Dealing with PAWS
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
There are two stages of withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol: acute withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal. Acute withdrawal relates to the physical symptoms; they usually only last a few weeks but can be dangerous if not supervised in a medical detox. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) involves less physical symptoms, and more of a psychological and emotional manifestation of withdrawal. Long term drug or alcohol abuse can cause damage to the nervous system, which can lead to psychological stress after detox. The chemicals in your brain fluctuate as it heals, which is what causes post-acute withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are signs that your brain functioning is moderately returning to normal. Many addicts and alcoholics can experience PAWS even months after they have detoxed off of alcohol, opiate, benzodiazepines, and other substances.
Symptoms Of PAWS
Overwhelming feelings of guilt
Negative thinking (“Stinkin thinkin”)
Lack of ability to concentrate or focus
Increased sensitivity to stress
Blocking of memories
Numbness of feelings
Lack of motivation
Little enthusiasm in daily activities
Difficulty multitasking and completing simple tasks
Unrealistic expectations of self and others
Surviving Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
PAWS can last anywhere from 6 to 24 months after detox from drugs or alcohol. It may sometimes feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back when dealing with PAWS – this is normal. Awareness, along with a healthy sober support group who understand what you’re going through is suggested in coping with these symptoms. Understanding that these symptoms will gradually go away will help ease the pressure of going through them. Drinking lots of water, eating healthy, exercising, 12-step meetings, fellowship, and brain building exercises greatly reduce symptoms of PAWS. A healthy balance is also important to anyone newly clean and sober. PAWS is not permanent; just like anything in life, time heals.