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An individual that habitually abuses drugs and/ or alcohol must develop certain physiological accommodations to enable effectively functioning with the presence of the abused substance consistently in his or her system. When the substance is not present in one’s system, the body will react accordingly. Acute withdrawal symptoms are unavoidable for individuals in the process of recovering from substance abuse and/ or addiction. They are adverse symptoms that occur during the acute detox process because of ceasing the use of a substance with which one’s body has become accustomed. Acute withdrawal symptoms generally subside within one to two weeks. An individual experiencing prolonged, lingering withdrawal symptoms lasting far longer than the standard one-to-two-week timeframe may have post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), also known as post-withdrawal syndrome, prolonged withdrawal syndrome, or protracted withdrawal syndrome, refers to a set of impairments that can persist for weeks or months after abstaining from a substance of abuse. Though PAWS can occur with any abused substance, it most commonly affects individuals discontinuing substances such as alcohol, antipsychotics, antidepressants, marijuana, benzodiazepines, stimulants, and opioids. In contrast to acute withdrawal, symptoms of PAWS are primarily psychological in nature, affecting a person’s sleep patterns, response to stress, and mood.

Signs and Symptoms

Although the specific withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person during the acute withdrawal phase, there are several symptoms that have been reported as common occurrences in individuals that suffer from PAWS. These symptoms may include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following examples, provided by Psychology Today:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Low energy
  • Insomnia
  • Chronic pain
  • Diminished libido
  • Impaired ability to focus
  • Foggy thinking
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor fine motor coordination

The withdrawal symptoms associated with PAWS are often transient and can come and go unexpectedly (occurring cyclically for a year with episodes lasting a few days). The symptoms of PAWS generally last for several months in people recovering from addiction, though they can disappear in a matter of weeks or, in rare cases, persist for a year or more. Although for some people, it is impossible to avoid post-acute withdrawal syndrome, with proper support, individuals can effectively manage the associated symptoms. 

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At Upwell Advisors, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

If left untreated, substance abuse, addiction, and/ or mental illness can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. Please do not hesitate to reach out for guidance. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we might best be able to help you or your loved one in the recovery process.

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