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What is PAWS? (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome)

When you first get clean, your body and mind have to make some serious adjustments. Usually, a person who has a substance use disorder will go through a short detox program to help them get started out in the world clean and sober. Because detoxing is often uncomfortable and can even, in some cases, be dangerous, it’s important to complete a detox round before entering treatment. However, for many people in recovery, detox doesn’t end after a few weeks. Many people experience something called PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) once they have been clean for a few months, although some people report symptoms up to 18 months after initially getting clean and sober.

PAWS is normal and doesn’t have acute, painful symptoms like the initial detox they completed. Instead, it can cause some noticeable issues in your daily life that can upset you or just make you feel “run down”. It’s important to know that this, too, is normal.

Understanding PAWS

Once a drug is removed from an addicted person’s life, many people believe the journey from addiction is over. This is a common misconception that can make it difficult for a recovering person to move forward or even lead to relapse. PAWS is a secondary, more subtle phase of withdrawal that is initiated after a few months. It’s normal and believed to simply be your body and mind’s way of adjusting to your clean and sober life. After all, you didn’t become addicted overnight. Getting and staying clean can’t happen overnight, either, as much as everyone wishes it could. That's why people continue to work a recovery program once they get clean.

While not as intense as acute withdrawal, post-acute withdrawal can be frustrating and upsetting. Learning more about what is going on with your body is important so that you can start to cope with these symptoms.

PAWS Symptoms

PAWS symptoms can vary depending on the drugs you used and how long you used them. Here are some common symptoms of it:

  • Quick to anger, exhibiting hostility
  • Panic attacks, general anxiety/fear
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Extreme fatigue or exhaustion unrelated to daily activities
  • Feeling blue or depressed
  • Insomnia
  • “Brain fog” and having trouble with concentration
  • Low sex drive
  • Trouble thinking or remembering things
  • Overreacting to stress and other emotions

Most people in recovery experience at least a few of these symptoms, but if you feel overwhelmed with them regularly, it’s important to see your doctor for a mental health screening. Many people in recovery discover they have been self-medicating a mental health disorder. Getting help for it can help increase your quality of life and make you healthier all-around.

Getting Help for Substance Abuse

Are you struggling with a substance use disorder but don’t know where to start? Help is available and it’s completely confidential. Please give us a call today at 1-619-363-4767 to learn more about your options and how you can heal.



Read Full Bio
Mark G
Mark Gladden brings both personal and professional experience to his role as co-founder of Present Moments Recovery. Now in long-term recovery himself after struggling with addiction for years, Mark understands firsthand the challenges men face in achieving and maintaining sobriety. It was this insight, combined with a desire to help others, that led Mark to establish Present Moments Recovery.

Get in Touch with Our Caring Team

We are waiting for your call. Don’t hesitate, pick up the phone and dial 619-363-4767 today.

Your first call will be greeted by one of our intake counselors who will be able to provide information on what program would be appropriate for your situation, as well as information about the process of getting treatment at our facility, if appropriate.

If Present Moments is the right fit for your current situation you will be speaking to Admissions Director Mark Gladden, who will be your guide throughout the process of arranging travel and undergoing an initial detox (if necessary). Mark has been the guide for dozens of men and women who have gotten their lives back by entering treatment at Present Moments. He has earned his reputation as being truly dedicated to the recovery of others. Mark will be the one to ‘show you the ropes’ when it comes to admitting to our facility for treatment

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