Addiction recovery is not a simple process. Detox is only the first hurdle for a majority of people who suffer from a substance use disorder. While managing withdrawal symptoms is usually done with medical supervision, there are other symptoms that could surface later, which might last for a few weeks to many months. 

What is PAWS?

PAWS is the acronym for a condition known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. Acute withdrawal from a drug is the period of physical and psychological symptoms that immediately follow the abrupt discontinuation of its use. This period varies by the type of drug, with up to 10 days for opioids, seven days for alcohol, and as long as four weeks for benzodiazepines. 

PAWS includes long-term withdrawal symptoms that might surface after a period of feeling "well" once the acute withdrawal has passed. In fact, these symptoms can be frustrating for the sufferer because they tend to be inconsistent. In other words, they may be intense one day or week, get better for a time, and then reappear a month or two later. 

What Are Some of the Symptoms of PAWS?

PAWS symptoms can vary by the type of drug that you were using as well as some other factors. The effects of these symptoms can also fluctuate based on your general state of health, age, gender, and amount and length of use of the drug. Some of the symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Anxiety
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Alcohol or drug cravings
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
  • Problems with short-term memory
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Depression
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Unexplained physical complaints
  • Irritability
  • Loss of libido
  • Suicidal thoughts
Doctor and patient

PAWS in addiction recovery should be managed under close medical supervision.

How to Deal with PAWS in Addiction Recovery

PAWS may sound unpleasant, but there several things to understand about these symptoms. First, not everyone experiences PAWS, and this is a temporary condition. It does not last forever, and it can be viewed as just one more step in the process to a fulfilling life in addiction recovery. 

Second, there are several things that you can do to address PAWS, making it easier to live with these symptoms while they are part of your life. These include:

  • Get educated. Knowledge is power. Learn more about addiction recovery and the changes that are occurring in your body. 
  • Celebrate your accomplishments. It may not feel as if you are making progress when you do not feel well, but this is a time to recognize every milestone in your journey.
  • Get active. Increase your physical and mental exercises as much as you can tolerate, which can help improve sleep, strength, circulation, and emotional outlook. 
  • Use your support group. Tap into your addiction support group to find others who have had similar experiences and learn how they dealt with PAWS.
  • Ask for help. In addition to your support group, seek professional help. This means asking for medical, addiction, and other mental health professionals to give you the assistance and support you need. 

PAWS can often surface after you have left a residential treatment facility, but that does not mean you cannot return to ask for help. At The Recovery Village, we offer clients ongoing addiction resources as well as aftercare services. 

If you are struggling with a substance use disorder and are ready to make a change, contact us now to learn more about your admissions options. 

Dealing with PAWS in Addiction Recovery
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Dealing with PAWS in Addiction Recovery was last modified: October 11th, 2018 by The Recovery Village