What Is PAWS?

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on June 24, 2019.

When you're on the road to recovery, there are two stages of drug and alcohol withdrawal. The first stage is the acute stage. During this stage, the person in recovery may experience physical withdrawal symptoms such as migraines, restlessness and flu-like symptoms. This usually lasts a few weeks at most. During the second stage, there will be fewer physical symptoms, but more emotional and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

What Is PAWS?

PAWS stands for post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which is the second stage of withdrawal. The brain is trying to reach equilibrium, so the levels of brain chemicals will fluctuate until they reach stability. PAWS can usually last for up to two years. It will start frequently changing from minute to minute but will eventually then will become more spread out. As the body continues to recover the good stretches will last longer, but the bad symptoms can be just as intense.

Symptoms of PAWS

Symptoms of PAWS are not always present and occur intermittently. Common examples include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings, anxiety and irritability
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Emotional overreactions

How Does PAWS Affect Addition Recovery?

PAWS is a common trigger for relapse, so it is important to manage any symptoms as soon as possible and avoid being caught off-guard. When people only think these symptoms will last for a short period, they are more likely to relapse when they resurface. Be patient and prepared, and remember that withdrawal symptoms are a sign your brain is recovering.

How to Survive PAWS

Although it can be frustrating to manage them at times, post-acute withdrawal symptoms are a normal part of the recovery process. Here are a few tips on how to survive PAWs:

  • Create a daily routine of healthy habits: Exercise regularly, eat three proper meals a day, get enough sleep and find a hobby or something that brings you joy.
  • Attend group or individual therapy: Therapy helps you create a safe and healthy support system. Be sure you don't miss any meetings — once you start skipping, it is easy to fall back on old habits.
  • Relax: It is important to take time to relax, such as by taking a bath or watching your favorite movie.
  • Focus on positive changes and achievements: Don't be hard on yourself. You should be proud of how far you have come and recognize your strength and perseverance.

Be Aware of Your Triggers

Stressful situations can trigger PAWS or worsen its symptoms. Any of the following circumstances may trigger withdrawal syndromes:

  • Social conflicts
  • Multitasking
  • Stressful or frustrating situations
  • Feelings of anxiety, fearfulness or anger

Remember, post-acute withdrawal syndrome does not last forever. The timeline varies per person, but keep in mind that things will get better. Surround yourself with encouraging, supportive people who mutually care about you.

Get the Help You Deserve at Diamond House Detox

Don't put off reaching out for help if you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. For assistance achieving a happy life without addiction, contact Diamond House Detox online. Call today for same day admittance at (800) 205-6107.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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