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.
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.
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