post acute withdrawal symptoms

There are two stages to the withdrawal process of drugs or alcohol. The first is known as the acute stage, which is the stage that many people associate with the word withdrawal. This stage can last for a few days, weeks, or up to a month, and is when the majority of physical symptoms of withdrawal are experienced. The length and symptoms experienced during this stage will differ depending on the person, the length of use, and the substance being used, but some common symptoms of acute withdrawal are nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and loss appetite.

Once the acute stage is done, the individual then enters into the post acute withdrawal stage. Majority of people coming off of drugs or alcohol experience this to at least a certain extent. This stage also has the same symptoms across the board, unlike the acute phase that differs depending on the substance.

What Are Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms?

Post acute withdrawal symptoms, or PAWS for short, is a stage in the withdrawal process from substances where physical symptoms are replaced with emotional and psychological symptoms. It is generally caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. This means that as the brain is attempting to repair the damage that was caused by drug or alcohol addiction, it also has to contend with the psychosocial stress that is caused by the person’s attempts to get sober. As the brain is attempting to do this and reach equilibrium again without substances, it can create a number of unwanted symptoms.

What You May Experience

Not everyone will experience all of the symptoms but most people who are getting sober will experience some of them to a degree. The most common are:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Mood Swings
  • A problem remembering things
  • Overacting to situations or numbness
  • A sensitivity to stress
  • Lethargy
  • Anxiety
  • Physical Coordination Issues

sick young woman laying on a couch

How Long Can It Last?

Any of these can last up to two years, but they usually reach their highest level of intensity three to six months after complete abstinence begins. This can be frightening to hear, but it is important to understand it. Being addicted to a substance can cause a great deal of damage to the mind and body and so the time needed in order to recover completely can be substantial. That being said, in a majority of cases the body can and will recover and the process is not as difficult as it seems. Managing the symptoms associated with it is important because if they are not, a person could be drawn back to a drink or drug.

How You Can Get Through It

One thing to understand in order to successfully navigate the stage of post acute withdrawal symptoms is that what you experience can come and go, sometimes seemingly without any reason. You could be feeling fine for a couple of weeks and then all of a sudden out of nowhere you begin to experience any of the symptoms listed above. Knowing that this is a possibility is a great way to arm yourself against danger because many times when the symptoms occur, a person can begin to berate themselves for feeling that way. They may wonder if they are doing something wrong and that is why they are feeling that way and if it is persistent enough a person could eventually drink or drug again. Understanding that it is just a normal part of the recovery process is your best defense and can help you keep a clear head when symptoms arise.

Another thing you can do in order to successfully get through this is to have the proper supports in place. Whether this means living in a sober living home for a while, or just having a number of close people in your life, having support can make a world of difference. The reason being is that when you begin to experience any of these symptoms you have people who you can turn to so that you do not have to go through it alone. This, many times, can be the difference between success and failure.

It is also important to be easy on yourself during your first couple of years. Many times when a person gets sober they want to make up for what they perceive is lost time. This is sometimes a recipe for disaster because it not only puts a lot of unnecessary stress on the person, but it also is a great way to judge yourself harshly. It is important to remember that recovery takes time and so be as easy as you possibly can be on yourself. Give yourself the ability to take a break when you need and be sure to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating when you should, resting when you should, and taking time out of your schedule to relax and have fun.

Remember that time takes time and you won’t overcome all of these things in a day. Give yourself the space you need in order to heal and your experiences will not be as bad.

Are You Struggling With Addiction?

The first step to achieving sobriety and making it through the two stages of withdrawal is seeking out a good detox. Here at Coastal Detox our specialty is helping you through these beginning stages and equipping you with the tools necessary for you to continue your sobriety. If you think you need help overcoming your addiction or alcoholism then call Coastal Detox today at 1-877-978-3125. We are standing by to offer you the help you need.