The Term Comedown in Drug Addiction

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When people have an addiction, whether it is to drugs, gambling, sex, shopping or any other behavior, there is a feeling of pleasure and euphoria that comes with it. While engaging in the activity or ingesting the substance, the user may feel elated, happy, confident or invincible; this can be described as a "high". This can be a heady experience and may addicts continually pursue this sensation. 

But this feeling is very momentary and it is fleeting. Afterward, the person experiences comedown, causing them to try and reach that high again. 

What Is a Comedown?

A "comedown" is a term used to describe the experience of the initial euphoric effects of a drug, or other potentially addictive behavior, wearing off.

Comedowns vary from one drug to another and across individuals. The feeling and severity is dependent on many factors, including dosage, level of physical dependence on the drug, past history, mental health issues and the set and setting in which the drug is taken or the behavior takes place. For one person, it may be a gradual lessening of the pleasurable effects of the drug, while for another person, it may be an intense crash, accompanied by anxiety, irritability and the onset of ​withdrawal

People who enjoy the initial euphoric stage, but experience unpleasant comedowns, may feel tempted to curb the unpleasant effects of the drug by taking more of the same drug, which can lead to addiction and extreme behaviors to engage in that high again. Some people may try to duplicate the sensation by taking another drug in an effort to relieve the discomfort and emotions accompanying the comedown.

Comedowns are consistent with all addictions, including behaviors such as shopping and gambling. When the thrill of a purchase wears off, and feelings of dissatisfaction set in, the shopper may feel the urge to make another purchase. In the same way, a gambler may want to re-live the excitement felt just before a win or loss, by betting again. The intensity of the comedown is part of why shopaholics and problem gamblers end up in debt.

Know the Warning Signs

If you are experiencing unpleasant comedowns, there is a good chance that you have some unresolved emotional issues which will worsen if you try to handle them with drugs or other addictive behaviors, but which can be helped with treatment.

If you find yourself participating in addictive behaviors or abusing drugs and alcohol, it's important to be aware of its effect on both your mental and physical health. Addictions can have a significant impact on every facet of your life, including your relationships, finances, and overall well-being. If you continue chasing that high in order to avoid the feeling of a comedown, you may want to pursue therapy or a recovery program. Through treatment, you can face your addiction and discover the root causes of it, helping you establish a path forward and overcome your addiction. This can be an incredibly freeing experience, allowing you to live your life without being shackled by addictive behaviors. 

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  • Altamira Recovery. "The Comedown Effect". 2015.