Ask an Expert: Can You Feel Withdrawal Years Later?

By Larissa Mooney 03/04/15

Today's question is on whether it's possible to feel a tinge of withdrawal years after getting clean.


I have a question.

Can you have a type of latent withdrawal, like years later when you suddenly can't sleep for days. I have people I love in recovery  and some have been very lucky. But in some I do see short term memory lapse, inability to focus, and some depression. And almost a form of PTSD. Just the thought of being exposed to people who introduced them to that life makes them angry and nervous.

Larissa Mooney: It sounds like you have observed a wide range of experiences of loved ones in recovery. With prolonged abstinence, some individuals experience complete resolution of withdrawal symptoms and feel emotionally strong. Other individuals may experience protracted withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, anxiety, or irritability. These are symptoms that persist beyond the acute withdrawal phase and are typically milder in severity. They may require short-term treatment with medication or psychotherapy, though over weeks or months the symptoms typically continue to improve. However in other cases, prolonged anxiety or depression may indicate the presence of a co-occurring psychiatric condition, such as major depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, or other mood disorders. These conditions may cause symptoms even in the absence of substance use. Depression and anxiety disorders may cause difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbance, diminished energy levels, or changes in appetite. Anyone who is struggling with these types of problems during recovery should consider consultation with a medical professional, such as an addiction psychiatrist, to evaluate the etiology of their symptoms and obtain treatment recommendations. Individual or group therapy, possibly in combination with medication treatment, may be suggested depending on the diagnosis and anticipated clinical course of these symptoms.



Larissa Mooney, MD, 
is the Director of the Addiction Medicine Clinic at University of California, Los Angeles, and is a board certified addiction psychiatrist with expertise in the treatment of substance use disorders and psychiatric co-occurring disorders. She is also Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA. 
Full Bio.

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