Understanding Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

When embarking on the journey of addiction recovery, it’s vital to have a comprehensive understanding of the challenges that lie ahead. One of the significant obstacles you may encounter during your recovery is Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS). These symptoms can be complex and persistent, but by gaining a deeper insight into what they are, how they manifest, and how to effectively manage them, you can empower yourself for a successful recovery journey.

What Are Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)?

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms, commonly referred to as PAWS, represent a collection of protracted withdrawal symptoms that occur after the initial acute withdrawal phase. While acute withdrawal symptoms typically last for a relatively short period, ranging from a few days to a couple of weeks, PAWS can endure for several months or, in some cases, even years. PAWS can impact individuals recovering from various substances, including alcohol, drugs, and prescription medications.

Key Characteristics of PAWS:

  • Prolonged Duration: One of the hallmark features of PAWS is the extended duration of symptoms, which can persist long after the substance has been discontinued.
  • Intermittent Nature: PAWS symptoms can be intermittent, meaning they may come and go, making them somewhat unpredictable.
  • Varied Symptoms: PAWS is not limited to a single type of symptom; it can manifest as a combination of physical, emotional, and cognitive symptoms.

Common PAWS Symptoms

PAWS encompasses a broad spectrum of symptoms, and it’s essential to recognize that not everyone in recovery will experience the same set of symptoms, nor will they experience them to the same degree of severity. Common PAWS symptoms include:

  • Mood Swings and Emotional Instability: You may find yourself experiencing intense mood swings, with periods of elation followed by depression or anxiety.
  • Difficulty Concentrating and Memory Problems: Many individuals in PAWS struggle with cognitive function, making it challenging to concentrate, remember things, and stay organized.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns are common during PAWS, which can further exacerbate other symptoms.
  • Cravings for the Substance: PAWS can trigger strong cravings for the substance of abuse, increasing the risk of relapse.
  • Anxiety and Depression: These are prevalent emotional symptoms, often requiring specific attention and treatment.
  • Irritability and Anger: You may find yourself easily irritable and prone to outbursts of anger.
  • Physical Symptoms: PAWS can also manifest with physical symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Coping Strategies for PAWS

Effectively managing PAWS requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses both the physical and emotional aspects of these symptoms. Here are some strategies that can help you cope with PAWS:

Seek Professional Help

  • Consult a Therapist or Counselor: Enlisting the support of a trained therapist or counselor can provide you with valuable tools and coping strategies to manage the emotional aspects of PAWS.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT): In some cases, medications may be prescribed to alleviate specific PAWS symptoms, such as anxiety or depression. MAT is typically done under the guidance of a medical professional.

Build a Support Network

  • Join a Support Group: Connecting with others who understand your struggles can provide a sense of community and emotional support.
  • Lean on Friends and Family: Share your experiences with trusted loved ones who can offer encouragement, understanding, and a sense of accountability.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

  • Exercise Regularly: Engaging in regular physical activity can boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: Proper nutrition is crucial for physical and emotional health, making it essential to consume a balanced diet.
  • Prioritize Sleep: Establishing a healthy sleep routine can help alleviate sleep disturbances associated with PAWS.

Practice Stress Management

  • Mindfulness and Meditation: These techniques can help you stay grounded, reduce stress, and manage anxiety.
  • Relaxation Exercises: Techniques like deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can be effective tools for reducing tension and promoting relaxation.

How 12 South Recovery Can Help You

At 12 South Recovery, located in Lake Forest, CA, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive addiction and mental health treatment tailored to your unique needs. We understand the challenges associated with addiction recovery, including managing PAWS. Our experienced team of professionals is here to guide you through your recovery journey. Reach out to us today to learn more about our programs and how we can support you in achieving lasting recovery. We are committed to helping you build a healthier, addiction-free life.


PAWS symptoms vary in duration, and they can persist for several months. In some cases, PAWS symptoms may continue for up to two years. The duration depends on factors such as the specific substance of abuse, individual differences, and the effectiveness of treatment.

While PAWS cannot be entirely prevented, early intervention, comprehensive treatment, and ongoing support can reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the chances of a successful recovery.

No, PAWS symptoms can differ significantly among individuals. The type and severity of symptoms depend on various factors, including the substance of abuse, the duration of addiction, and individual differences in brain chemistry.

Medication may be recommended in some cases to alleviate specific PAWS symptoms, such as depression or anxiety. However, it is not always necessary, and non-pharmacological approaches, such as therapy and lifestyle changes, can also be effective in managing PAWS.

Starting treatment at 12 South Recovery is a straightforward process. Contact our team through our website or by phone, and we will assist you in the assessment and admission process, tailoring a treatment plan to meet your unique needs and goals for recovery. Your journey to a healthier, addiction-free life begins with us.

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