The Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

The symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal are the #1 Cause of Relapse Among Addicts and Alcoholics

For many people recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism, the most significant challenge to a lasting recovery is PAWS or Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. PAWS is a set of symptoms that occur immediately after a person has detoxed or completed the acute withdrawal stage of drug or alcohol cessation. PAWS symptoms affect a person physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually and require proper management as they often compel an addict to use again in order to obtain relief. And because PAWS can occur and recur for up to two years or even longer for some people, understanding how to recognize and cope with this condition is the most critical factor for long term recovery success.

If you or someone you love is suffering from symptoms of PAWS and has relapsed or is in danger of relapse, regardless of what time it is.  We can help.  Or, click here to take part in an open survey about the severity and duration of your Symptoms of Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. You can also see the results of other users and how PAWS affected them.

PAWS sets in  after a person stops using drugs or drinking and has completed detoxification. At this stage the severe symptoms of acute withdrawal have passed and a person can begin to focus on their recovery on a cerebral level. However, PAWS sometimes makes this extraordinarily difficult to do because it has a severe impact on a person’s thought processes, decision making, ability to control emotion and ability to maintain physical coordination. However, these symptoms are normal and can be easily managed with a little education and a lot of vigilance.

It is widely accepted by addiction specialists that there are 6 general symptoms of PAWS that fall under the four main categories:

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Symptoms

Inability to Process & Organize Thoughts: Perhaps the most debilitating symptom of PAWS, recovering addicts are often unable to solve simple problems, maintain their focus on a specified task, or reason in the abstract. These issues can leave a person feeling helpless and unable to take action, which can exacerbate all other PAWS symptoms.

Issues with Memory: As the body’s central nervous system recovers from drug use or alcoholism, temporary damage may become evident in the form of memory issues. This includes long term and short term memory.

Emotional Incapacitation: PAWS can cause a person to overreact to benign stimuli or to not feel anything at all. This can then lead to depression because of an inability to find joy in daily life, or to a lowered sense of self esteem because of embarrassing, inappropriate behavior.

Sleep Disorders: People suffering from Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome can experience a host of sleeping problems. And while this can range from insomnia to narcolepsy to sleep apnea, the most commonly reported problem is the inability to maintain a regular sleeping cycle.

Lack of Physical Coordination: The term “Dry Drunk” was actually derived from the physical symptoms of PAWS. This includes problems with balance, hand-to-eye coordination, fine motor skills, and impaired reflexes. Like the emotional overreactions, these symptoms can also lead to depression and damaged self esteem.

Inability to Cope with Stress: Stress management abilities destabilize in a person suffering from PAWS, and the results are often completely unpredictable. A person might completely overreact to a situation that did not warrant it, or they might not react at all to a very grave situation. They might feel stressed all the time without being able to articulate why.

The most important thing to consider when it comes to PAWS is that it is completely normal – it happens to everyone who has ever recovered from any substance addiction. The symptoms are usually transient in nature so there is frequent relief, and some symptoms are very mild. Many people report freedom from PAWS symptoms in as little as a few weeks, while others have experienced lingering effects for years.

But regardless of how it affects you, PAWS can be treated. The best PAWS management plan includes continued individual and group therapy with a trusted professional, development and utilization of a recovery support network, and constant re-evaluations of behavior and thoughts. Just as critical is exercise and proper diet. Countless addicts and alcoholics have reported that their PAWS symptoms were greatly reduced or eliminated with plenty of water, moderate exercise and a well-balanced diet that restricts sugar and fat intake, as well as high-stress and anxiety substances such as caffeine.

If you feel that PAWS symptoms are leading you down the road to relapse, then you need to call us right now. Don’t delay – your recovery depends on it. Learn how our inpatient treatment program can save your life, or ask about a powerful Intervention managed by Board-Certified James F. Davis.

Click the following link to get help anywhere in the country, or for a confidential consultation right now with an addiction specialist from Recovery First’s: drug rehab in Florida.  Or, click here to learn more about PAWS or to get an advance order for James F. Davis’ upcoming book; Post Acute Withdrawal, This Too Shall Pass.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
Recovery First is located in Hollywood, Florida, which is easily accessible from Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. Our small groups means you get more one-on-one support and make stronger connections with the community. Take the next step toward recovery: learn more about our addiction treatment programs near Florida's Atlantic coast or learn about how rehab is affordable for everyone.