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.
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 are not always present and occur intermittently. Common examples include:
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.
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:
Stressful situations can trigger PAWS or worsen its symptoms. Any of the following circumstances may trigger withdrawal syndromes:
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.
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.