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Medically Reviewed

Is it Normal to Have Drug Dreams or Nightmares While Detoxing From Drugs and Alcohol?

- 5 sections

Medically Verified: October 20, 2022

Medical Reviewer:

Sahil Talwar, PA-C, MBA


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Addiction can wreak havoc on your life. Living with substance abuse can negatively impact your mental and physical health, relationships, and overall well-being. Choosing to seek treatment is a life-changing–and sometimes life-saving–decision.

But life in addiction recovery can come with challenges. Some of the side effects of detox and withdrawal can be surprising. Unexpected physical and emotional symptoms can leave you feeling puzzled or even a little discouraged.

One of the side effects of addiction recovery that come as a surprise is experiencing vivid dreams during detox. Sometimes known as drug dreams or relapse dreams, these vivid nightmares can keep people awake and cause people to feel unsettled.

But what do these dreams mean, and can you stop them from happening? The more you understand what to expect during detox and recovery, the better prepared you’ll be to manage your symptoms effectively.

For more information about how to handle relapse dreams or to learn about starting a detox program, reach out to the Charlotte North Carolina Detox specialists today.

What Are Drug Dreams?

During detox, you’re likely to have a range of physical and emotional symptoms as your body goes through withdrawal from drugs and alcohol. Some symptoms, including cravings, body aches, disrupted sleep, and nausea may make you feel exhausted. Some people also experience vivid nightmares about drug use or relapse, making it even more challenging to get the rest they need during recovery.

What are drug dreams, and what can you do about them? Drug dreams are vivid, realistic dreams or nightmares about drug use or relapse. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if the dream is real or not. People may worry about drug dreams or feel stressed out about what they might mean.

But drug dreams can actually show that you’re making progress toward long-term sobriety. If you have relapse dreams that make you feel anxious, that’s a sign that you care about getting sober and worry that something will threaten your progress.

At the moment, nightmares during detox can feel terrible. But they often show just how dedicated you are to recovery and can remind you to take steps to actively avoid relapse.

Why Do People Have Relapse Dreams?

There is no clear answer about why and how people dream. Some sleep and mental health experts believe that our dreams are affected by the feelings and experiences we have in our waking hours.

Some possible explanations for why some people have relapse dreams include:

  • Some part of the person misses using drugs and alcohol
  • Uncovering memories during recovery can lead to drug dreams or nightmares
  • The fear of relapsing may lead to nightmares
  • The subconscious is processing complex feelings about substance use and recovery
  • Recent thoughts, memories, and discussions of drug use during individual or group therapy sessions may lead to relapse dreams

While nightmares during detox may feel like a setback to some, it’s important to remember that they are common and not a reversal of your progress in recovery.

Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Nightmares During Detox?

Alcohol use alters a person’s sleep schedule and interrupts their sleep cycles, including REM sleep when dreams occur. When a person’s sleep rhythms are frequently changed by alcohol use, it can take some time to re-adjust in recovery.

During detox, your body eliminates alcohol and toxins and begins to return to its natural state. As your body restabilizes, you may experience nightmares as your REM cycles return to normal.

What Can You Do About Vivid Dreams During Detox?

Some specialists believe that vivid dreams during detox can be your mind’s way of communicating concealed emotions. Finding effective ways to process your feelings during recovery may put an end to nightmares during detox–or it might help you better understand what the dreams mean.

So, how can you do this? There are several ways.

  • Talk with an addiction therapist or sponsor about your dreams. Describe what happened in the dream and how you feel thinking about it.
  • Identify your triggers and make a plan to manage or avoid them
  • Explore your feelings about the nightmares–did it feel scary or exciting to relapse in the dream? How did you feel when you woke up?
  • Be proactive about preventing relapse to settle your mind. Having a plan may help you feel more confident about your ability to stay sober. This can include finding support, attending treatment, and having regular check-ins with yourself.

The most important thing you can do to manage your withdrawal symptoms, including vivid dreams, is to find the right support as you navigate the detox process. A medically-supported detox program includes care for your body, mind, and emotions as you go through detox. Medical and support staff will use evidence-based therapies and medications to keep you comfortable while detoxing. You’ll be more likely to have a safe, complete detox and be ready to begin treatment afterward.

Get Help Now

Charlotte Detox Center bridges the gap between the luxury and comfort of your home with the safety and medical supervision of a hospital. Our exclusive, private facility in Charlotte, North Carolina is an ideal place to begin your journey of recovery. Our highly trained medical and clinical staff are able to manage your physical symptoms and discomfort while providing you with encouraging emotional support.

If you or someone you love needs the support of a detox program, reach out to the Charlotte North Carolina Detox specialists today.