What is PAWS?

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) are withdrawal symptoms that occur long after the alcohol or drugs have left the body. The initial detox period for most substances is 7-10 days. The initial withdrawal is more physical in nature. Physical symptoms are shaking, nausea, vomiting, foggy thinking, cramps, and pain. PAWS is what occurs after the detox has subsided.

PAWS can occur for weeks, months, and even years after initial  withdrawals. PAWS is more commonly seen in people recovering from opiate, alcohol, and benzodiazepine abuse. Experts are not entirely sure why PAWS happens, but believe the cause may be related to changes in the brain that occur from substance use.

Symptoms of PAWS appear similar to anxiety, cognitive, and depressive disorders. Symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory issues
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety and panic
  • Problems maintaining social relationships
  • Changes to sleep
  • Stress sensitivity
  • Guilt
  • Intense cravings
  • Low motivation

Dealing with post acute withdrawals is unpleasant. You may even feel that it would be easier to go back to using drugs and alcohol, but there are ways to cope with PAWS and continue moving forward in your recovery.

Stay involved with recovering people! Friends from meetings and groups will be your biggest ally when you are experiencing PAWS. Sober friends may have experienced PAWS and can help you stay focused on recovery. They will also be a listening ear to help you through post acute withdrawal symptoms.

Remember that this is temporary. You will still have good days in early recovery, but when PAWS symptoms happen, have a plan. Consider having an emergency kit for days when PAWS symptoms are severe. Your kit can include:

  • Emergency phone numbers
  • A list of 12 step meetings near you
  • A crisis line number
  • A crossword puzzle
  • A book
  • Adult mindfulness coloring book
  • Chocolate or candy

Doing a crossword puzzle, reading, or coloring is a good distraction if you feel irritated or overwhelmed. You will find it helpful to do something other than focus on PAWS symptoms. A piece of chocolate or candy will help you get through a craving, should one occur.

Being knowledgeable about PAWS is important to you get through it. Now that you know PAWS is treatable may help you realize that you are not alone. Stay connected with meetings, groups, and sober friends. Your support system is your strongest defense during intense days. Above all, keep your eyes on your goal of recovery.

There is nothing you cannot get through when you have the right team supporting you in recovery. Hired Power, a team of dynamic recovery professionals, is here to support you through every step of the recovery journey so you can bring recovery home. Call us today for information: 714-559-3919

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