffer through prolonged withdrawal alone. Learn more about our facility and services by calling our office today at (800) 510-5393.