Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS) is a cluster of ongoing withdrawal symptoms, which are at a psychological level and that persists even after the acute withdrawal symptoms have subsided.
To understand withdrawal symptoms better, we need to know about the two stages of detoxification process.
During the first stage of detox, a person experiences acute withdrawal symptoms, which are primarily physical. The reason behind these acute withdrawal symptoms is sudden and rapid reduction of addictive substances—opioids, alcohol or other illicit drugs— in the body. The severity of acute withdrawal symptoms varies depending on the type of substance abuse, duration of the usage of the substance and the condition of patients. Therefore, quitting substances or detoxifying by self or cold turkey compounds life-threatening risk. It is always advisable to undergo detoxification process under medical supervision to mitigate risk and relapse.
The second stage of detox involves Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS), which can last for weeks, months or even years depending on the duration and intensity of the substance abuse. PAWS occur after the person has attained sobriety, however, unlike acute withdrawal symptoms, the withdrawal symptoms for PAWS is emotional and psychological. On the other hand, acute withdrawal symptoms are purely physical.
PAWS can be distressing and debilitating, adding risk of a relapse during the sobriety phase. The symptoms of PAWS remain almost same for everyone, irrespective of the type of substance used.
What is the reason for Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)?
The widely accepted cause for acute post-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is attributed to the physiological changes in the brain and alterations of brain chemistry. Any substance abuse causes altercation in the neurotransmitters of the brain, forcing it to adapt to these changes. When someone refrains from taking alcohol or any addictive substance, the neurotransmitters adapt to the change consequently, which in turn, can trigger anxiety and stress. Scientists reveal that these physical changes are responsible for the recurring symptoms associated with PAWS. They also believe that these changes are responsible for greater tolerance for substance abuse.
Symptoms of PAWS
The symptoms of PAWS can fade away for some people with time but for some people it can trigger a relapse. The symptoms may include:
- Irregular sleep or insomnia
- Aggression and hostility
- Panic attacks and anxiety
- Impaired concentration
- Lack of focus and motivation
- Mood swings
- Lack of clarity
- Poor impulse control
- Poor memory
- Craving for substance
- Increased sensitivity to stress
The factors that exacerbate post acute withdrawal symptoms are:
- The type of substance abused
- Duration and frequency of intake of substance
- Degree of emotional issues arising after recovery
- Co-occurring mental or physical condition
How to cope with PAWS?
- Recognize the symptoms of PAWS in the first place
- Talk to your loved ones about your symptoms
- Seek medical immediate help once the symptoms of PAWS appear
- Set goals for yourself
- Educate yourself about the symptoms
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Practice mindfulness and spirituality
- Exercise regularly
- Maintaining a journal notating frequency of symptoms and all good things in life
- Maintain your daily schedule
- Avoid situation and potential triggers that will compel you towards substance abuse
How we can help?
Recovery from post acute withdrawal symptoms is a very complex and challenging process as the brain and body are on a healing stage. However, treatment is available and one can successfully deal with it.
After the stage of recovery the brain and the body reorient to adapt without the substance. Therefore relapse during this phase can be very distressing. There are many outpatient programs, detox centers and residential treatment centers available to help you wade through the phase of PAWS.
We at Mission Recovery ensure success of you recovery process to prevent recurrence. We have the best detox centers and residential treatment centers in California. If you or a loved one is grappling with addiction and looking for treatment, we can provide you with the best intervention programs in and around California. You can contact us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-355-1116 today to learn more about the various rehabilitation options.