Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome: The Symptoms & Treatment of PAWS

Clinical Reviewer

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:

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

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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    1. Comfort Medications are prescribed based on patients’ withdrawal symptoms such as clonidine, Zofran, Trazadone, benzyl, and in some cases, a muscle relaxer.

  1. How can I keep my nerves calm while going thru withdrawals from fentanyl? I’m going to be starting soon because I want off. I know not to quit cold turkey. A hospital put me on Suboxone but I didn’t wait the full 72hrs and the Suboxone mixed wrong with what I still had in my system and I lost my mind for a bit, but that only lasted 5 days but I relapsed shortly after. Can I taper myself off of opioids? I keep having the fear it’s going to end up bad like the first time.

    1. The best way to manage anxiety and restlessness while going through withdrawal from Fentanyl is with a combination of comfort medications consisting of either Clonidine or Lucemyra, AND either Hydroxyzine or Benadryl. Benadryl is available over the counter, but the others require a prescription. Tapering yourself off Fentanyl without medical treatment is very difficult to do. I understand your fear of trying Suboxone again since it sounds like you’ve experienced precipitated opioid withdrawal due to taking the Suboxone too soon after your last use of Fentanyl. The most successful way of stopping Fentanyl use is to do so under medical treatment and supervision because they will be able to medically assess that you are in enough opioid withdrawal before starting you on Suboxone (so you don’t experience precipitated withdrawal again). This can be done as an outpatient through an Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) such as Symetria Recovery, or in a residential / inpatient detox and treatment program.

    2. It’s hard but you just got to go through it I had the same experience on subs I felt like I was going crazy and wanted to rip my arms and legs off it was crazy so I never went back to treatment I also never returned to fentanyl I am 2 months clean now trust me it’s hard in the beginning weeks sweating and tossing and turning in the bed feeling like your going to die but trust me go through it it’s worth it all I have now is weakness it’s getting better but not 100% yet but looking back on my first week or two I will take this feeling over that any day god bless you and I wish you the best in your journey you can do this it just takes a strong mindset and the won’t to do it

  2. My BF has been off heroin for 40 days but he’s still experiencing extreme pain in his limbs with muscle and bone pain why and what can we do

    1. If he stopped using heroin 40 days ago, it would be very rare for him to still experience muscle aches and pains due to opioid withdrawal. The physical opioid withdrawal effects should last no longer than 2 weeks from the last use. Therefore, I recommend he seek medical evaluation because there may be another medical issue causing his pain. Taking over-the-counter Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen as labeled can help reduce muscle aches and pains.

    2. Time will heal. He just has to get through it! It is terrible and horrible but that pain and suffering becomes strength. He will never forget the withdrawal process and if you can get through it and last another 2 years off opiates. That memory becomes fuel.

  3. Can I get help with the symptoms of PAWS If I’ve already been clean for over a year? I’m still suffering quiet a bit.

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