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How long Does it Take Your Body to Physically Heal From Addiction?

July 04, 2022

It is no secret that drugs and alcohol wreak havoc on the body. We have all seen those before and after pictures of people who abused drugs throughout the years and many who are reading this right now have lived that experience.

I know when I finally came into recovery I looked totally emaciated. I weighed 100 pounds; my eyes were sunk in and had dark rings around them. My hair felt thinner than it usually did, my skin had a sort of grayish tint, and overall I just looked unhealthy.

It is amazing what we can get used to because looking back at that time I remember thinking that I looked all right. I remember thinking everything was okay and that probably no one was aware I was an addict. Since I lived within my own skin I didn’t really notice the change since it occurred over a period of time, but when I look back at pictures of me from a couple of years ago, I am now shocked at the face looking back at me.

It looks like a completely different person and when I look into the eyes of Rose from a few years ago I see an emptiness that sometimes makes me shudder. To believe that I went on like that for so long is incredible to think of, but as with most things in life, hindsight is 20/20.

I remember too from that time period just how terrible I felt all the time. Once again it was something that I got used to and since human beings are so adaptable, I adapted to feeling awful just about every day. Feeling awful became the norm, and I remember feeling tired all the time and running down. If I didn’t have my alcohol or pills I felt even worse because when withdrawals set in my entire body would come to a crashing halt and I would be left paralyzed with physical and mental anguish that is incomparable to anything else I have ever experienced.

The years of abuse really took a toll on my body. That much was physically apparent, but incredibly I started to feel better after only a few months in sobriety. It was as if my body bounced back without missing a beat and I felt more energized and healthy than I had since I was a young girl.

I am not sure what made me think about this the other day as I sat in front of my computer, but I started to wonder how long it took for my body to recover from the damage I did to it during my active addiction. I know that I felt better after a short period of time, but I began to think that maybe it took longer than I was aware of to make a full recovery and that maybe even to this day my body is still repairing the damage. So I did a little research into the subject and I was surprised at what I found out.

I first looked at how long it takes for the body to recover from long-term alcohol abuse, as that was one of my main addictions, and I found that there are certain cases where the body never truly recovers from the damage caused by alcoholism.

Some people have damaged their liver, heart, and other internal organs to such an extent that they will never truly be healthy again. Some people suffer permanent damage to their liver, which can cause a number of different complications, such as hepatitis or jaundice. Others cause damage to the brain, which is known as wet brain, and if it is caught earlier enough and drinking is halted it can be reversed, but if not then the brain damage can be permanent.

I was lucky that I did not suffer any permanent damage to my body, but what I did find out in the research is that even though I started to feel better after being sober for a little while, my liver may not have fully recovered for 6 months after I stopped drinking. I was astounded by this fact and that it would take my body, working day and night for 6 months to undo the damage that I did.

I also found that the time frame it takes for a person’s body to recover differs greatly among individuals and depends on their diet, genetics, and how often they exercise. Some people who got sober and started to eat better and take better care of themselves made full recoveries quicker than those who continued to have a poor diet and did not exercise.

Next, I looked at opiate addiction and the recovery time from opiate-based drugs. I found that depending on the drug that was being abused the recovery times differ greatly. A person abusing heroin will experience withdrawals for 3 days to a week. After that, their body, including the dopamine production in their brains, will usually be healed after a few months. But a person abusing methadone long-term will have a much longer recovery time. They could experience severe withdrawals for months and then once those are done, the body will not return to normal functioning until a few more months.

So while each person will experience the physical recovery from addiction differently it is fair to say that just because withdrawal symptoms are done and you are feeling better, does not mean that your body has fully recovered. It could take several months to make a full recovery and even then, if the addiction was bad enough or prolonged enough there may still be permanent damage that can never be undone. This is really frightening to think about and I am so grateful that I made it out of my addictions, at least for today, relatively unharmed.