PAWS: Extended Withdrawals

When you’re getting sober, one of the toughest things to deal with are withdrawal symptoms. Still, usually these symptoms are only temporary. However, if they last longer than they should, you may be dealing with PAWS. This syndrome can make a real dent in your sober plans…

PAWS: What To Know

The basics

PAWS stands for post-acute withdrawal syndrome. The term refers to when someone is still experiencing withdrawal symptoms, despite being months or even years since they quit. In general, these symptoms tend to be more related to a person’s mood and emotions. They may also experience physical ones, like fatigue or nausea. Many people who have experienced the syndrome describe it as a “rollercoaster” of symptoms. One day they may feel fine, and then the next they feel downright awful. This will end up continuing for months and years, which quickly takes a toll on the person. Those dealing with this syndrome tend to have high rates of relapses, as they look for a way to stop it.

How it happens

What makes PAWS even more strange is that doctors still don’t know exactly what causes it. Currently, it seems that any sort of addictive substance could cause it to develop. However, there are a few types it does appear more commonly with than others. For instance, those quitting alcohol tend to have high rates of the syndrome. Some doctors think it may be due to the impact heavy drinking has on a person’s brain. It’s also does occur a lot in those who are quitting opioids, for similar reasons. Overall, though, there’s still much more research to be done.

What you can do

Due to PAWS symptoms being more emotional and psychological, most treatment involved meeting with a therapist. Having this ongoing support is key for keeping sober despite the constant struggles. A therapist will help you understand what may be going on and how to best respond. Also, they can give you some much-needed support. Your friends and family may not fully understand what you’re dealing with. Meanwhile, your therapist will be better equipped to help you and encourage you to keep going and stay sober.