Ultimately, many symptoms of alcohol or drug withdrawal are the result of the effects that these chemicals have on the body and brain. In the first days and even weeks during withdrawal, different withdrawal symptoms may occur as a result of abruptly stopping taking a substance. The longer someone has abused drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to experience these side effects for a long time. This is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).
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These withdrawal symptoms, especially for someone who is a chronic relapser, can be uncomfortable; however, they usually end after a few weeks of detox. However, for those with a longer addiction, they may last longer. When someone is experiencing PAWS symptoms, which are usually psychological and affecting the mood, they are experiencing an intense withdrawal that puts them at risk for relapse.
Who is Most Likely to Experience PAWS Symptoms?
Each episode of PAWS can last several days and can continue for up to a year. Someone is more likely to experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome when they are withdrawing from the following substances:
Alcohol: These symptoms were first identified for alcohol use disorder. When you stop drinking alcohol abruptly, this can be dangerous and can lead to psychosis or seizures.
Antidepressants: When you stop taking these drugs, your brain significantly reduces its serotonin levels. This can lead to intense depression.
Antipsychotics: This medication binds to dopamine receptors that help to decrease hallucinations. However, when someone stops taking them, they may experience mood swings for months. This can lead to a bio-chemical-based depression.
Marijuana: Many of our patients have relied on weed to relax and when they stop using it, they feel paranoid or depressed.
Opioids or Opiates: These drugs can lead to intense post-acute withdrawal syndrome symptoms if detox isn’t conducted properly.
The Nervous System and Addiction
Our nervous system consists of the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. The central component controls the brain and spinal cords while the peripheral one is mostly nerves that connect the central system to the rest of the body.
When someone is an addict, there is an increase in the activity within their nervous system. This leads to an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, dilated pupils, and constricted blood vessels.
Because the body is so accustomed to these symptoms, when drug or alcohol use ends, the body may still continue to feel this way for some time.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Symptoms
When the initial withdrawal symptoms go away, many people are at risk of developing these symptoms. Some common Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Chronic pain
- Difficulty with learning or problem solving (cognitive issues)
Those with acute emotional issues may have heightened symptoms. This makes it important for families to work directly with a professional drug rehabilitation like Burning Tree Reach to help their child safely withdraw and detox. This reduces their chances of chronic relapses. It can take the brain anywhere from six months to two years to naturally produce dopamine and endorphins on its own after drug or alcohol addiction.
Why Does Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Occur?
There is no specific cause for PAWS or a timeline for getting these symptoms. With long-term support and personalized care at our detox center, we can teach your child how to manage these symptoms if they develop. Oftentimes, Post-Acute withdrawal syndrome occurs because of the stress response from the brain.
Some suggested reasons for developing PAWS symptoms includes:
Brain chemistry changes: This homeostatic adjustment occurs when the body doesn’t have the chemicals coming in that it’s used to. This can lead to extreme mood swings.
Behavioral changes: Part of becoming sober is to change behaviors that became normal. The loss of normalcy oftentimes can heighten psychological symptoms that someone with PAWS may experience, including anxiety.
PAWS symptoms are mostly psychological and emotional, so ongoing support from mental health professionals is important in reducing their intensity. Celebrating each step of your sobriety process can help.
Importance of Family Counseling During Recovery
At Burning Tree Reach, we are committed to helping families work through addiction together. Not only will your loved one benefit from your support, but it also helps your entire family to heal from the experience.
We will clearly explain your role in your child’s rehabilitation and explain each step of the process. While we offer family counseling and therapy services, we also recommend that your family attends Al-Anon.
Tips for Coping with PAWS Symptoms
PAWS symptoms can develop long after you leave the drug rehabilitation center. Some of the best coping strategies for working through Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome include:
- Seek psychiatric or psychological care.
- Establish and maintain positive and supportive relationships.
- Go to AA meetings where others understand what you’re experiencing.
- Create a sleep routine to help your circadian rhythm.
- Ultimately, it’s important to understand that you cannot rush recovery. Your body and brain will heal as it needs. The most important thing is to keep staying strong in your commitment to sobriety.
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Begin Healing with Professional Drug and Alcohol Detox
When your child is struggling with addiction and chronically relapsing, it’s time to seek help from a professional drug rehabilitation center.
At Burning Tree Reach, we specialize in helping those who have tried and failed to stay sober in the past. We understand the likelihood of post-acute withdrawal symptoms and can help your child reduce their risk of relapse by understanding them.
Our long-term therapy support gives you and your family the resources you need to not only effectively manage any PAWS symptoms, but also for your child to stay sober for a lifetime.(877) 389-0500