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PAWS, Opioids and Nutrition

woman coping with PAWS in recovery from opioids

Many people struggle with withdrawal symptoms even after their initial 90 days, which is the typical period of time to expect withdrawal symptoms. As a person's substance use moves further into the past, they may not initially notice that they still have some issues. However, many people struggle with PAWS in their first few years of recovery, especially if their drug of choice is an opioid. Without understanding the cause of their symptoms, it can be very frustrating and even detrimental.

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a term used to describe persistent withdrawal symptoms that occur after the acute withdrawal period has ended. While people who use any substance may struggle with PAWS, it's commonly associated with opioid use. It can last for months or even years after an individual has stopped using opioids. PAWS can significantly hinder recovery and long-term sobriety without education and treatment. It can be incredibly frustrating for a newcomer to recovery to cope with PAWs for months or even years into sobriety.

Acute Withdrawal vs. Post-Acute Withdrawal

Opioids are highly addictive substances that can cause physical dependence. People who use opioids regularly have a body that has adapted to the presence of the drug. When they don't have it regularly, they can experience intense withdrawal symptoms. The acute withdrawal period typically begins within a few hours of the last dose. It can last for several days to a week. Symptoms of opioid withdrawal can include muscle aches, agitation, anxiety, insomnia, and abdominal cramps.

PAWS occurs after the acute withdrawal period. It is diagnosed by persistent symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms can persist for weeks, months, or even years and can be challenging to manage. Additionally, PAWS can increase the risk of relapse, as some individuals may turn back to using opioids to relieve their symptoms.

Effective management of PAWS is crucial for long-term recovery from opioid addiction. Treatment options for PAWS may include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), behavioral therapies, and holistic approaches such as nutrition and exercise. Individuals in recovery need a healthcare professional or addiction specialist to help develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and helps to support their journey to long-term sobriety.

Nutrition in Post-Acute Withdrawal

Many treatment centers provide a holistic approach to treatment and recovery. However, nutrition can be essential in post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) and recovery from substance abuse. Here are some ways that nutrition can help:

1. Replenishing nutrients: Substance abuse can deplete the body of essential nutrients, and a healthy diet can help to replenish these stores.
2. Stabilizing blood sugar: Substance abuse can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, contributing to cravings and mood swings. A balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean proteins can help to regulate blood sugar and improve mood stability.
3. Supporting the brain and nervous system: The brain and nervous system are particularly vulnerable during recovery, and adequate nutrition is necessary for their proper function. Consuming foods rich in vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium can help to support the brain and nervous system during recovery.
4. Boosting energy: PAWS can cause fatigue and lack of energy. Proper nutrition can help increase energy levels and support overall physical health.

It is important to note that everyone's nutritional needs are different. Therefore, consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized recommendations if you suffer from any health condition.

Living With PAWS in Recovery

A healthy lifestyle is essential for sobriety. Living with PAWS means taking care of yourself and learning to cope with life, even when you experience symptoms of it.

Many people experience PAWs and find relief with assistance. If you or somebody you love is experiencing longer-term anxiety, cravings, sleep issues, or other symptoms, it's essential to seek help. A medical professional can help rule out other disorders as well.

Many people in recovery also live with mental health disorders, which may have previously been masked due to substance use. Both of these disorders can cause challenges for people in recovery. You deserve to be treated for all your illnesses and live your best life.

Therapy and treatment groups can also help you work through the challenges of PAWS in daily life.

Consider Sober Housing

If you're looking for a sober housing situation that offers support, structure and community, our houses may be for you! We offer a safe environment in a vibrant, thriving recovery community. Call us to learn more about your options.

For many people with substance use disorder, detox is a part of their story. When the body becomes dependent on a substance, a person who is addicted feels many side effects, such as headaches, sweating, tremors, or even fever. Withdrawal is one of the hardest parts of getting clean and sober, which is why detox is highly recommended. However, many people don’t know about another type of withdrawal that can affect you later on in recovery. This withdrawal, though often mild, is a synmptom of long-term adjustment to life without the use of alcohol or drugs. Withdrawal symptoms that take place many months after a person gets clean and sober fit under the umbrella of post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

Understanding Post-Acute Withdrawal

Post-acute withdrawal is perfectly normal for people who used drugs for an extended period of time. Just like no one becomes addicted overnight, the body and brain can’t adjust overnight, either.

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms are believed by clinicians to be a sign that the body is starting to recover from the long-term damage caused by addiction. PAWS symptoms are very real, and may be confusing if you’re noticing them “out of nowhere”. Rest assured they, too, will pass. They can, however, last up to two years.

PAWS Symptoms

If you’re suffering from PAWS, you may experience anxiety, angry outburst or mood swings. You may also have “brain fog” or trouble thinking/concentrating, feel tired or overwhelmed. You might also experience some depression symptoms.

PAWS symptoms are milder and less severe than acute withdrawal symptoms. If they seem intense or severe or are getting in the way of normal life functions, please check in with a doctor or therapist for recommendations.

PAWS symptoms can seem to come out of nowhere, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them. If you’re having difficulty coping with them, reach out for help.

Getting Help

Do you or somebody you love have a need for outpatient treatment or aftercare? Are you looking for a sober living situation? Please call us today at 1-760-216-2077 to learn more about how our programs can help.

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