What Is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

When an individual is overcoming a serious addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, one aspect of their recovery that should never be taken lightly is the process of withdrawal.

Withdrawal, be it substance abuse withdrawal or alcohol withdrawal, can lead to individuals presenting with very severe and worrying side-effects, which may need professional medical attention.

Most of the side effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal are, as you’d expect, a result of malignant effects that said chemicals wreak upon the brain and the body.

In the initial days, and weeks, which follow after stopping consuming drugs and/or alcohol after a prolonged period of use, that is when people will present with a variety of symptoms.

These symptoms can be of varying severity depending on many factors that the individual in question is facing, such as the type of addiction they’re overcoming or their medical history.

Withdrawal syndrome can last for a period of a few days to a few weeks. It is common for doctors to help assist with managing withdrawal symptoms, however some individuals try to overcome this process on their own.

Some drugs, however, can cause the individual coming off them to present with a prolonged, drawn-out withdrawal process over the course of up to a year. This is particularly prominent in people overcoming a very long-standing addiction, and it is called PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). Below, we will go through what is PAWS and the post-acute withdrawal syndrome symptoms.


What Is Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is what it is called when side-effects continue to be present after the initial acute withdrawal has been overcome. At times, it may feel like a roster of symptoms come and go over time without warning.

A PAWS attack can last for a couple of days, and these cycles of attacks can occur for over a year. These symptoms will continue to present even when the individual does not relapse.

While there are signs that PAWS can take a hold of people overcoming any form of substance abuse, it is believed that PAWS is particularly prominent in people who are recovering from an addiction to any of the following substances:

Antidepressants: Few people ever resort to abusing antidepressants; however, when you cease taking them after a long period of time this can cause a sudden change in your brain chemistry.

Due to the fact that antidepressants treat depressive disorders, there is a chance that acute withdrawal will be experienced due to underlying conditions manifesting again.

Alcohol: The very first time that PAWS symptoms were reportedly identified was in a case of a person overcoming alcohol dependency back in the 1990s.

Alcohol withdrawal is incredibly dangerous at the best of times as it can cause people to present with severely life-threatening side-effects, and it can also increase your chances of developing PAWS.

Opioids: Both individuals recovering from an addiction to prescription opioids and illegal opioids can be at a much higher chance of suffering from prolonged PAWS.

Stimulants: Paranoia, twitching, fatigue, and much more can all be side-effects that present for an extended period of time when coming off substances such as Ritalin or cocaine.

Marijuana: As marijuana makes people feel relaxed, the extended side-effects can be the likes of irritability, stress, and paranoia. Without professional medical help, these symptoms can persist and become PAWS.

Benzodiazepines: Despite the fact that these forms of medication are typically used to help individuals with panic and anxiety disorders, it is common for the brain to become dependent upon them.

The withdrawal symptoms from these substances will typically emulate those of panic disorders, thus making the individual want to keep taking them. In turn, without proper treatment, PAWS symptoms can take a larger hold of the individual.


Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Symptoms

As the initial withdrawal symptoms begin to ease, PAWS’ symptoms may then begin to manifest.

As with the initial stages of withdrawal, the extent to which PAWS manifests is largely dependent on the individual conditions of the addicts’ relationship with addiction. Some of the most common PAWS symptoms include the likes of:

  • Severe anxiety
  • Depression and/or sudden mood swings
  • Irritability and/or hostility
  • Restricted attention span and inability to focus on tasks for extended periods of time
  • Fatigue and a general lack of energy
  • Chronic pain throughout the body
  • Reduced libido
  • As alluded to previously, there are some conditions and/or issues that can intensify PAWS and make individuals more susceptible to its effects:

  • Longer period of being addicted to a substance
  • Severe emotional/mental health issues that present when in recovery
  • Lack of support from medical professionals or therapists

    How To Treat PAWS

    Due to the fact that post-acute withdrawal syndrome is a primarily psychological illness, a constant level of support and counselling from trained therapists is required in order to manage it.

    Professional medical institutes, such as Step 1 Recovery, will be able to provide this care, during which the following steps are taken with their patients:

  • Inform patients regarding withdrawal/detoxification and what they can expect from the recovery journey.
  • Mark every accomplished step along the recovery journey with a celebration.
  • Inspire a sense of patience in patients.
  • Find natural alternative methods to assist with long-term sleep problems.
  • Encourage constant exercise and a healthy nutritional diet.
  • Constant asses for co-current mental health issues which may be manifesting.
  • Inspire patients to see the benefit of joining support groups.
  • Take the self-reported side-effects that patients discuss seriously.
  • In some cases, mediation can be prescribed to help with the side effects of PAWS. Some drugs such as “Nalretxone” has been shown to help reduce cravings in certain individuals overcoming an opioid and/or alcohol dependency.

    Antidepressants can also be prescribed to assist with any mood fluctuations when overcoming an addiction to stimulants or antipsychotics. The medication that you will be prescribed, however, will be dependent upon your own individual circumstances.

    The state-of-the-art facilities and staff at Step 1 Recovery may be just the thing to help you overcome your addiction and manage the side effects of PAWS. So, call us today on 0800 012 6006.