Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)

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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. Even if a person is in recovery, there is a good chance that they will experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). These symptoms can be physical, psychological, or social and can last as long as two years or even indefinitely. 

Category: Opioid Use Disorder

Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

There is no single specific agreed-upon cause of PAWS, but, in general, the causes stem from disturbances in the nervous system or deteriorated brain function stemming from opioid use. Or, the stress of living without opiates causes these symptoms to occur. 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 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 than these common ones, so it’s crucial to turn to professionals for comprehensive care.  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 maintenance is an ongoing process even for those who have completed a medication-assisted treatment program. Keeping up the good habits of recovery can help a person work through about with PAWS safely and successfully. These include:

  • Surround yourself with stable people who love you- An effective support system provides a solid base of encouragement, motivation, and feedback.
  • Maintain a busy routine- Focus your thoughts and actions on work, family, friends, activities and hobbies. Keep a journal of your thoughts, fears, desires, and things you are grateful for.
  • Eat nutritiously- A healthy diet is a great way to ward off or even reverse PAWS. Everyone is different, so there is no prescribed diet, but healthful foods promote wellness.
  • Exercise- Being physically active can have a significant positive effect. Exercise can help produce endorphins that ease pain and make you feel better physically and emotionally. It can reverse depression, increase your energy, improve how you look physically and boost your confidence. Choose something you like and stay with it regularly.
  • Be active in your community- Being a positive force in your community can take the focus off yourself and put it on others.
  • Commit to personal development- Learning new skills, developing personal strengths, and improving your knowledge can not only keep you busy but give you a good sense of self-esteem.

“PAWS can be uncomfortable, but by being able to relax, practice, and enjoy the good parts of life will get you through the difficult days. Believing in yourself and your ability to overcome detox is what will drive you to the other side,” states Isha Kothari, PA-C, PA at Symetria’s Naperville Suboxone Clinic.

(See also How long does opiate withdrawal last?)

Help for Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms

If you or a loved one are experiencing post-acute withdrawal symptoms, the medication Suboxone may be able to help, but there are other options too.  See How Does Suboxone Work? to learn more. And, consider involving a Suboxone clinic or addiction doctor to make a plan on how to start feeling better.

Suboxone Clinics in Illinois

Suboxone Clinics in Texas

Still Have Questions?

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Symetria has addiction treatment clinics across Illinois and Texas. You can likely get scheduled TODAY — medications or therapy.