Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (also known as PAWS) is a condition that can occur for weeks, months or even years after your initial physical withdrawal from drug and alcohol addiction. Just when you thought you were through the worst of it, you're hit with a whole new set of circumstances to navigate.
PAWS affects 90 percent of people recovering from heroin and opioid abuse and can last from a year to decades. About 75 percent of those recovering from alcohol abuse, methamphetamine and other drugs will experience some length of time with these symptoms and, to a lesser degree, so will those who have abused psychotropic drugs such as marijuana and LSD.
Symptoms of PAWS
PAWS comes with its own set of symptoms and can sometimes be as debilitating as the first physical symptoms you experienced. Although your body may not be wracked with bone chilling vomiting, fever and fatigue, you will experience a new set of symptoms that can hinder your progress to the next step of your sobriety. PAWS can be experienced with any addiction to any drug. Knowing what you are facing will help you circumvent these waters.
Most of these symptoms occur as emotional or mental disturbances such as:
- the inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia)
- episodes of panic
- obsessive compulsive attributes
- social anxiety or dysfunction
- overreaction to emotion or inability to feel emotion
- negative thoughts, hopelessness
- profound feelings of guilt
These symptoms can be quite intense and all at once, contributing to each other in various ways. Other symptoms that may affect someone with PAWS include:
- sleep disturbances
- memory problems
- physical coordination problems
- easily stressed
- an increased sensitivity to pain
- inability to concentrate
All of these symptoms combined can make for a very difficult time in recovery. Some of them will dissipate and disappear altogether. Some may require help from pharmaceuticals for at least a time, enabling you to get a handle on the situation. When it comes to PAWS, only time can tell how many of these symptoms will stay with you for the short term or throughout your life.
How to Move Forward
Many of these symptoms may come and go, and worsen or reappear during stressful situations or experiences that are usual triggers for your addiction. Understand that this process is normal during recovery and it can in fact help you identify what is going on in your body and mind. Learning to accept and deal with these symptoms will be a crucial part of your rehabilitation program and new life.
Remember, recovery does not end with sobriety alone. Being able to identify and treat the symptoms left behind by addiction is what will make the difference in your journey. For those who struggle with PAWS, arm yourself with knowledge and, for now, stay focused on the things in life you can control and stay proactive about your health and personal well-being.