How long does the brain take to heal after someone has been addicted to a substance?

ask-a-professional
recovery

#1

What should I expect of his behavior over time?


#2

Probably a year or more, it’s according to how long they used


#4

Depending on the drug of choice, the amount taken, and the length of time our loved one used this substance, brain healing times can vary. Generally, recovery from the nervous system damage can take anywhere from 6 months to 24 months with the help of a healthy recovery program.

When our loved ones first get sober, they may go through a period of stabilization from acute withdrawal from their drug of choice. Something called Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) is a group of symptoms that occur after acute withdrawal - symptoms that may appear seven to fourteen days into abstinence. PAWS results from a combination of damage to their nervous system from years of substance abuse as well as the stress faced when coping with life without drugs or alcohol. PAWS can peak in intensity over three to six months after abstinence begins. This amount of time can be overwhelming, but I’m sharing it in order to normalize that we may see our loved ones struggle a bit more than anticipated in recovery.

The most identifiable trait of PAWS is an inability to solve usually simple problems (this can lead to diminished self-esteem). There are six major categories that contribute to this:
1. Difficulty in thinking clearly (difficulty concentrating, impairment of abstract thinking, thoughts going around and around in head without the ability to break the circular thinking and put thoughts together in an orderly way)
2. Difficulty in managing feelings and emotions (feeing numb aka: anhedonic, strong feelings for no reason, mood swings, depression, fear/anxiety, and strong anger/resentment)
3. Difficulty remembering things (forgetting things within a short amount of time as well as new skills, not remember important childhood/adulthood events)
4. Difficulty with physical coordination (dizziness, trouble with balance, hand-eye coordination, slow reflexes, clumsiness, prone to accidents)
5. Difficulty in sleeping restfully (difficulty falling asleep, unusual or disturbing dreams, waking during the night, not feeling rested/always feeling tired, sleeping for very long periods of time)
6. Difficulty managing stress (can’t recognize minor signs of stress, inability to relax when stress is recognized, overwhelming impact of stress on self physically and mentally)

Keep in mind that in time the brain does heal! As someone supporting a loved one, it may be helpful to look into ways you can learn to be patient and cope during this period of behavioral change.


Why does my husband sleep *SO* much?
#5

This list is so similar to what is seen during active addiction as well.


#6

@Julie_Smith absolutely similar! Over time the brain creates new healthy neural pathways that help train the brain to manage the above list differently, and as supportive loved ones we can help them retrain their brains! I’m wondering if anyone has observed other behaviors with someone in recovery, healing from addiction? Were there any actions taken to help the brain healing process? One thing evidence shows helps is identifying three things to be grateful for each day, after about 3 weeks to a month it helps with neuroplasticity that encourage brain healing!


#7

I was told while my husband was in a treatment facility, that early recovery was the first 2 years and it could take up to that long for brain functions to normalize.


#8

My therapist told me it takes roughly 6 months for the brain to start to heal after years of substance abuse. I have been substance free a little over a year after 20 years of using and I can see big differences in my cognitive thinking, emotion regulation as well as the return of things like sex drive and loss of social anxiety.

6 months is the right time your brain will start to heal, how long the healing process takes - I do not know but will inquire in my next session


#9

That’s super encouraging @addictability! Let us know what else you learn, if you feel comfortable!


#10

This is awesome @addictability, and 20 years WOW! Thanks for sharing about the amazing positive differences you’ve seen in yourself! Keep fighting the good fight!