Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

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After the immediate withdrawal from alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines, cocaine and other substances, another intense challenge waits in the wings: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). Once the drugs and alcohol have left the body for up to two months, an onslaught of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms may arise, as a result of what experts refer to as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome.

Symptoms of PAWS take regular shape and form in the addicted person, following a typical pattern that is recognizable in most people.

First, irritability and stress sensitivity may lead to sharp mood swings, which may take the form of depression, anxiety, negative thoughts, and feelings of guilt. Cognitive impairments such as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, inability to think clearly, and obsessive-compulsive disorder may also arise. Such dysfunctions of the brain may appear as a result of the brain chemistry making drastic adjustments to the altered state, due to a lack of endorphins, or “feel-good” chemicals. It is important to combat these negative feelings with antidotes such as exercise, balanced nutrition, and meditation, to help clear the mind and aid in mood elevation. Natural remedies, which include holistic herbal supplements, vitamins, and organic foods, will make a huge difference in the ability to strengthen the immune system and resist the temptation to fall into a negative thinking spiral.

Circadian rhythms may also be affected, with the sober addict experiencing disturbances in sleep, dreams of using, and/ or insomnia, as a result of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. It is best that a natural remedy such as exercise or melatonin be used in circumstances such as these, along with a balanced diet throughout the day. The harmony and balance of the body make a huge impact on the ability to rejuvenate during this challenging phase of recovery.

Finally, cravings, emotional overreactions, or numbness, may all occur during PAWS. Addicts are encouraged to reach out to their support network and seek additional counseling during these times, so that they can share in an open space that offers supportive feedback and community strength. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) has also proven beneficial for clients experiencing the harsh symptoms of PAWS.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Whether it is alcohol or drugs, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome can be a very uncomfortable phase in the recovery process. That is why it is vital for the addict or alcoholic to discuss these symptoms with a well-versed counselor, sponsor, or trusted friend, so that they can overcome these temporary symptoms, and maintain long-term sobriety. In the end, abstaining from drugs and alcohol and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, will lead to a more fulfilled, long-lasting life.