January 30, 2023

Drug comedowns

relaxing on the couch with tea

If you’ve had a heavy night or several days of alcohol and drug use – there’s a good chance you’ll experience some unpleasant symptoms afterwards.

Comedowns don’t last forever (usually 2-3 days)1 and they’re rarely dangerous. 

But, they can affect your mood, motivation and energy levels, which can impact on things like work, sport or your social plans.2

Here we’ll explore what a comedown is, some strategies to manage them and where you can go if you need extra support.

So, what causes a comedown?

When a drug is psychoactive it causes changes to the way we think or feel, both in our body and mind.3

Different drugs will make us feel different things. 

For example, ecstasy/MDMA might give you increased energy and make you feel more open and talkative, whereas an opioid might make you feel a high sense of relaxation and drowsiness.4, 5 This is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.6

When the effect of a drug starts to wear off, the body tries to restore the chemical imbalances back to their original levels.6

While this is happening, you may experience a number of side effects that feel the exact opposite to the effects you were feeling at the drug’s peak.

So, when coming down off a depressant, like an opioid or alcohol, people might feel agitated and anxious. Or when coming off a stimulant like cocaine or amphetamines, people might feel exhausted.2

Comedown symptoms can vary considerably from person to person. 

Some people might experience strong comedowns, but others may experience only minor symptoms, or nothing at all. 

This will likely depend on:

  • how much of the drug you’ve taken and over what period of time
  • whether you took other drugs as well
  • the strength of the drug
  • your tolerance to the drug.

What does a comedown feel like?

While these symptoms will vary for everyone, some of the more commonly experienced comedown symptoms are:

  • muscle twitching
  • shaking
  • restless legs
  • nausea
  • headaches
  • mouth ulcers
  • feeling anxious, depressed or irritable
  • feeling tired/exhausted
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • no appetite.4, 5

How do I deal with a comedown?

Although you may not be able to alleviate your symptoms completely, there are some things that can help:

  • Avoid using again – it can be tempting to use the drug again to ease the comedown, but it will only delay the inevitable. 
  • Know how long drugs stay in your system especially if you’re a tradie, a driver, or hospitality worker as you’ll need to know when you’re safe to drive or work machinery – you can check out our guide to how long drugs stay in your system.
  • Eat healthy food – even if you don’t feel hungry, your body needs nutrients to recover and restore your energy. Fruit, vegetables and carb-heavy foods like pasta are good options.
  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water and other fluids that can restore electrolytes, such as sports drinks or fruit juices. Dehydration can make a comedown worse with nausea, headaches and tiredness.
  • Rest up – whether it’s sleeping or just lying on the couch watching TV, take the time to rest. Your body and brain need time to heal.
  • Hang out with someone you trust – if you’re struggling, hang out with or call/message someone you trust. Let them know you are dealing with a comedown. They can be there to support you, whether in person or over the phone.
  • Get some fresh air – a short walk, swim or time in nature can release endorphins (‘feel good’ hormones) that can relieve stress and improve your mood. 
  • Be kind to yourself – take it easy. Avoid places or people that stress you out. Do things that make you feel good, like a hot bath, binge-watching Netflix, or listening to music.

While you’re using there are also some things you can do that might help you feel better while coming down. This includes:

  • testing the drug first with a small amount before taking more
  • not taking a large amount of the drug
  • not mixing multiple drugs together
  • staying hydrated and fed
  • not using alcohol or other drugs if you’re experiencing any mental health issues that might worsen during a comedown.

Help and support

If you’re concerned about any physical health symptoms from your comedown and would like to speak to a health professional, you can contact the following services:

If you, or someone you’re with, experiences a medical emergency call, Triple Zero (000) immediately. Even if you are unsure whether an ambulance is needed, it’s always safest to ring.

If you’re having negative thoughts (like hurting yourself or others), contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

If you are looking for help or support for your own or someone else’s drug use, the following services can help:

  1. McKetin R, Copeland J, Norberg MM, Bruno R, Hides L, Khawar L. The effect of the ecstasy ‘come-down’ on the diagnosis of ecstasy dependence. Drug and Alcohol Dependence [Internet]. 2014 2014/06/01/ [24.01.2023]; 139:[26-32 pp.].
  2. Hartney E. The Comedown, Crash, or Rebound Effect of Drugs: verywellmind; 2022 [20.12.2022].
  3. World Health Organization. Drugs (psychoactive) [20.12.2022].
  4. Brands B, Sproule B, Marshman J. Drugs and Drug Abuse. Toronto: Addiction Research Foundation; 1998 [03.11.2022].
  5. Campbell A. The Australian Illicit Drug Guide: Every Person's Guide to Illicit Drugs--Their Use, Effects and History, Treatment Options and Legal Penalties: Black Inc; 2001.
  6. Hanlon CA, Dowdle LT, Austelle CW, DeVries W, Mithoefer O, Badran BW, et al. What goes up, can come down: Novel brain stimulation paradigms may attenuate craving and craving-related neural circuitry in substance dependent individuals 2015 [24.01.2023]; 1628(Pt A):[199-209 pp.].

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