While the most extreme substance withdrawal symptoms tend to subside within two weeks, a variety of typically less severe general withdrawal symptoms can persist for months at a time. These symptoms, collectively, are known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS for short. Understanding the PAWS syndrome produced by heroin, cocaine, alcohol, methamphetamine, and many other drugs is crucial to recovery.
While the severity is not as severe as withdrawal and may not require medical attention, PAWS can be one of the most difficult aspects of early recovery. Therefore, recognizing the symptoms of PAWS and understanding that the symptoms are perfectly normal is crucial to achieving long-term sobriety.
So what are the symptoms of PAWS? Provided below is a list of the most common symptoms associated with PAWS.
Depression accounts for one of the most common and quite often the most severe symptom of PAWS. The cause of this depression in those newly sober is often both biological and psychological. Heavy abuse of mind-altering substances that hijack the brain’s natural reward pathways often takes time to restore to a healthy balance.
This is often coupled with the psychological guilt of past bad actions that typically are associated with substance abuse.
Symptoms of lethargy include weakness, weariness, fatigue, the absence of energy, and an overall lack of motivation. Lethargy can be a particularly difficult symptom of PAWS, in that it tends to potentiate many of the other symptoms such as depression, craving, etc.
Anhedonia refers to the inability to feel pleasure when one normally should. Like many symptoms of PAWS, anhedonia is the result of a chemical imbalance n the brain’s reward system caused by excessive substance abuse. Anhedonia can often lead to a general withdrawal from social activities, hobbies, and personal relationships.
Insomnia – The large majority of substances of abuse alter the sleeping patterns of the user. Thus, as a consequence, those newly sober will often face an extended period of time with sleeping difficulties while the body is restoring the biochemical balance in the brain.
Generalized anxiety is characterized by an excessive and exaggerated anxiety over typical everyday events one may encounter. Like other symptoms of PAWS, this has a biochemical component, coupled with adjusting to normal life situations without substances once again.
Emotional instability leading to wild mood swings is often a hallmark sign of PAWS. Often these mood swings will occur for seemingly no legitimate reason or cause.
A common symptom of PAWS (and consequence of the other symptoms of PAWS) is periods of intense craving for drugs and/or alcohol. These intense cravings are often cited as one of the most difficult aspects of early sobriety, and a frequent cause of relapse.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms are an unfortunate consequence of obtaining sobriety. Overcoming these symptoms thus is crucial to achieving sustained long-term sobriety. For more information on recovery and anyone seeking help with addiction and substance abuse problems, please call True Recovery at (844) 744-8783 or visit us online.