Most of those about to enter a programme of rehabilitation after addiction may expect to suffer from a number of withdrawal symptoms including vomiting, shaking, and insomnia. However, many expect to feel much better once they have been through the process of detoxification. They do not expect to suffer from health problems during recovery. Nonetheless, the reality is that there are some health issues that recovering addicts may experience and some may come as a surprise.
Below are just a few examples:
- Acne Dermatologists generally concur that there is no link between alcohol consumption and acne; yet many young alcoholics suffer from outbreaks of spots. This could be the result of poor hygiene as many alcoholics and drug addicts do not take care of themselves and often neglect personal hygiene. It could also be the result of changes in hormones, or an affected immune system.
- Constipation Constipation is actually a common problem in early recovery. It can alternate with diarrhoea and may take a few weeks for the bowels to return to a regular pattern.
- Peeling Skin Alcohol can leave the skin quite dry, so it is common for alcoholics in early recovery to suffer from dry skin patches and peeling skin. This could have been happening for a while, but you may not have noticed as you were under the influence of alcohol.
- Bleeding Gums Alcoholics and cocaine users often suffer from bleeding gums; this is typically caused by poor nutrition or frequent vomiting. Poor dental hygiene is another common cause of bleeding gums and, unfortunately, most addicts tend to neglect oral hygiene.
- Itching Itchy and strange sensations in the skin can affect some recovering addicts as their body tries to get back to normal after a long time relying on chemical substances. The nervous system is often damaged by alcohol and drugs, and it will take time for the nerve endings to heal themselves and, therefore, the itching to stop.
- Menstrual Problems Many female alcoholics and drug addicts will suffer from irregular periods while they are drinking heavily or taking drugs, and these problems will not automatically go away as soon as they are in recovery. Women in recovery may find that periods are longer or shorter than normal, or they may become heavier or lighter. To avoid pregnancy, it would be a good idea to use birth control. It may take some months for the cycle to get back to normal.
- Nightmares Many recovering addicts will have dreams about using drugs or drinking alcohol in the early days, and these can be frightening. Many wake up worried that they have had a relapse, but it should not be a worry as this proves the person is still serious about sobriety. However, enjoying these dreams could be an eventual cause for concern.
- Tingling Alcohol can damage nerve endings, especially in the limbs, and addicts may have noticed this while still drinking. It often begins as a tingling or numbness in the feet, which may extend to the legs and then affect fingers and hands. These feelings will not disappear as soon as one stops drinking as it will take time for the nerve endings to recover.
Those in recovery may not expect many of the above symptoms and may find those that manifest hard to cope with. However, it is important to remember that the body needs time to heal. The body of those in recovery has been through a lot, and once the alcohol or drugs have been eliminated from the system, it will need a while to get back to normal. Just as addiction did not happen overnight, those in recovery will not get better overnight either.