Homeless, Homeless man drug and alcohol addict sitting alone and depressed on the street leaning against a red brick building wall feeling anxious and lonely, social documentary concept

To understand what happens when you stop taking a drug, it’s necessary to understand what addiction does to the brain. While the exact process varies, all addictive substances serve to create a chemical dependency with physical symptoms. Many drugs serve as neurotransmitters, and when someone becomes addicted to these drugs, their reward system begins to require the drug to function properly.

In all cases of addiction, the brain, and body attempt to compensate for the effects by adjusting your default state in the opposite direction. While these things make quitting a drug painful and harder than anything most people will ever do in their lives, the ultimate payoff of recovery makes it all worth it.

What Happens to Your Brain When You Quit

When you quit taking a drug, the changes that it has made become readily obvious. Without the substance in your system, your internal balance plunges in the opposite direction. If you’re addicted to depressants, your nervous system can become wildly overactive. The neurotransmitters that have adjusted to euphoric highs from opioid abuse will feel starved and take some time to readjust to the absence of the drug. Here’s what that means in human terms.

After You Quit


When your body adjusts to drug abuse as a state of normalcy, you feel an urgent need to take drugs again just to feel normal. It can feel just as vital as eating or drinking water, and it initially becomes worse as you deny this urge. While the timetable varies, you’ll then move into withdrawal symptoms as the substance leaves your body and you experience the effect that addiction has on your body.


Withdrawals vary depending on the drug, and they can range from extremely painful to life-threatening. Since alcohol acts as a depressant, for instance, the whiplash involved in quitting can result in cold sweats, feelings of intense irritability, seizures, and much more. Getting clean after an addiction to antidepressants can involve a feeling of deep, severe depression. It’s never a good idea to face the full force of withdrawals; find a clinic that can oversee your withdrawals and help you slowly, safely wean yourself off of the drug.


Once you beat withdrawals, you’ve passed the hardest moments and it becomes a matter of dedication and effort. You’ll still have to battle with the underlying causes of your addiction, not to mention that cravings can persist for months. However, you’ll also experience certain quality of life improvements in your first month of quitting, such as improved sleep.


In the months and years after you quit, most or all of the marks of addiction will fade and it will become much easier to stay clean. Most people are able to regain their full level of health and function from before they became addicted, with little to no permanent damage. While the road to long-term healing is a long one, the destination is more than worth it. While permanent damage can occur, this is all the more reason to quit now before you addiction reaches that stage.

America’s Rehab Campuses are dedicated to helping people quit drug abuse and make a full recovery. If you or someone you love struggles with drug addiction, reach out to us for help.