Tree House Recovery Colorado

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) refers to a group of symptoms that can occur after an individual stops using drugs or alcohol. These symptoms can last for several months or even up to two years after the individual has quit using.

Moreover, PAWS is different from the acute withdrawal symptoms that occur in the first few days or weeks after stopping drug or alcohol use. While the acute withdrawal symptoms tend to be physical, such as shaking, nausea, or sweating, PAWS is more psychological and emotional.

Understanding the Two Stages of Withdrawal: Acute and Post-Acute

When a person with a substance use disorder (SUD) stops taking drugs, they go through two stages of withdrawal.

Acute Withdrawal (Detox)

The first stage is the acute withdrawal, and during this phase, you will experience physical withdrawal symptoms. In addition to physical withdrawal symptoms, acute withdrawal can also cause emotional distress and intense cravings. Once the acute withdrawal phase is over, individuals typically transition to the second stage of withdrawal.

Post-Acute Withdrawal

The second phase, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), is a collection of psychological and mood-related symptoms that occur as the brain recovers from the effects of active addiction. PAWS can also be referred to as prolonged withdrawal syndrome, post-withdrawal syndrome, or protracted withdrawal syndrome. Despite the discomfort, it’s important to know that PAWS is temporary. Over time, the symptoms will begin to fade, and individuals will start to feel better.

Illusion of withdrawal timeline: Detox lasting one to two weeks and post-acute withdrawal lasting weeks to months.

Symptoms of PAWS

PAWS can manifest in a variety of ways and can differ from person to person. Some common symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Cravings for drugs or alcohol

Furthermore, these symptoms can occur at any time during the PAWS period and can last for several days or even weeks.

PAWS and Relapse

One of the most dangerous aspects of PAWS is that many people are unaware of it. There is a common belief that after detox, when all the drugs are out of the system, normal life will resume. However, this is not the case. Those who experience the re-occurring and prolonged discomfort of PAWS without understanding it can become demoralized, depressed, anxious, and prone to relapse. Watch the video above to learn more.

Getting Help with PAWS

At Tree House Recovery in Denver, Colorado, we understand that PAWS can be a challenging obstacle in the recovery process. Our team of experienced professionals has helped countless individuals overcome addiction and manage the symptoms of PAWS.

Evidence-Based Therapies

Firstly, we offer a range of services to help individuals in their recovery journey, including individualized treatment plans tailored to meet the unique needs of each person. Secondly, we provide evidence-based therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Thirdly, we offer group therapy and support groups, which provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences and receive encouragement from others going through similar struggles.

Additionally, research has shown that exercise can help shorten the duration of PAWS and improve overall physical and mental health. A study conducted by Meeusen and De Meirleir (1995) found that regular exercise can help increase the production and release of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with PAWS. Therefore, we provide nutritional support and fitness programs, which can help individuals rebuild their physical health and improve their mental and emotional resilience.

Lastly, we incorporate mindfulness and meditation practices into our treatment programs, which can help individuals manage stress and improve their overall well-being.

At Tree House Recovery, we believe in treating the whole person and addressing the underlying issues that contribute to addiction. Our goal is to help individuals achieve long-term recovery and lead fulfilling lives.

Find a New Way Forward at Tree House Recovery

Our addiction resources are only the beginning. At Tree House Recovery in Denver, CO, we offer an intensive outpatient program (IOP) that gives you the support and structure needed to overcome addiction and establish a foundation for long-term sobriety. If you’re ready to start living a life you truly love, reach out to our team today.  (720) 640-0202 

It's Lifestyle Recovery

There is a Better Way to Overcome Addiction – A Health-Centered Program.

  • MIND
  • BODY

“Acute withdrawal, protracted abstinence and negative affect in alcoholism: Are they linked? ” National Institute on Drug Abuse.