Cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, a racing heart, insomnia, depression. This sounds like a nightmare. It’s something that the victim in an 80’s slasher horror movie might experience. In reality, it’s an actual, everyday thing that addicts deal with. This is withdrawal. And unfortunately, it’s inevitable when detoxing from substance addiction.
The intensity and inevitability of these symptoms is why drug detox programs are so strongly recommended. Detox facilities can help ease withdrawal symptoms through medication, guidance, and support. In most cases, withdrawal symptoms are cured within one to two weeks. However, some people have the misfortune of experiencing a more persistent and insidious withdrawal. This is called Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).
Acute Withdrawal vs. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Acute withdrawal occurs during the first week or two of detox. Each person experiences different symptoms of acute withdrawal depending on the drug they’re detoxing from. While symptoms vary, they’re all usually physical. Acute withdrawal can be treated with medication and support in a detox facility or other drug detox program.
Post acute withdrawal syndrome is a bit different. Substance abuse and addiction actually changes your brain’s chemistry. PAWS is a result of your brain gradually regaining its normal and natural chemistry during recovery. Because this is occurring in the control center of the brain, most PAWS symptoms are emotional and physiological. This adjustment period is not a quick fix. Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome can last anywhere from a couple of months to two years.
Common post acute withdrawal symptoms:
- Sleep distrubances
- Mood swings
- Trouble concentrating
How to Handle PAWS:
Seek help and support – Addiction specialists are well aware of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. Reaching out to an addiction specialist can be a huge relief if you think you’re experiencing symptoms of PAWS. Group therapy can also help with the emotional stress that comes with PAWS.
Take care of yourself – Mood swings, anxiety, and thinking hindrances can all be very frustrating. But don’t beat yourself up over them. Give yourself time to adjust and praise yourself for the things you’re doing well. Recovery is worth the work.
Know what to expect – Unfortunately, Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is a relapse trigger. There may be stretches of time when you feel great and hopeful only to be hit by withdrawal symptoms out of nowhere. Don’t give up. PAWS can last well into early recovery but knowing what to expect out of it is half the battle. Try to stay positive and seek help if symptoms get too intense.
Let’s face it, PAWS is no walk in the park. But it doesn’t have to be a nightmare either. You can get through it! It just takes patience, self-care, and support. The long-term happiness of recovery is worth every bit of strife during the withdrawal period.