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Updated on November 29, 2021

Pink Cloud Stage of Addiction Recovery

What is Pink Cloud Syndrome?

The term pink cloud was first introduced by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It's when a recovering person loses enthusiasm for addiction treatment during early recovery.2, 3

Pink cloud syndrome (PCS), also referred to as pink clouding, is the 'honeymoon phase' of addiction recovery. It typically occurs during the early stages of sobriety.

The Pink Cloud Foundation defines PCS as the state of mind characterized by sudden joy, euphoria, and overconfidence.

To some, pink cloud syndrome can feel like a natural high. It can be very similar to the high felt during active use of drugs or alcohol.1

What Causes Pink Clouding During Addiction Recovery?

Drugs and alcohol affect the central nervous system by numbing emotions.

Recovering addicts start their road to recovery strong, moving into a pink cloud stage. They experience positive feelings that their addiction previously suppressed.

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How to Recognize the ‘Pink Cloud’ Stage of Sobriety

Symptoms of pink cloud syndrome include:

  • Extreme joy and euphoria
  • Positivity and optimism
  • Increased emotional awareness
  • A peaceful state of mind 
  • Confidence about staying sober 
  • Commitment to positive lifestyle changes

Women are more likely to experience pink cloud syndrome. They are more susceptible to craving and relapse than men.4

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Those who are more susceptible to developing pink cloud syndrome include:

  • Younger people
  • Those with a lower income

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How Long Does the Pink Clouding Stage Last?

Every person is different. There's no set timeline for when pink clouding starts and ends. Typically, people in recovery begin to feel this way a few days into drug rehab

Some people experience this happiness for a few days. Others feel it for a few weeks. Nevertheless, the pink cloud phase doesn't last forever.

The pink clouding stage usually lasts a month or two. As it fades, the recovering person’s emotional state changes again.

Is Pink Clouding Dangerous?

Pink cloud syndrome can help many people continue to stay sober. The pink cloud phase can be a very positive experience for many.

Pink cloud has several benefits, including:

  • A new perspective on things
  • Feelings of optimism
  • A chance to rebuild relationships
  • Provides enough "juice" to get the recovery going
  • A chance to get back in touch with emotions
  • Makes a person long for sobriety

There are also some pitfalls. For example, pink cloud syndrome can:

  • Create unrealistic expectations of an easy recovery from addiction
  • Give a person a false sense of recovery
  • Lead to a person ignoring real-life risks and challenges that come with recovery
  • Cause depression or disappointment when the pink cloud fades 

Someone who is on a pink cloud may:

  • Not be attached to reality
  • Become preoccupied with positive feelings that they forget about the hard work they still need to do
  • Feel higher than life and disregard their responsibilities in recovery

A person’s highest likelihood of relapse is during, or directly after, this phase. Even in recovery, recovering addicts still have a mental disorder. They must learn techniques to manage their emotions.

During this vulnerable pink cloud phase, recovering people are completing their rehab program. They're also being discharged from a treatment center or facility.

Those recently discharged from treatment should undergo a smooth transition to sober housing. This is to maintain sobriety and avoid relapse.

How to Manage Pink Clouding

People undergoing SUD treatment should be made aware of the stages of recovery. This includes pink clouding.

Recovering people should be mindful that a successful recovery involves hard work. It will expose them to real-life challenges as they navigate emotions that they previously have not experienced.

After detox or rehab, it’s easy to be overtaken by the pink cloud. The key to lasting recovery is ongoing support and participation in treatment.

The pink cloud stage doesn’t last forever. But other stages of recovery will challenge them.

No matter how motivated someone is, they will still need help maintaining their new sober life.

These components of continued care are fundamental to a life of lasting sobriety:

1. Practice self-care

People should be reminded to take care of and make time for themselves. This is to avoid relapse which can happen because of significant emotional changes.

Ways to practice self-care include:

  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Maintaining healthy eating habits
  • Exercising
  • Drinking enough water

2. Develop positive coping skills

Substance abuse treatment professionals should guide people to develop positive coping skills.

It's essential to learn how to handle life challenges without depending on drugs.

3. Stay involved in a treatment program

Treatment programs should be able to provide access to medical professionals who can:

  • Monitor progress
  • Provide counseling and support
  • Help prevent a relapse

Examples of such treatment programs include:

  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Sober living
  • Recovery support

4. Live in a healthy environment

As the person recovers, they are more vulnerable to relapse. This is why a healthy, drug-free environment with minimal stress will help them recover.

Family members living with the person should also be supportive of their recovery journey.

5. Seek peer support

Peer support groups and 12-step programs are recommended. A great example is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). These can help the recovering person find comfort in others at a similar stage in their recovery journey.

AA meetings can provide relief and help navigate the different emotions of recovery. Attendees receive positive encouragement while maintaining a new life free from drugs.

6. Create and pursue manageable goals

Some recovering people may feel confident that they can change all at once. However, it's important to make sure their goals are easy to track and maintain.

People undergo dramatic changes during recovery. Creating manageable goals will help ensure long-term success.

Resources

MORE
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  1. "Who We Are" Pink Cloud Foundation 
  2. "Is there an Alcoholic in Your Life?" Alcoholics Anonymous
  3. "The Pink Cloud and After"  AA Grapevine
  4. "Pink Cloud Syndrome Among Ruled Drug Users in Iligan City Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Center (ICDTRC)" Journal of Nursing and Health Care (JNHC) 
  5. "Post–Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, Relapse Prevention, and Homeopathy"  Alternative and Complementary Therapies Vol. 23, No. 6
  6. "Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)" Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior

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