What is P.A.W.S. Syndome?
Have you ever heard of P.A.W.S.? If you haven’t, then you probably don’t know what it stands for. Well, it’s Post Acute Withdrawals Syndrome. This condition occurs after someone has stopped taking their medication, drinking alcohol, or stopping a drug they are physically dependent on. The symptoms include anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, memory problems, headaches, and even hallucinations.
PAWS is a serious problem for those who suffer from addiction. In fact, it affects over 30 million Americans every year. And it’s estimated that only half of them seek treatment.
PAWS is a real issue that often goes undiagnosed. There are several reasons why people fail to get the help they need. One reason is because they believe they can handle it themselves. Another reason is that they fear being stigmatized.
How does it feel to have withdrawal symptoms from drugs?
The first thing that comes to mind when we think about withdrawal is how awful it must be to go through such intense physical pain. It’s true that there are some unpleasant side effects associated with detoxing. But most of us would rather deal with these than live in constant misery.
Withdrawal Symptoms From Alcohol
When someone stops drinking alcohol, he or she experiences nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and muscle aches. Some people also experience tremors, sweating, shakiness, and more.
When someone stops using heroin, opiates, or pain killers he or she may experience:
• Nausea and vomiting
• Muscle cramps
It’s important to note that not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. They vary from person to person. Also, if you’ve been abusing substances for a long time, your body may become used to its effects. That means you might not notice any changes at first. So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, you should talk to your doctor about getting an evaluation.
You might even consider long term care, like a residential treatment center or outpatient program. That’s because the physical symptoms are bad enough without having to deal with the psychological addiction! Fortunately, the right treatment center can help you manage both and make things much easier with therapy and medication.
Is Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome A Real Thing?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “PAWS is an acute reaction to abrupt cessation of chronic drug use.” In other words, PAWS occurs when someone who has been addicted to drugs suddenly stops taking them.
Since this field has not been as widely studied as others within addiction medicine, there is not as much research available. Most available evidence is anecdotal and there is some debate as to whether the effects experienced by those suffering from P.A.W.S. is influenced by factors beyond brain chemistry.
While the causes may be up for discussion, emotional disturbances and negative physical effects even after months of abstinence from drugs, medication, and alcohol are well known and widely reported.
Is PAWS a Mental Health Disorder?
No. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines mental health disorders as “conditions that interfere with normal thought processes, emotions, behavior, or relationships.” This definition includes substance use disorders but it doesn’t include post-acute withdrawal syndrome.
How long does PAWS take to heal?
How long does it take for brain chemistry to return to normal?
“Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) refers to a set of impairments that can persist for weeks or months after the abstaining from a substance of abuse.”
How to deal with PAWS?
The best way to treat PAWS is to get professional help through counseling and medications. If you don’t have access to a counselor or psychiatrist, you can seek out support groups online. There are also many helpful books and websites dedicated to helping people cope with PAWS. Most people without access to professional help start by going to Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or a similar local and free support group.
If you do have access to healthcare, you have many options. Depending on your lifestyle and responsibilities, you might opt for therapy, outpatient support, or even residential inpatient support in the cases where the psychological component increases your risk of relapse and failure.
How can I minimize Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome from Opiates?
There are well established protocols to treat PAWS caused by Opiate dependency. Medically assisted treatment options include Suboxone, Methadose, Naltrexone, and Buprenorphine. These treatments are very effective at treating the physical symptoms associated with PAWS. However, they are not always suitable for everyone. For example, if you’re already struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, these medications could make things worse.
How can I minimize Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome from Benzos?
There are well established protocols to treat PAWS caused by Benzodiazepine dependency. Medically assisted treatment options include Barbituates, Clonazepam, Diazepam, Lorazepam, and Temazepam. These medications are very effective at treating both the physical and psychological symptoms associated with PAWS, however they are not always suitable.
In any case, when getting off of Benzos, you must always consult with a health professional to taper of the drug gradually. Failure to do so can result in seizures and death.
How can I minimize Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome from Alcohol?
There are well established protocols to treat PAWS caused by Alcohol dependency. Medically assisted treatment options include Antabuse, Disulfiram, and Naltrexone. These medications are very useful at treating both the physical symptoms associated with alcohol dependence and PAWS. However, there are some downsides to them. They can be expensive, inconvenient, and potentially dangerous.
For instance, Antabuse requires daily ingestion of a pill, which can be difficult for some people. It’s also possible to experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and dizziness. In addition, it may take several weeks before you feel the full benefits of this medication.
Disulfiram has been found to reduce craving for alcohol but doesn’t eliminate it completely. This means that while you’re taking Disulfiram, you’ll still crave alcohol. You should never drink alcohol while using Disulfiram because doing so will cause severe liver damage.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist used to treat alcoholism. While it reduces cravings for alcohol, it does not eliminate them entirely. It works best when combined with behavioral therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Motivational Interviewing (MI). There are also risks involved with Naltrexone use. Some patients report experiencing unpleasant side effects including nausea, constipation, and stomach pain.
How can I minimise Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) from Stimulants?
There are well-established protocols to treat PAWS from stimulant abuse. The most common medically assisted treatment option is Methylphenidate. This medication helps to control ADHD symptoms and decreases the desire to abuse stimulants.
However, it’s important to note that Methylphenidate is only one part of a comprehensive program designed to help individuals recover from stimulant addiction. If you have a history of substance abuse, you should work closely with your doctor to develop a plan tailored specifically to your needs.
Additional Tips to Manage P.A.W.S.:
In addition to medical treatment, there are many non-medical ways to manage PAWS. Some of the most common strategies include:
– Support Groups
– Stress Management
– Self Care
– Relaxation Techniques
You’re Not Alone
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, you are not alone. According to the National Institutes of health, it is estimated that one in ten people struggles with addiction at least some point in their lives.
If you feel like you’re trapped, the first thing to do is reach out and ask for help. It can be from family, friends, or someone you trust. Just remember that recovery usually involves moving past all the people, places, and things that got you here in the first place.
Sea Change Recovery works with hundreds of people suffering from PAWS a year. Many of our staff have been through it all before. We’re here if you want to talk.