Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) and the Recovery Process

There are two stages of withdrawal from alcohol and drugs and they are known as acute and post-acute withdrawal syndrome.  The acute withdrawal phase deals with the physical symptoms of detox, whereas the post-acute withdrawal deals primarily with the emotional and mental symptoms that come after the acute phase is completed.

It is not uncommon for an addict or alcoholic to suffer from post-acute withdrawal syndrome anywhere from six months up to two years after last use. Long-term drug abuse and alcoholism can damage the nervous system and this helps produce the effects of PAWS. It takes time for the body and mind to heal, so please be patient with your loved one during this process.

PAWS Symptoms


Mood swings

Overwhelming feelings of guilt or remorse

Pessimistic thinking

Irrational feelings

Lack of focus

Increased sensitivity to stress

Blocking or numbness of memories and feelings

Sleep issues

Social anxiety and trouble with interpersonal skills

Lack of motivation or initiative

Intense cravings

Memory loss


Difficulty multitasking or completing simple tasks

Unrealistic expectations of self and others

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Treatment

There may be times where you just want to “fix” your loved one, but this is just part of the healing process. You can help by showing patience, understanding, and love. Allow your loved one to continue going to meetings and talking with their sober support or therapist if they have one. Let them know that you are there for them and that they will get through this. They will be just as frustrated with their behavior as you will be. PAWS is not permanent and as the addict/alcoholic heals, the symptoms of PAWS will eventually go away.

In the meantime, the person recovering will find the symptoms are helped by being hydrated, eating healthy, getting enough rest, exercising, and attending to their recovery program. Watching funny movies, mediating, journaling, getting a hobby, and playing games that work out the brain have also been proven to help alleviate PAWS symptoms.

Remember that your loved one is trying to live a new way of life that is completely foreign and frightening to them. It may frustrate you at times and you may even feel alone yourself. You are also going through a healing phase; make sure that you are taking care of yourself as well. Attending support groups like Al-anon, Nar-Anon, and Families Anonymous can greatly help you on your journey of recovery as well.

See more at: Dealing with PAWS


Read 14572 times Last modified on Monday, 05 May 2014 19:26
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.