Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome: 5 Tips How To Get Through PAWS

By Chris Walker

Topic at one glance:

  • What is the Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome?

  • Common PAWS symptoms, why we experience them and how long they last

  • How to get through PAWS? – 5 important tips

Light at the end of the tunnel - PAWS mean that you're on the right track in your recoveryThere are two stages of withdrawal. The first stage is the acute stage, which usually lasts at most a few weeks. During this stage, you may experience physical withdrawal symptoms. But every drug is different, and every person is different. The second stage of withdrawal is called the Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). This refers to withdrawal symptoms that persist for an extended duration following drug or alcohol discontinuation. During this stage, you’ll have fewer physical symptoms, but more emotional and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

This is why everyone experiences PAWS slightly differently

There is a multitude of symptoms associated with PAWS. Though each of these is fairly common among people withdrawing from drugs and alcohol, the exact number, combination, and timing of specific symptoms is different for each person. Physical differences between people, as well as differences in the types of drugs used and the amount and frequency of use all,  affect each individual’s experience of PAWS.

These are common symptoms of the Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome

  • Depression

  • Impaired concentration

  • Craving

  • Inability to think clearly

  • Memory problems

  • Emotional overreactions or numbness

  • Sleep disturbances (dreams of using, behaviours associated with the lifestyle)

  • Physical coordination problems

  • Stress sensitivity

  • Increased sensitivity to pain

  • Mood swings

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Tiredness

  • Variable energy

  • Low enthusiasm

  • Variable concentration

Why do we experience PAWS?

Post–Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome occurs because your brain chemistry is gradually returning to normal. As your brain recovers from being regularly poisoned, the levels of your brain chemicals fluctuate as they approach the new normal equilibrium, and this fluctuation causes PAWS.

How long does the Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome last?

The majority of post-acute withdrawal symptoms will clear up within the first year. Some may resurface after this but as long as you understand this and you have learnt the skills to get through it then you will be ok.

How to get through PAWS? – 5 important tips

The most important thing to remember is that the symptoms will subside over time. Another one is, to realise that the symptoms you will experience are an entirely natural part of your recovery journey. It’s good to understand that you are not alone and if you stick with some of these uncomfortable feelings and symptoms then you are making real progress. Be patient with yourself and practice self-care.

  • Sleep: It may be tough to sleep during PAWS as lingering insomnia is a common symptom. There are many natural supplements like melatonin that may provide some benefit. Try to go to bed at the same time each night, and wake up the same time each morning – this helps your circadian rhythm.

  • Exercise: Exercise is known to promote healing. Start slowly and build up to a healthy routine.

  • Nutrition: The right nutrition will help fuel your body and speed up the recovery process.

  • Stress reduction: Learning new skills to help reduce your stress levels will help you when going through withdrawals.

  • Support: We can help and guide you through by teaching you relapse prevention along with other skills meditation and CBT.

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