Protracted withdrawal is a phenomenon which can affect anyone who is dependent on a substance or their prescription once they stop taking the drug their body depends on. It occurs because of damages to neuroreceptors in the brain, as well as changes to the central nervous system. Protracted withdrawal is most commonly associated with benzodiazepines such as Valium or Xanax, but has been known to affect people in recovery from a variety of addictions including Opioid Use Disorder.

The timescale of protracted withdrawal seems to differ person to person. Ordinarily, physical withdrawal symptoms and the accompanying psychological discomfort should clear up within two weeks of the person detoxifying their system. Protracted withdrawal consists of the psychological elements of withdrawal resurfacing, persisting in some people for months. This can produce recurring feelings of exhaustion and cravings, as well as mood swings and insomnia.

The science indicates that those who stop suddenly are at a higher risk of developing protracted withdrawal, so it is better to taper off your dose, especially if you have been taking a substance long term.