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How Long Does Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Last?

Part of the recovery process for alcohol and substance use disorders is learning to manage post-acute withdrawal syndrome symptoms. Not everyone experiences this condition, as it largely depends on the type of substances that were misused, how long they were misused, and other such factors. However, learning more about how long post-acute withdrawal syndrome lasts can help you prepare should symptoms occur.

What Happens to the Body During Detox? 

During medically supervised detox, the body goes through acute withdrawal. The symptoms experienced during this process are usually physical, such as nausea, loss of appetite, headaches, body aches, sweating, and diarrhea. 

Acute withdrawal symptoms occur as the body detoxes from alcohol and drugs and start the healing process. Alcohol and substance use disorders alter the brain’s chemistry, central nervous system functioning, and cause a series of physical changes. 

Once the substance is no longer in the body, the body can start to repair the damage and heal. While acute withdrawal symptoms usually subside within about a month, some people can enter a second stage of withdrawal called post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS.

What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

PAWS occurs as the brain starts to restore normal functioning and natural endorphin levels. Many substances and alcohol force the brain to release dopamine and other endorphins, creating euphoric sensations often experienced. 

Once alcohol and drug use is discontinued, the levels are so low that it takes time for the brain to readjust itself. As it does, PAWS can occur.

Symptoms of Paws

Unlike acute withdrawal, where the symptoms are physical, PAWS symptoms are more emotional and psychological and could include:

  • Cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Unexplained Mood Swings
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Memory Problems
  • Problems Focusing and Concentrating
  • Lack of Energy
  • No Motivation
  • Hostility
  • Feeling Overwhelmed
  • Unexplained Crying
  • Loneliness

It is essential to remember if you experience PAWS, the range, and intensity of the symptoms you experience do vary.

How Long Does Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Last?

How long post-acute withdrawal syndromes last depends on several factors. There is no specific period as it varies from one person to the next. For some people, the symptoms of PAWS last for several months. For others, they can last for years. 

There are even cases where some people never experience PAWS for six months or longer, and a year or two into their recovery, they experience PAWS. The most important thing to remember is just like acute withdrawal, PAWS is only temporary. Eventually, the symptoms will go away the longer you stay sober.

Why Does PAWS only Affect Certain People?

The reason PAWS does not affect everyone in recovery has to do with the type of substances being misused. There is a strong correlation between PAWS and alcohol, opioids, and benzos misuse. People addicted to these substances often experience some level of PAWS. 

However, that is not to say if you misuse other substances, you do not have to worry about PAWS. Instead, it indicates that misusing these particular substances increases the risks of experiencing PAWS.

How To Manage PAWS

While PAWS could be part of your recovery process, the good news is it is possible to manage this condition using the following strategies:

  • Have a solid after-care program in place.
  • Ensure you follow your self-care routine and do not deviate.
  • Attend support group meetings and individual counseling.
  • Have a sponsor you can rely on and contact when you need support. 
  • Take any medications as prescribed when part of your after-care treatment.
  • Avoid putting yourself in situations that can cause triggers.
  • Avoid people that can cause you to feel stressed or overly anxious.
  • Focus on taking your recovery one day at a time. 
  • Enroll in an outpatient treatment program when you need extra help.
  • Consider transitioning from a rehab program to a sober living facility. 
  • Avoid making major life changes that could be stressful.
  • Keep a daily journal so you can identify potential triggers that cause PAWS. 
  • Establish a set sleep routine with a set bedtime and waking time.
  • Limit the time spent on tasks, if possible, and take a 15-minute break between tasks.
  • Find activities that you enjoy and distract you from PAWS symptoms, such as listening to music, painting, exercising, or talking to a friend. 
  • Get a pet for companionship if you live alone. 
  • Be realistic in your expectations, and remember there will still be some bad days that too will pass.

Medically Supervised Detox and PAWS Support in Nashville

When you are ready to start the road to recovery and overcome your alcohol or substance use disorder, Detox Nashville is ready to help you take these first steps. Once you complete your addiction treatment program at our luxury facility in Nashville, we will help you create a custom-tailored after-care program to help manage PAWS symptoms.

We are always available if you need additional support for PAWS. Our objective is to help you maintain your sobriety by giving you the support and tools needed to reach your short-term and long-term goals. 
To learn more about our medically supervised detox, addiction treatment, and PAWS support programs, please feel free to contact us to speak with an addiction treatment specialist today.

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