Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

Overcoming drug or alcohol addiction can be difficult, and you may experience many obstacles along your recovery journey.

Many people believe that detoxification is the most difficult stage of recovery, but this isn’t always the case. In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can persist for months or even years after you stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol.

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is one of many challenges you may experience with overcoming addiction. But what exactly is post-acute withdrawal syndrome, and what are the symptoms?

That’s what we’ll be exploring today. Read on to learn more about PAWS, including the symptoms, potential causes, and what to expect from treatment.

What is PAWS?

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), is a condition that can affect people recovering from substance addiction.

During the initial drug or alcohol withdrawal phase, you may experience withdrawal symptoms for a few days to a couple of weeks. The Initial withdrawal symptoms are primarily physical - these are the immediate symptoms that occur shortly after you stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

Protracted withdrawal syndrome is often used interchangeably with PAWS. It refers to extended withdrawal symptoms that persist after the acute withdrawal stage.

PAWS symptoms, however, can last for months or even years. Because PAWS can persist for a long time, it can be a huge risk factor for relapse. Understanding the signs of PAWS is key to getting the right support. Read on for some common symptoms of post-acute withdrawal.

Symptoms of PAWS

The symptoms of PAWS can vary depending on the substance. For example, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may differ from opioid withdrawal symptoms. PAWS can manifest with a range of mental and physical symptoms, such as:

  • Mood swings and impacted mental health
  • Trouble sleeping or staying asleep
  • Higher levels of stress
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Irritability
  • Cravings

These symptoms can vary from person to person and fluctuate in intensity and duration. PAWS can be particularly difficult to manage, so it’s important to seek support if you notice that your withdrawal symptoms are not subsiding.

What Causes Post-Acute Withdrawal?

There doesn’t appear to be a single precise cause of PAWS - instead, it occurs when your brain recalibrates after withdrawing from a substance such as drugs or alcohol. Ultimately, it is thought to occur due to neurochemical imbalances in the brain caused by substance abuse.

Prolonged drug or alcohol use can affect how your central nervous system functions. This can lead to changes in neurotransmitter levels and neural pathways. When you stop taking drugs or drinking alcohol after developing a dependence, your brain may struggle to return to normal. This results in withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment for Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Quitting drugs and alcohol can be dangerous without the right support. For example, if you have severe alcohol dependence and suddenly stop drinking, you could experience life-threatening complications such as delirium tremens.

This is why it’s so important to seek professional support when you detox. However, detoxification alone does not address all aspects of addiction. Opt for comprehensive treatment including detoxification, therapy, and ongoing support. Likewise, lifestyle changes can also help to manage protracted symptoms.

Medical Detox

A medical detox is when you are given medical assistance when detoxing from alcohol or drugs. You may be prescribed medication to help alleviate certain symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.

During a detox, expect to experience withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, headaches, and trouble concentrating. The symptoms vary from substance to substance, but your healthcare professional should give you an idea of what you may experience.

The length of time it takes to detox can vary from person to person, often depending on the severity of the addiction. At Help4Addiction, we can find you the right detox program tailored to meet your needs.


Drug and alcohol addiction therapy can help to address the social and psychological aspects of addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), counselling, and support groups can help you develop coping strategies, address underlying issues contributing to addiction, and build a strong support network.

Ultimately, therapy can help to manage the psychological withdrawal symptoms, grow your confidence, and reduce the risk of relapse.

Lifestyle Changes

As well as detoxification and therapy, lifestyle changes can help you to manage protracted withdrawal symptoms.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques can significantly improve your overall well-being and reduce the severity of PAWS symptoms.

Ongoing Support

Ongoing support can include online support, continued therapy, or support groups. Outpatient programs can be extremely helpful when overcoming addiction, staying sober and managing ongoing withdrawal symptoms. Aftercare is key when it comes to sustained recovery.

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction with Help4Addiction

If you, a family member or a loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, trust our experts at Help4Addiction to connect you with the best, most suitable rehab clinic.

Our team of experienced addiction professionals can connect you with the best addiction treatment services tailored to meet your individual needs.

Whether you’re looking for inpatient rehab options at a residential rehab facility, outpatient rehab options, or online rehab from the comfort of your own home, we can secure you a space.

From detoxification and therapy to ongoing support and aftercare, we are committed to helping you achieve long-term recovery. Don't let PAWS or any other obstacle stand in the way of your journey to sobriety.

Reach out to Help4Addiction today - with the right treatment and support, you can overcome addiction for good.

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