The Difference Between Acute Withdrawal & Protracted Withdrawal

The Difference Between Acute Withdrawal & Protracted Withdrawal

A key phase of addiction recovery is the withdrawal phase, which can involve both acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal.

Withdrawal is the process where the body rids itself of any drug or alcohol substance during a detoxification process and may cause side effects including cravings.

The official definition of withdrawal is when you quit or cut back on using alcohol or other drugs, and it is an essential part of the recovery process. Withdrawal itself is a complex situation and can affect individuals in a variety of ways.

Here, we explore the two different phases of withdrawal: acute withdrawal and protracted withdrawal, highlighting their characteristics and explaining what you can expect if you or a loved one is currently going through it.


Understanding Acute Withdrawal & Protracted Withdrawal

According to NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, just under 10% of the UK population aged between 16 and 59 has used illicit drugs in the last year. Research shows that cannabis, cocaine and alcohol are the most commonly abused substances in the UK and contribute to a huge number of withdrawal cases.

When an individual is addicted to substances, while necessary for recovery, withdrawal can be a dangerous process which is why it’s so important to complete detox with the right support and treatment supervised by a medical team. Withdrawal symptoms can include tremors, seizures and hallucinations but when medically supervised is much safer.

What’s more, depending on the type of addiction, abruptly stopping the substance can be more dangerous which is why it may be best to gradually taper someone off the substance.

Acute Withdrawal

The first type of withdrawal is known as acute withdrawal, which is often characterised by symptoms as the body begins to adjust to life without the substance. While symptoms can vary from person to person, typical side effects include anxiety, sweating, sickness and mood changes.

The duration of these symptoms depends on the substance and the severity of the addiction but typically this stage of withdrawal can last for a few days up to a few weeks. Those individuals who are addicted to alcohol, opioids and benzodiazepines are most likely to experience acute withdrawal.

Protracted Withdrawal (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, PAWS)

Some people may also experience protracted withdrawal which extends longer than the first detox phase. Unlike acute withdrawal, symptoms likely last for a prolonged period of time and can even be experienced for a few months. While symptoms can vary, the most common side effects are mood swings, sleep disturbances and difficulty concentrating.

These difficult and prolonged symptoms often present unique challenges to recovery and individuals need ongoing support and treatment.


The Key Differences Between Acute and Protracted Withdrawal

Being aware of and being able to identify the difference between acute and protracted withdrawal is key in getting yourself and your loved one the right support and help needed in order to be able to recover.

  • Symptoms: Whereas acute withdrawal symptoms are usually immediate and intense, protracted withdrawal symptoms are more subtle.
  • Duration: Acute withdrawal lasts for a relatively short time and can even end in a few days. Protracted withdrawal can last for a few months.
  • Treatment: Acute withdrawal typically requires quick medical attention to help deal with severe symptoms but protracted withdrawal sufferers usually benefit from ongoing therapeutic support.


How Long Does Acute and Protracted Withdrawal Last For?

How long a withdrawal lasts depends on a few different factors including the substance, individual makeup and whether any other physical or mental health conditions are present.

Research shows that acute withdrawal typically lasts for a few days up to a few weeks, and protracted withdrawal can last for several months. It’s important to remember that withdrawal can affect individuals in different ways which is why it’s wise to be aware of the signs, symptoms and potential health concerns if you or a loved one are going through the process.


Managing Symptoms of Acute and Protracted Withdrawal

Being aware of the symptoms and having the tools and resources to manage withdrawal side effects is essential in helping someone to recover successfully. For acute withdrawal, often medical supervision is required to ensure the safety and comfort of the individual. As protracted withdrawal can persist for longer periods of time, long-term and multifaceted strategies are often required including therapy, lifestyle changes and a strong support system.

Healthy coping mechanisms like stress reduction techniques, yoga, meditation and mindfulness can also be beneficial for both types of withdrawal.


The Role of Professional Support in Managing Withdrawal

Professional support can be key to navigating any stage of addiction recovery, including withdrawal and detoxification. This is because medically supervised detox programmes and rehabilitations provide access to medical care and support, and often include a comprehensive approach that focuses on different aspects of healing. This is because the most effective treatment for addiction considers both physical and psychological aspects of the substance use.

What’s more, recovery isn’t a straightforward process and there can be many hurdles to overcome. That’s not to say that it isn’t possible but it is another reason why seeking professional help, from the likes of Cassiobury Court, can help you to stay on the right track.


Get Support Today

If you are going through acute and protracted withdrawal or perhaps want some more information, our friendly and expert team is here to help. Not only can we offer advice and support but we can also help you to access a customised and effective treatment plan that’s tailored to your needs and can often be the answer in helping you to turn your back on addiction.

What’s more, we know that recovery doesn’t end the moment your rehab programme finishes which is why we provide support from initial consultation through to detox and withdrawal, recovery and beyond with professional aftercare services and relapse prevention advice.

So if you have any questions or perhaps want to kickstart the recovery and withdrawal process in a safe and supportive environment, why not get in touch with us today?