Many people may think that once the detoxing process is over, the symptoms of withdrawal are over. In some cases that might be true, but researchers are beginning to study a syndrome called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is a collection of symptoms that persists for weeks or even months after the acute phase of withdrawal from certain substances. Treatment programs and detox centers across the country are on the front lines of treating those who experience PAWS, as well as educating the public about this poorly-understood condition.
At Compass Detox, our Florida detox center gives people the support they need to get through the difficult first stage of recovery. If you or a loved one might benefit from detox services to overcome post-acute withdrawal syndrome, reach out to our team today by calling 800.263.3869 or completing our online contact form.
What Are the Symptoms of PAWS?
Like many other syndromes, not every person will experience all of the symptoms or even the same combination of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of PAWS include:
- Cognitive difficulties sometimes called “brain fog”
- Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or other psychiatric symptoms
- Unusual irritability or angry outbursts
- Trouble sleeping
- Lack of interest in or difficulty maintaining social relationships
- Craving substances that have been previously abused even after detox
What Causes PAWS?
The current theory is that PAWS has something to do with the same changes in the brain that occur as the body develops a tolerance to a substance that is being abused. Certain drugs seem more likely to cause PAWS than others, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids. Those individuals quitting benzodiazepines seem to be most at risk for developing PAWS. When certain substances are used over a period of time, the user becomes physically and psychologically dependent on the substance, which is referred to as addiction. During this process, changes in the brain and its neurotransmitters, which it uses to communicate with itself and other parts of the body, take place. Those changes are thought to be at the heart of what causes PAWS to occur.
How Is PAWS Treated?
When a person is experiencing PAWS, many techniques and therapies already being used as part of a substance abuse treatment program can help manage the symptoms. Avoiding relapse, which is one of the main goals of a drug treatment program, is also one of the main goals when caring for a client experiencing symptoms of PAWS.
Some of the treatments that may be offered include:
- Therapeutic interactions, such as counseling and group therapy
- Educating the client about what to expect at each stage of the recovery process
- Encouraging the client to improve diet and exercise habits to promote health
- Frequent check-ins along with positive reinforcement for achieving milestones
- Promotion of good lifestyle habits such as proper sleep hygiene
Is PAWS a Medical Condition?
No. PAWS is more of a descriptive term for a collection of symptoms. It is the subject of research in the medical and psychological fields in hopes that someday, even more effective strategies can be developed to help those struggling with substance use disorders. In the future, research into the symptoms of PAWS could also help medical and counseling professionals better understand the process of detox, withdrawal, and recovery from substance use disorder.
Regardless of whether or not PAWS is considered a medical diagnosis, the symptoms with which clients often struggle are genuine and to be taken seriously. For this reason, it is always the best idea to seek professional treatment for substance use disorder. The process of entering and maintaining recovery can be much less complex with appropriate support and treatments.
Choose Compass Detox to Heal from Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
If you or a loved one are concerned about experiencing withdrawal symptoms or post-acute withdrawal syndrome, reach out to a detox program or treatment center near you. In South Florida, our kind and compassionate staff at Compass Detox in Pembroke Pines are committed to helping our clients achieve their best life and maintain their recovery. Contact us today by filling out our online form or calling 800.263.3869.