The Comedown, Crash, or Rebound Effect of Drugs

How Drug After-Effects Worsen Addiction

Recovery Tips After a Drug Comedown

Verywell / Emily Roberts 

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While prescription and illegal drugs may be consumed for their sedative and positive attributes, their effects can be short-lived, causing an individual to experience a rollercoaster of emotions if such drugs are misused.

A rebound effect, a crash, and a comedown are all drug after-effects that cause different symptoms. It is important to understand each condition and how each set of symptoms plays a role in addiction.

The Rebound Effect

A rebound effect is what happens when the body tries to bring itself back into balance (a condition known as homeostasis) after a drug has been taken, by creating physical symptoms that are the opposite to those caused by the drug.

Understanding the rebound effect explains why certain drugs, particularly those that have a quick and intense effect on the nervous system, are very addictive. One of the ironies of addiction is that the rebound effect causes the person taking the drug to experience the very same effects they were hoping to escape through drug use.

This is especially true if the person wants to maintain the state such as wishing to stay awake or alert for longer than the effects of the stimulant or trying to sleep or relax for longer than the effects of the depressant, sedative, or tranquilizer.

For example, when you take a sedative drug, which causes relaxation and drowsiness, a rebound effect of agitation will occur after the drug wears off, making you want to take more of the sedative drug in order to calm down. This can actually worsen the risk of developing an addiction, as people seek to recapture the effects they experienced after taking the drug.

Pain is also intensified during a rebound from a painkiller, such as an opioid medication, or a street drug, such as heroin. The pain can be physical, emotional, or a combination of the two. Physical and emotional pain often go hand-in-hand, so it is easy to see how painkiller addiction develops.

The Comedown

The "comedown" is the feeling of the effects of a drug gradually wearing off, after a period of intoxication. It is often described as "coming down" from the drug "high."

The experience varies depending on the person, the amount of drug taken, as well as how long and how often the person has been using the drug.

If the intoxication experience was too intense and made the person who took the drug feel uncomfortable, anxious, or delusional, the comedown can feel relatively pleasant, while for others, the comedown can be a disappointing sensation, signaling a return to reality and perhaps triggering further drug use.

If you feel ill during a comedown, you may be having medical complications in reaction to the drug. If these persist, it is important to be evaluated for emotional or psychological symptoms, especially if they involve thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, and psychotic symptoms, such as hearing voices.

Make sure you tell them what you have taken, how much, and when. It is better to get early intervention than suffer greater complications later on.

The Crash

The "crash" is the intense exhaustion that people sometimes feel after using drugs, particularly those that are stimulating, such as cocaine, meth, and even high doses of caffeine.

It involves helping the body recover not only from the toxicity and effects of the drugs, but also from any overexertion, lack of sleep, injuries, or other harms that potentially occurred during intoxication.

This crash can last much longer than the original high because the body needs longer to recover from the effects of the substance and other behaviors that may have affected the drug user, such as lack of sleep.

The most intense and unpleasant crash is typically experienced by people who use crack cocaine. The drug can be taken for several days at a time, often with increasing agitation and paranoia, before experiencing a crash several days of recovery. People who snort cocaine can experience the same pattern, but with less intensity than crack cocaine.

Experts consider the short, intense high coupled with the rapid onset of the crash, which is lifted by more of the drug, to explain why nicotine and crack cocaine are so addictive.

Withdrawal Fatigue

Withdrawal is the physical and emotional experience that occurs when a drug is discontinued after a period of continuous or excessive use.

If you stop taking drugs, you may experience withdrawal fatigue.

Regardless of the drug taken, fatigue is a trademark symptom of withdrawal. Even if the drug was a relaxing substance, the inability to relax and sleep will lead to the person feeling more tired than usual. In fact, it may be even more difficult for someone recovering from a sedative drug to sleep than for someone who took a stimulant, who may be able to crash for days.

Research has shown that people withdrawing from alcohol have sleep disturbances, poor sleep quality, and do not function well during the day for a month after discontinuing drinking. They also experience considerable psychological distress during this time.

Coping With Withdrawal Fatigue

Withdrawal fatigue is exhausting, but people often try and keep going at their usual pace. This is not a good idea, as it will take longer to restore energy and return to normal activities. Fatigue is your body's way of getting you to rest and recuperate.

Allow your body to recover by following these tips:

  • Take a break. Take a break from your usual activities—don't go out socializing for a few days. Call in sick to work or school if you have to. Even if it is self-inflicted, you are not well enough to be up and about.
  • Learn relaxation techniques. Practicing relaxation skills are very useful, and if you can, get enough sleep.
  • Develop a relaxing bedtime routine. If you can't sleep, try and do restful activities during the night, and, unless you are fully asleep, get up, bathe, dress, and eat during the daytime. This will help reset your body clock, which may have been affected by you not sleeping and waking at the usual times while you were using drugs.
  • Consume a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and protein, aids in the recovery process. If you don't have access to fresh food, talk to a pharmacist about the right amount of vitamin supplements. Vitamin C helps heal wounds, and vitamin B complex may help curb nicotine cravings.

If you don't start to feel your energy return after a week or so of rest, see your doctor. Many people who use alcohol and drugs often have an underlying depressive disorder or other mood disorders. Sometimes, by getting proper treatment for the depression, people find that their substance use problems improve and they can quit.

However, some withdrawal symptoms can actually make mental illness symptoms like anxiety, depression, sex difficulties, sleep problems, and psychosis worse. These are known as substance-induced disorders. An addiction specialist is the best person to diagnose and treat your condition, but if you don't have access to a specialist, talk it over with another healthcare provider.

Energy Recovery

Everyone's recovery experience is different. The good news is that most people who stop using drugs and alcohol regain energy, sometimes in as little as a few weeks.

Of course, how quickly you recover depends on many factors including:

  • Your overall health
  • The type of substance used
  • How much and how often you were using the substance
  • Lifestyle and emotional factors, such as whether you are living in a supportive environment, and whether you feel safe with the people around you

If you are not living with or near people who support you, it will be more difficult to regain your energy after substance use. If you are in an abusive relationship, it is unlikely you will feel alright until you get away from the abuser. No matter how much sleep you get, living with someone who hurts you emotionally or physically is exhausting.

If this is the case for you, reach out for help. There are many resources available to help you and your children to make a fresh start. In the long term, nothing will be better for your energy than a drug-free, anxiety-free lifestyle. Your doctor or local police can help you if you are living with or feel controlled by someone you are in a relationship with.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Washington DC:2013.

By Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD
Elizabeth Hartney, BSc, MSc, MA, PhD is a psychologist, professor, and Director of the Centre for Health Leadership and Research at Royal Roads University, Canada.