Drug addiction is a serious disease. When the body becomes accustomed  The recovery process is no walk in the park. One of the most challenging aspects of drug and alcohol addiction recovery is a post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. 

Many people are unaware of PAWS. If you or a loved one are seeking addiction treatment, getting familiar with this syndrome and learning the answer to questions like “How long does paws last?” can help increase odds of lasting sobriety. 

What Is PAWS?

Withdrawal is a common experience during detox among people who have a dependence on drugs or alcohol. Withdrawal occurs in two stages. The first is acute withdrawal, which typically lasts one to two weeks after use of the substance is stopped. Physical withdrawal symptoms of acute withdrawal often resemble the flu, including nausea, muscle ache, increased heart rate and headache. It is important that detox be done in a supervised setting because dangerous health consequences can occur during acute withdrawal.

The second stage is post-acute withdrawal, which occurs after the initial stage. PAWS is believed to be the brain’s way of resolving chemical imbalances that took place during active addiction. While drug abuse is active, the brain has to make adaptations to make up for changes in the available neurotransmitters in the brain. When drug use ceases, levels of neurotransmitters can change, which may reduce the brain’s ability to deal with stress, causing symptoms. 

The symptoms of post-acute withdrawal tend to involve more emotional and psychological aspects of withdrawal, unlike during acute withdrawal. 

Symptoms of PAWS may fluctuate in severity and can disappear only to reappear later. Some of the most common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Limited ability to focus or difficulty concentrating
  • Low energy
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic pain that cannot be explained
  • Lack of libido
  • Difficulty maintaining social relationships
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors

Other names for post-acute withdrawal syndrome include post-withdrawal syndrome, protracted withdrawal syndrome or prolonged withdrawal syndrome. 

Symptoms of PAWS manifest primarily after withdrawal from opioids, alcohol and benzodiazepines (which are often prescribed for the treatment of panic attacks and anxiety) but have also occurred after the use of other drugs. 

How Long Does PAWS Last?

It is important to be aware of the answer to the question of “How long does PAWS Last?”. PAWS can persist weeks or months after abstaining from substance abuse. PAWS may last as long as two years while the brain continues to recalibrate after active addiction. Although PAWS is a temporary condition, the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome can be a driving factor in relapse – even in those who are fully committed to staying sober. 

How to Get Help With a Drug or Alcohol Addiction

The first step to overcoming drug or alcohol addiction is making the decision to find help. The next step is getting the right help. At Atlanta Recovery Place, we employ proven, evidence-based methods offered by licensed and credentialed doctors, counselors, and nurses while we focus on long-term recovery. With an understanding that each individual’s recovery journey is unique, we tailor each treatment plan to meet the needs of every patient who comes through our doors. Reach out to us today to talk to one of our compassionate care team members to learn more about the help we can offer you or your loved one.

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