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What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is a set of symptoms that continue to affect an individual after they have gone through the acute stages of withdrawal and detoxification. PAWS can last from weeks to months, and symptoms vary depending on a variety of factors. The symptoms of PAWS are less discomforting than acute withdrawal, but can still negatively affect and individual’s quality of life if not properly managed.

It takes time for the brain to heal from the changes caused by addiction. According to the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, “It is thought that PAWS is the result of physiologic changes that occur in the brain as a result of substance abuse. During drug abuse the brain makes adaptations to accommodate for the changes in available neurotransmitters, and these changes can result in excitability when levels of these neurotransmitters change during abstinence. Scientists hypothesize that that the brain’s capacity to deal with stress is reduced with prolonged substance abuse and the related withdrawal experiences.” Symptoms of PAWS include anxiety, panic, depression, irritability, cognitive difficulty, and behavioral problems. The symptoms of PAWS tend to increase in severity when an individual is faced with a stressful situation.

Symptoms of PAWS vary based on a variety of factors. According to Dan Mager in a 2015 Psychology Today article entitled Detoxing After Detox: The Perils of Post-Acute Withdrawal, “Post-acute withdrawal varies in intensity and duration from one person to another; again, usually in correlation with the intensity and duration of one’s substance use. Its manifestations can fluctuate in severity, coming and going in wave-like recurrences, and include impairments in energy, concentration, attention span, memory, sleep, appetite, and mood—most commonly anxiety, irritability, anger, and depression. As challenging as it is, post-acute withdrawal is a necessary process that everyone in early recovery must go through, as the brain and body begin to heal and reorient to life without the use of alcohol or other drugs.” Fortunately, PAWS symptoms are rarely debilitating and can be successfully managed. Engaging in a recovery program, therapy, and recovery-based activities can help alleviate the discomfort of PAWS and help an individual stay on the path toward recovery from addiction and alcoholism.

Your life can be one of happiness, joyousness, and freedom in sobriety. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a brighter future on the journey of recovery. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, offers a variety of individualized treatment programs, from detoxification to aftercare, to help you maintain permanent sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431