Post-Acute-Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is, according to UCLA, “a set of impairments that can persist for weeks or months after the abstaining from a substance of abuse… The condition is marked by symptoms similar to those found in mood disorders and anxiety disorders.” These commonly occurring symptoms affect approximately 90% of recovering opioid users and 75% of recovering alcohol and psychotropic abusers. While the exact physiological causes are still being researched, but it is largely believed that the changes that occur to the brain during substance abuse are responsible for the recurring symptoms of PAWS.
At New Paradigm Recovery in Tysons, Virginia, we believe it’s important for individuals in recovery, as well as their partners and families, to understand the symptoms of PAWS. Many of the symptoms of PAWS might make a person feel as if recovery is “too hard,” but understanding that the setbacks are normal and temporary can make a big difference. For example, one common symptom is difficulty with cognitive tasks like problem solving or learning new skills. For someone new in recovery, an unexplained difficulty with tasks that once seemed easy might be distressing, and if it persists, could even prompt relapse. Knowing that this is an expected issue that will go away in a few months can help encourage people to keep going with their recovery, that it will get easier. Similarly, the anxiety and depression that often accompany PAWS might be disturbing to spouses who might expect their loved-ones to be invigorated by their new lease on life; again, knowing that these feelings are simply par for the course can help families set realistic expectations and be more supportive.
The good news is that PAWS is treatable. Many people in recovery find support from counselling, and, if symptoms persist, a licensed provider can help determine if further intervention is necessary; sometimes what initially seems like a classic case of PAWS actually may be clinical depression or another mental health disorder that requires therapy and/or medication.
At New Paradigm Recovery, our Intensive Outpatient Program treats each individual holistically through the duration of our 90 day program, allowing us to help each person address PAWS and other issues related to recovery over several months.
As IOP patients graduate to our Outpatient program, any lingering issues can be addressed by a qualified team of providers. This ongoing support can help manage the unpredictable fluctuations of PAWS symptoms that can be stressful if unaddressed.
For more information about PAWS or to learn more about our IOP programs, contact us today.