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Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome: The Symptoms & Treatment of PAWS

When a person suffering from opiate use disorder (OUD) stops using opioids, that person goes through acute withdrawal symptoms from about seven days to two weeks. After that period, lingering symptoms become Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). PAWS symptoms can be physical, psychological or social and can last as long as two years or even indefinitely. 

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

There is no specific agreed-upon cause of PAWS. In general, it stem either from disturbances in the nervous system or deteriorated brain function from opioid use or the stress of living without opiates causes these symptoms to occur. 

Stages of Withdrawal Timeline
Stages of Withdrawal Timeline

Unfortunately, PAWS can come and go unexpectedly. That’s why it’s often the best course of action to enlist the help of professionals to identify post-acute withdrawal symptoms and then gain the medication or coping skills necessary to heal from them.

Some post-acute withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Irritability and hostility
  • Depression
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Withdrawal insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Memory lapses
  • Emotional numbness
  • Anxiety
  • Increased susceptibility to emotional and physical pain
  • Intense cravings to use opiates
  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of sexual desire or the ability to experience pleasure
  • Inexplicable chronic pain

Others may experience different withdrawal symptoms, but these are the most common. People can experience PAWs whether the opioid was a prescription pain pill, heroin or even more potent opioids like fentanyl or ISO drug.

Tips For Living With PAWS

Recovery is an ongoing process even for those who complete a medication-assisted treatment program. Keeping up the healthy habits help a person work through about with PAWS safely and successfully. These include:

"PAWS can be frustrating, but by being able to relax and enjoy the good parts of life will get you through the difficult days. Believing in yourself and your ability to overcome detox is the biggest part of getting to the other side."

Medication Options for PAWS

If you or a loved one are experiencing post-acute withdrawal symptoms, the medication Suboxone may help. (See How Does Suboxone Work?).

Comfort medicines can also be prescribed as-needed. For example:

These medications also come with side effects and some can be habit-forming. Addiction doctors help you weigh the benefits of any medications against your symptoms and adjust until you feel your best.

If PAWS symptoms are impacting your function or quality of life, consider involving an addiction doctor to start feeling better. 

Get Help with Post-Acute Withdrawals

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Symetria doctors follow rigorous sourcing guidelines and cite only trustworthy sources of information, including peer-reviewed journals, court records, academic organizations, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports and their own expertise with decades in the field.

Post–Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, Relapse Prevention, and Homeopathy | Alternative and Complementary Therapies. (2021). Retrieved July 16, 2022, from Alternative and Complementary Therapies website:

Haskell, B. (2022). Identification and Evidence-Based Treatment of Post–Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners18(3), 272–275.

All content is for informational purposes only. No material on this site, whether from our doctors or the community, is a substitute for seeking personalized professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard advice from a qualified healthcare professional or delay seeking advice because of something you read on this website.

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