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.
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
- Low energy and fatigue
- Withdrawal insomnia
- Memory lapses
- Emotional numbness
- 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.
(See also How long does opiate withdrawal last?)
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:
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.
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