Drug Detox in AZ: What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?

withdrawal symptoms in drug detox in AZ

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a set of prolonged, often protracted withdrawal symptoms experienced after withdrawal from certain substances, such as alcohol, opioids and benzodiazepines. These symptoms persist beyond the initial withdrawal period during drug detox in AZ. Acute symptoms typically last for a few days to a week, while PAWS symptoms can extend for weeks, months or even years. 

PAWS is more commonly associated with substances that have a significant impact on the brain’s neurochemistry. The symptoms are often brought on by situations involving the people, places and things that remind the person of using. Let’s learn more about PAWS, why these symptoms occur and how to successfully manage them. 

Understanding Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome 

When someone detoxes from drugs or alcohol, their body goes through a period of adjustment. The body must adjust to functioning without substances, so it essentially goes into ‘shock.’ During this time, it’s normal to experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms such as muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, sweating and headaches. 

However, there is more to the withdrawal process than just acute symptoms and physical discomfort. As the body heals, a second phase of withdrawal can occur, and this is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Unlike the first stage of withdrawal, which typically involves physical symptoms, PAWS symptoms are more psychological and emotional.

This secondary withdrawal period can happen a few weeks or months into recovery depending on how long and how often the person abused substances. What makes these symptoms even harder is that they can pop up out of nowhere, even after several months. However, it’s important to remember that PAWS symptoms are temporary and a sign that the brain is healing. 

What are the Symptoms of PAWS? 

The specific symptoms of PAWS can vary depending on the substance involved but may include:

  • Mood swings: Persistent mood disturbances, such as anxiety, depression, irritability and mood swings, are common in PAWS.
  • Emotional instability: Emotional lability, or rapid and intense changes in emotions, can occur.
  • Cognitive difficulties: People experiencing PAWS may have problems with memory, concentration and decision-making.
  • Sleep disturbances: Insomnia and disturbed sleep patterns are common, with individuals often experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Cravings: Intense cravings for the substance can persist, making it challenging to maintain sobriety.
  • Anhedonia: Anhedonia refers to the reduced ability to experience pleasure from activities that were once enjoyable. It happens because the brain’s feel-good chemicals are regulating. 
  • Fatigue: Persistent fatigue and low energy levels are common.
  • Physical symptoms: Some individuals may experience physical symptoms such as gastrointestinal problems, muscle aches and headaches.

It’s important to note that the severity and duration of PAWS can vary widely from person to person, and not everyone who quits using substances will experience PAWS. The risk and severity of PAWS can be influenced by various factors, including the type of substance used, the duration and frequency of use, individual differences and whether any treatment or support is received during recovery.

How Long Do PAWS Episodes Last? 

Most PAWS episodes come and go unexpectedly, lasting a few days to a few weeks. Typically, it takes the brain six months to two years to recalibrate itself and naturally start producing endorphins and dopamine as it should. Even though individuals know that their brain is working on making these changes, PAWS symptoms can still be distressing. 

Oftentimes, it’s stressful situations that bring on PAWS episodes. This is why it’s especially important to follow an aftercare plan after detox in AZ, participate in therapy or counseling, attend support groups and practice self-care. Doing so avoids stressful situations that can create PAWS symptoms. 

Coping Strategies to Manage PAWS Symptoms 

While PAWS symptoms can’t necessarily be avoided, there are tools and strategies to help manage the symptoms effectively. These include: 

  • Practicing self-care by eating well, getting restful sleep and avoiding stressful situations. 
  • Exercising most days of the week, especially when feeling stressed or overwhelmed. 
  • Establishing healthy and positive relationships with friends and loved ones.  
  • Tracking symptoms in a journal and looking for things that may be triggering episodes, such as specific people or places.  
  • Making and attending appointments with mental health professionals for psychological and psychiatric care. 
  • Attending support groups regularly, such as 12-step groups or alumni groups at your drug rehab in Arizona. 
  • Following an aftercare plan, which outlines a structured routine, coping strategies, recommendations for therapy and more.  
  • Writing down daily tasks to stay organized and avoid feeling overwhelmed 

Choosing the Right Drug Detox in AZ 

By choosing the right drug detox center, individuals are more likely to have a better experience. While withdrawal symptoms can’t be avoided, they can be successfully managed. Medically-supervised detox facilities provide a wide range of medications and therapies to lessen the intensity of withdrawal effects and help individuals get through their days. 

It’s important to remember that detox alone does not treat addiction. The next step is to move onto an inpatient or outpatient rehab that will address the underlying causes for the addiction, treat co-occurring disorders, teach healthy coping strategies and more. By participating in a treatment program, individuals also have access to therapies that will manage PAWS symptoms, making them less intense and reducing the risk of relapse. 

Find Supportive Drug Detox in AZ 

Wolf Creek Recovery is a drug and alcohol rehab facility in Prescott AZ. While we do not offer detox services under our roof, we can refer you to a local detox center. When you complete this phase of the recovery process, you can then participate in outpatient services, which include individual counseling, group therapy and family therapy.

Furthermore, because we offer medication-assisted therapy (MAT), clients are able to gradually return to their everyday lives faster without the need for inpatient care. MAT is also helpful at treating PAWS symptoms, as it combines medications and behavioral therapies for improved support. To learn more about choosing a detox facility and starting treatment, contact Wolf Creek Recovery today.