Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome: Understanding PAWS (and 5 natural ways to treat it!)

Dixie on August 4, 2020
post acute withdrawal syndrome

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome… the first step is always the hardest. 

Withdrawing from addiction or cleansing yourself may appear like the end of your worries.

You’ll presume life will improve and things return to normal… if only that were true.

Withdrawal has two phases:

  • Acute withdrawal syndrome
  • Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) 

Most people go through a brief phase of physical discomfort, known as acute withdrawal – the body’s way of healing itself.

When that’s over, post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) the second phase of the withdrawal process begins.

This depends on the extent and strength of alcohol or other addictions. Even when sober, physical discomfort can endure for weeks or even months.

Approximately, PAWS can last 18-24 months post abstinence begins. 

Unlike the first stage, this involves more of the psychological aspects of withdrawal.

PAWS may occur with any addictive substance. Although, it’s most common among people who stopped using the following substances:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Antidepressants 
  • Antipsychotics 
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Cocaine 
  • Methamphetamine 
  • Marijuana 
  • Opioids 
  • Stimulants

How Your Body Reacts During Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

post acute withdrawal syndrome

First, you will feel a rollercoaster of emotions. This can be excruciating but will slowly disappear as you make progress.

Then, as you recover, the symptoms come in waves.
We have our highs and lows; they come and go, which makes it difficult because of its unpredictability.

As challenging as it is, think of PAWS as the brain’s way of fixing chemical imbalances suffered during active addiction.

Here are the most common PAWS symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Feeling depressed
  • Substance cravings
  • Severe mood swings
  • Difficulty with cognitive skills (such as learning, working memory, logic, and reasoning)

Other (PAWS) symptoms may include:

  • Inability to focus
  • Difficulty socializing 
  • Poor impulse control
  • Impaired concentration
  • Increased sensitivity to stress
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships
  • Obsessive-compulsive (OC) behavior
  • Lack of interest, enthusiasm, and concern
  • Craving clinically abused substances (drugs)
  • Sleep pattern disturbances 

How Long Does Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Last?

The withdrawal process can take a while. 

The body can recuperate in the brief term. However, it may take months or years for the brain to recover from serious drug or alcohol addiction.

Most symptoms last for a few days at a time. It’s in correlation with the intensity and duration of one’s substance use. 

The brain repair cycle takes 6 months to 2 years before the brain releases important chemicals, such as: 

  • Dopamine
  • Endorphins

Top 5 Modalities of Treatment for Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

We offer outpatient treatment programs. Available to help you through the PAWS phase during recovery to prevent relapse.

At Willow Place for Women, we guide our patients on the path to healing. We make sure PAWS doesn’t affect our clients’ personal or professional lives.

Here are the top modalities of treatment we use for our patients dealing with post acute withdrawal syndrome:

  1. Yoga

Yoga is an effective rehabilitation tool for substance use disorders (SUD).

It is regarded as a natural form of medicine.

post acute withdrawal syndrome

Yoga at Willow place for women

At  Willow Place for Women, we know how important treating the mind, body, and spirit is to holistic healing so yoga has always been a part of our modalities of treatment to post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

How Yoga Can Help Treat PAWS?

Yoga is largely being used in treatment programs for substance abuse and throughout rehabilitation. Here’s how yoga can help treat PAWS:

  • Aids in the prevention of possible relapse
  • Eases symptoms of withdrawal
  • Provides a healthy outlet for dealing with possible stressors in daily life.
  1. Guided imagery

Guided imagery is a process that involves all senses with the use of our imagination.

We can conjure up an imaginary experience to replace frightening or unpleasant thoughts.

Also known as:

  • Visualization
  • Guided meditation
  • Guided self-hypnosis
  • Mental rehearsal

How Guided Imagery Can Help Treat PAWS?

For example, if someone is afraid of vaccination because of a bad occurrence, guided imagery can be used. 

Plus, it helps them imagine themselves not feel the needle. Therefore, defeating this fear.

In addition to that, it sparks positive healing messages throughout the mind and body.

Guided imagery is especially helpful during the healing process.

  1. Biofeedback

Biofeedback is a method that can be used to gain control over our mind and body during treatment. 

With that being said, we are connected to electrical sensors during biofeedback. This allows us to obtain information about our bodies.

Also known as:

  • Neurofeedback
  • EEG (electroencephalogram)

How Biofeedback Can Help Treat PAWS?

Biofeedback helps in understanding involuntary functions such as:

  • Breathing rate
  • Heart rate
  • Skin temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Muscle contract

Post acute withdrawal syndrome can result in:

  • Physical discomfort
  • Intense involuntary reactions 

This can also treat common symptoms of PAWS.

  1. Meditation
post acute withdrawal syndrome

Gatherings at Willow place for women

Meditation therapy allows a state of inner peace.

Its ultimate aim is to coordinate mind and body for better mental well-being and better quality of life.

How Meditation Can Help Treat PAWS?

It promotes an important life skill. This is necessary for a happy recovery from addiction: mind/body awareness.

  1. Mindfulness

Introduced by the Buddha as a path to spiritual enlightenment.

With that being said, it is the art of being present in our lives. This is a gentle way to raise an understanding of our minds.

4 Foundations of mindfulness:

  • Body
  • Emotions
  • Mind
  • Mindfulness of Dhamma 

How Mindfulness Can Help Treat PAWS?

Mindfulness practices help us reshape our brain in ways that bring more:

  • Power
  • Understanding
  • Happiness in our lives

These symptoms are a sign that you’re recovering from your addiction. This means you’re being reborn to a higher level of health and clarity.

Why Willow Place for Women?

willow place for women

Willow place for women gives you a warm welcome at Asheville, North Carolina

Willow Place for Women is a women’s only outpatient eating disorder, trauma, and substance abuse treatment facility in Asheville, North Carolina. 

During this pandemic, we are still working to provide support for women who need our help across the globe. 

Visit our Facebook page for free value-packed resources, daily activities, mental health tips, and many more!

To help you overcome post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) during this uncertain time of the COVID-19 virus. 

Contact us today if you’re struggling with post-acute withdrawal syndrome, dial 828-707-6084.

Request a Call Back

If you or someone you love is battling a severe chemical dependency, an eating disorder, or both, please feel free to contact one of our trained cognitive behavioral therapy Asheville addiction specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance dependency can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of recovery.

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