What Is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

A Word of Caution

Once you have gone through detox and the acute phase of withdrawal, there is great cause to celebrate, but it’s also a time to be cautious. For some, the most difficult part of recovery may still be ahead. Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is a frustrating group of symptoms that can test your resolve and challenge your patience. PAWS is one of the most important things we will teach you about at Promises Scottsdale, because understanding it can truly make or break your success in recovery. Speak Confidentially with a Promises Scottsdale Recovery Advisor at 888-478-0036.

Withdrawal Isn’t Over Yet

The substances that you were using had a multifaceted impact on your brain chemistry, scrambling the delicate balance of neurotransmitters throughout your nervous system. All those chemicals and hormones that keep us alert in the day, asleep at night, craving food, feeling full, signaling positive and negative emotions of contentment, happiness, anger, and fear—their production and function have been terribly disrupted by the use of alcohol and/or drugs. In fact, using has literally taught your brain that you don’t need it to do the job of balancing your emotional and physical wellbeing. You’ll just use again to get things going right.

We need to work on accepting that the damage we have done by using alcohol and/or drugs is going to take some time to heal. Our most amazing organ, our brain, is fantastic in its complexity, but a slow healer. Symptoms of PAWS can begin affecting some people 7 to 14 days after acute withdrawal and will last six months to two years while the nervous system heals. It’s important to mentally prepare for the challenges that PAWS will pose and to make room to be patient, your cognitive abilities will continue improving as long as you remain sober.

Invisible Symptoms: Beware

The reason we emphasize PAWS so strongly is because its symptoms are of the invisible variety—the kind that can trick you into thinking what you really need is to use again. Trust us, some of the most difficult moments of your sobriety will be won because you are aware of, and find strategies to manage PAWS. Some areas that may be affected are:

  • Problem solving
  • Memory
  • Concentration
  • Feeling emotionally numb or over-reactive
  • Sleep
  • Managing stress

If you experience difficulty with problem solving, memory and concentration, you may find yourself feeling stupid and getting so down on yourself that you’re tempted to use. It’s incredibly important to be patient with your abilities, making allowances for this as a healing time. Stress can also lead you to falsely assume that you need to use; when your stress level goes up, all of the other PAWS symptoms become amplified. Your ability to concentrate, solve problems and remember will further deteriorate. We begin teaching you how to manage stress in your life because it is so crucial to your recovery and future wellbeing. Speak Confidentially with a Promises Scottsdale Recovery Advisor at 888-478-0036.

PAWS Strategies and Patience

At Promises Scottsdale, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of making time and space for understanding PAWS, which usually peaks in severity 3 to 6 months into recovery. It can also be helpful to talk to others who have had more time in recovery. Get their story. Let them describe, validate the difficulty of, and give advice on how to deal with PAWS. Knowing the signs so you can recognize them, and having action plans in place for managing them are some of the most vital steps you will take on your path to freedom from addiction.