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What happens when you quit drugs for good?

Posted by Mandy Donnison
on 08 Sep 2022

If you have become dependent on taking drugs and are planning on giving up, you may be concerned about what might happen to your mind and body when you quit drugs for good. It’s important to ensure you have the right medical support from trained professionals rather than attempting to stop taking drugs ‘cold turkey’. This is because you will experience various challenging physical and psychological side effects as you transition through the recovery process. 

A purpose-built wellness retreat, such as Delamere, can give you the space and time you need to recover from the effects of quitting drugs in tranquil, natural surroundings. We have a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians that can support you during every stage of drug addiction recovery. This article will help you to understand what happens when you quit drugs for good and how we can help you feel safe and comfortable. 

A timeline of what happens when you quit drugs 

Everyone’s recovery journey is different. How your body reacts to withdrawal from drugs is dependent on a multitude of factors, including the type of drug, the length of time you’ve been taking it and the dosage amount, as well as your age, sex, weight and any coexisting medical problems. However, broadly speaking, this is a timeline of what happens when you quit drugs for good:

First 24 hours after quitting drugs

Within the first day of quitting drugs you will experience the onset of withdrawal symptoms. This could include intense cravings, nausea, muscle pain, fever and/or chills, tremors, vivid dreams, flu-like symptoms, sweating and heart palpitations. You may also experience psychological withdrawal symptoms, such as violent mood swings, anxiety and depression.

48 to 72 hours after quitting drugs

This is the time when your withdrawal symptoms are likely to reach their peak and you will need to be closely monitored for dangerous side effects, such as irregular breathing, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat.  

Three to seven days after quitting drugs

During this period, your withdrawal symptoms from quitting drugs usually begin to taper off or at least become less severe. However, some people may experience unpleasant side effects for up to ten days.  

One to two weeks after quitting drugs

By now, the majority of people will be over the worst of their acute withdrawal symptoms from quitting drugs. Most withdrawal symptoms from quitting drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, heroin and opiates resolve within one week. In the case of benzodiazepine addiction and marijuana addiction, side effects such as irritability, anxiety and insomnia can continue for as long as a month.  

One to three months after quitting drugs

During the first few months of abstinence from drugs you will start to feel better mentally and physically. Your skin may improve, and energy levels will rise. If you’ve completed a residential rehab programme, typically lasting 28 days, you will have developed coping mechanisms and strategies to help you in your daily life. This will enable you to overcome potential triggers that could derail your progress and help you to live confidently without drugs. 

One year after quitting drugs

Depending on the severity and length of drug addiction, some people will experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS. This happens when the body’s Central Nervous System has been so severely affected that withdrawal symptoms continue to occur on and off for a longer time.   

For most people, however, one year after quitting drugs will mark the beginning of a life of abstinence and being free from drugs will just become part of the new normal. By now, you will have developed new healthy habits, such as exercise and good nutrition, that maintain your recovery. 

Need help with quitting drugs? Speak to the team at Delamere

Can the effects of drug addiction be reversed? 

Years of substance abuse puts an incredible strain on all areas of your body, from brain function to the digestive system. As well as affecting your emotions and mental health, drugs can make you more susceptible to developing certain health conditions, including several types of cancer. The good news is that quitting drugs can improve, and even reverse, some of the damage done by drug addiction. 

The brain is one organ that has the ability to reprogramme itself. Regularly taking drugs interferes with the pleasure receptors in your brain. But, even after prolonged drug use, neurotransmitters that control the way you think and feel can return to normal activity levels. Any brain cells that you have damaged during drug use can also repair themselves over time. 

Talking therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you to retrain your brain and disrupt negative thought patterns. Practices, such as meditation and mindfulness, can be useful in refocusing the mind. While treatment for drug addiction isn’t a cure, with the right help and support, the negative physical and mental effects of drug taking can be vastly improved. 

How long does it take to feel better after quitting drugs?

If you’ve decided to ask for help getting clean, you’ll want to know how long the process might take and at what point you’ll start to feel better. The physical symptoms of drug abuse usually subside within the first week of a clinically managed drug detox, but the psychological impact can take much longer to overcome. Research shows that most people who are addicted to drugs need at least three months in treatment to significantly reduce or stop their drug use and that longer periods of rehabilitation can lead to better outcomes (1).  

Treatment for drug addiction is extremely personal and must be tailored to the individual – recognising a person’s physical, psychological and emotional needs. Removing the offending substance and managing the withdrawal side effects with medication isn’t enough to maintain in recovery long term. Drug addiction is a complex condition which often stems from trauma and requires specialist support for life. Ongoing group therapy, one-to-one counselling and peer support can be extremely beneficial to help prevent relapse. 

How can Delamere help with drug addiction?

Delamere is the UK’s first, purpose-built wellness retreat offering residential rehab programmes for drug addiction in a unique, forest setting. Guests who stay with us begin their recovery journey from the comfort of their own ensuite room, where we will begin a clinically managed drug detox. This involves tailored medication and nutritional supplements to help manage any unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and round the clock care delivered by a dedicated team of healthcare professionals.  

Once you have overcome the physical impact of your addiction, you will be assigned a focal therapist for one-to-one Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) who will help you to understand what led to your reliance on drugs in the first place and will work with you to develop coping strategies moving forward. Each plan is adapted to suit your needs and ensure lasting success. 

Delamere team to help with prescription drug addiction

No two days are the same at Delamere. You will be guided in a range of restorative practices and somatic healing techniques that will help you build resilience in the outside world. We provide the ideal environment to support your recovery and restore you to full health, from balanced meals to an on-site gym.

When you return home, you will receive twelve months of aftercare to help prevent relapse and support your continued recovery. Our three-stage approach is designed to help you stop cravings, start healing and grow beyond addiction. 

If you are suffering with drug addiction, call us confidentially to speak to a member of the team today. Contact Delamere


1. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

About the author: Mandy Donnison

Mandy manages our admin, HR and finance functions here at Delamere. Find out more about Mandy on our team page.

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