Person sitting on couch with head in hands looking distressed while contemplating the question what is PAWS
By BrightView
Published: September 22, 2023
Updated: September 22, 2023

When someone with a substance use disorder stops using drugs or alcohol, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These can range from mild to severe, including anxiety, nausea, sweating, and insomnia. While these symptoms typically subside within a few days, some people may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder and PAWS symptoms, don’t hesitate to ask for help. At BrightView, we offer outpatient treatment programs that provide comprehensive care to help individuals achieve long-term recovery. Our compassionate team of healthcare providers understands the challenges of the recovery journey, and we are here to support you every step of the way.

Contact us today at 888.501.9865 to learn more about our treatment options and how we can help you or your loved one achieve lasting sobriety.

What Is PAWS?

PAWS is a set of symptoms that can occur after the acute withdrawal phase ends. It usually starts a few days or weeks after the initial withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of PAWS can vary from person to person but may include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Irritability and mood swings

PAWS is more commonly associated with opioids and alcohol but can also occur with other drugs such as benzodiazepines, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

How Long Does PAWS Last?

The duration of PAWS can vary widely depending on the individual and their substance use history. In general, symptoms may last for a few weeks to several months. In rare cases, symptoms may persist for years after an individual stops using drugs or alcohol.

Understanding Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

The acute withdrawal phase typically lasts for a few days and is the body’s physical response to removing the substance. However, PAWS is more of a psychological and emotional response to abstinence. It occurs because the brain is trying to re-adjust to its natural state after being altered by prolonged substance use.

This adjustment process can take time; during this time, the brain may struggle to produce certain chemicals naturally. For example, prolonged opioid use can cause the brain to stop producing endorphins, natural painkillers. When opioid use stops, the brain needs time to start producing endorphins again, which can lead to depression and anxiety.

PAWS can be challenging to manage and can cause individuals to relapse. However, it is treatable, and individuals can overcome it with the right resources and support.

Managing PAWS Symptoms

Since PAWS can be challenging to manage, those in recovery must work with a healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. Treatment options may include:

  • Medication assisted treatment (MAT) to manage cravings
  • Individual or group therapy to address underlying mental health concerns
  • Relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to manage anxiety
  • Exercise to reduce stress and improve mood
  • Nutritional counseling to support physical and emotional health

With the right treatment plan, individuals in recovery can manage PAWS symptoms and enjoy a fulfilling life in sobriety.

Manage PAWS Symptoms With Help from BrightView

At BrightView, we understand the challenges of overcoming PAWS. We offer individual and group therapy sessions, medication assisted treatment, and counseling to help individuals manage their symptoms. Our team of care professionals is committed to providing personalized care and support to help individuals achieve sustainable recovery.

If you or someone you know is struggling with PAWS or a substance use disorder, we encourage you to contact us today. Our centers are conveniently located throughout Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maryland, and we accept all insurance, including Medicaid.

Don’t let PAWS or a substance use disorder control your life. Call us today at 888.501.9865 or complete our web form to take the first step toward recovery.