Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (P.A.W.S.) and the Recovery Process

The two stages of withdrawal symptoms are simply acute and post-acute.  The acute withdrawal stage involves the physical symptoms that usually only last a few weeks.

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (P.A.W.S.) involves less physical symptoms and a more psychological and emotional manifestation of withdrawal.  Long term drug or alcohol abuse damages the nervous system and produces psychological stress. The chemicals in your brain fluctuate as it improves causing post-acute withdrawal symptoms.  These symptoms are signs that your brain functioning is moderately returning to normal.

P.A.W.S. is simply defined as, “a set of persistent impairments that occur after withdrawal from alcohol, opiates, benzodiazepines and other substances.”

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome symptoms include:


Mood swings

Overwhelming feelings of guilt

Pessimistic thinking

Lack in ability to concentrate or focus

Increased sensitivity to stress

Blocking or numbness of memories and feelings

Sleep disturbances

Social anxiety and trouble with interpersonal skills

Lack of motivation or initiative

Intense cravings

Memory loss

Putting on a façade (looking good on the outside but feeling awful inside)

Feeling lethargic or little enthusiasm in daily activities

Difficulty multitasking and completing simple tasks

Unrealistic expectations of self and others

Surviving Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

P.A.W.S. can last from six to 24 months after the last use. It may sometimes feel like you’re taking two steps forward and then five back. Awareness, along with a healthy support group of fellow recovering addicts who understand what you’re going through is suggested to get through these difficult periods.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.  Give yourself a break.  Realize that you are not alone and that no one recovers overnight.

Stimulate your mind with reading or cognitive exercises.

Try to keep a healthy balance in your life.  Be careful not to do anything too extreme.  Only work 40 hours a week.  Never obsess over working out or physical fitness.

Always keep your recovery first.  Try not to sweat the small stuff, instead focus on what you need to do for your recovery.  Never put anything before your recovery.  After all, anything you put ahead of your recovery you will lose.

Remember, P.A.W.S. is not permanent.  Feeling this way is only temporary.  Your brain will recover.  It just takes time.  Be patient and continue to do the right thing.  Recovery is possible.

For more information: Dealing with PAWS

Read 14112 times Last modified on Thursday, 01 May 2014 18:25
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