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PAWS: Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

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[Originally appeared on client website. It was shared on Facebook 777 times and received 112 comments.]

When you give up drugs or alcohol, you go through two stages of withdrawal. The first occurs when you stop taking drugs or drinking and your body reacts to being without those substances. The physical symptoms can last a few days up to a few weeks but generally subside. This stage is known as the acute stage.

A second stage occurs after the physical symptoms have subsided but the psychological and emotional affects are still prevalent. It may not be as well-known, but it’s called Post Acute Withdrawal Symptom (PAWS).

Most people experience the symptoms of this, even if they may not have a name for what is happening. If you know someone suffering from an addiction, reach out to (client name). We can help them with alcohol and drug rehab.

Symptoms of PAWs

PAWs causes symptoms that can make you feel like you’re on a roller coaster of emotions. You may have mood swings from one minute to another, or you may feel okay for a period of time, then have symptoms show up out of nowhere. Some of the most common symptom are listed below.

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • No interest in activities
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems with coordination
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Obsessive or repetitive thinking
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble focusing
  • Difficulty getting along with people

PAWS can last for up to two years and not only affect recovery, but also personal relationships and work. A person may want to turn to drugs or drinking again in order to cope with the symptoms. Dealing with mood swings, sleep issues or problems with cognitive abilities can be stressful.

There are three areas in which PAWS affects a person: cognitive, emotional and memory.

Cognitive abilities, such as concentration, can be affected. A person may have trouble relating events, following directions, and may have a shorter attention span.

It also affects a person’s emotional state. Some people can feel overwhelmed with emotions that cause them to overreact to even small events. On the other hand, some people may feel numb to any emotions, making recovery difficult because they are not able to deal with the guilt, shame or anger they may be feeling about their addiction and the consequences of it.

Memory is the third and most frequent area that people with PAWS affects. They may have short term memory problems, which is when recalling events from earlier in the day is difficult. Some people may even discover that old memories are fuzzy or forgotten.

PAWS can be caused by several factors. One reason for these symptoms is because the body is reacting to not having drugs or alcohol in its system. It learned to function with them, and now it has to adapt to not having them anymore. Some substances can also alter the naturally-occurring chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, which can cause problems with moods.

Another simple factor that may cause PAWS is that an addict uses drugs or alcohol or numb emotions, so when that crutch is no longer there, the emotions come out and can be scary because the person isn’t used to dealing with them.

People suffering from PAWS won’t always suffer from it. While it can seem like it will never end, symptoms do get better over time.