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One critical thing that people in recovery must remember is that addiction treatment is one step in a lifelong journey of healing. Recovery takes time, and you may need to manage cravings and triggers on a long-term basis at times. Triggers and cravings may rear their ugly heads when you least expect them. Unfortunately, the same is sometimes true for withdrawal symptoms. Individuals with post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) need the help and support of their loved ones to manage symptoms and maintain recovery. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with PAWS, consider reaching out for professional help and resources. Educating family members, providing information about PAWS, and knowing what to expect from it can make all the difference in your recovery journey. Furthermore, individuals requiring additional assistance should consider contacting West Coast Recovery Centers or enrolling in an aftercare support program today. 

Understanding the Impact of Withdrawal Symptoms

Individuals choose to seek treatment when their substance use leads to physical and mental health concerns or conflicts within their personal and professional lives. The reason for their substance use may be due to an inability to cope with trauma or stress. Regardless, recovery is possible. 

The first step toward recovery is seeking treatment, but before you can begin doing the work, you must go through detox. Going through detox is necessary for removing all toxic substances from your body. Unfortunately, long-term and excessive drug or alcohol use can increase your level of dependency. The more dependent you are, the more intense withdrawal symptoms you may experience. Some withdrawal symptoms you may experience include: 

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Intense mood swings and irritability 
  • Body aches and pains 
  • Intense cravings for substances 
  • Trouble sleeping or feeling excessively tired
  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea 
  • Sweating, shaking, body tremors, or sometimes seizures 
  • Hallucinations, delusions, or paranoia in severe cases 

Withdrawal symptoms may differ depending on many factors, including age, physical and mental health, and the substances used. These withdrawal symptoms typically occur early on in treatment and are temporary, yet some people may experience withdrawal later in recovery. This experience is known as PAWS.

What Is Paws and How Does It Impact Those in Recovery?

In short, PAWS is used to describe prolonged symptoms that can last for weeks or months after abstaining from drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, these prolonged symptoms are underresearched. For this reason, many professionals have yet to understand what causes them. However, some believe the physical changes that occur in the brain because of substance use may play a key role in informing PAWS.

Individuals seem to experience symptoms that can last for weeks, months, or even years after their initial withdrawal. Some prolonged symptoms individuals may experience are similar to typical withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • Irritability and mood swings 
  • Obsessive or compulsive tendencies 
  • Anxiety, depression, or feelings of panic 
  • Intense cravings for drugs or alcohol 
  • Unusual or unhealthy sleeping habits 
  • Impaired cognitive function 

PAWS may also sometimes be referred to as protracted withdrawal syndrome, post-withdrawal syndrome, or prolonged withdrawal syndrome. Whatever we call it, the first step of managing it is recognizing that someone is struggling with it. 

How to Successfully Manage Paws Symptoms

For some people, typical withdrawal management techniques may help them manage their PAWS symptoms. Depending on the person and circumstances, this may include medication-assisted treatment (MAT), aftercare programs, therapy, or support group meetings. Other ways an individual can begin successfully managing their symptoms include: 

  • Exercising regularly to regulate mood and manage stress and cravings 
  • Eating healthy and nutritious foods to improve mental and physical wellness 
  • Maintain a daily schedule that is tailored to fit an individual’s mental and emotional needs 
  • Taking measures to ensure quality sleep hygiene 
  • Utilize a support group, whether it consists of peers, friends, and family 
  • Seek professional help if symptoms become too unmanageable and threaten sobriety

As mentioned above, a significant way to manage these symptoms is by reaching out to a support group. This can enable you to help your loved ones struggling with PAWS today. 

Helping Your Loved One With Paws

The first way to help a loved one with PAWS is by recognizing the signs of it and the warning signs of relapse. In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, it is also important to be aware of:

  • Mood swings 
  • Unusual eating habits 
  • Trouble managing stress 
  • Interpersonal conflicts 
  • Intense cravings 

It also helps you to stay informed about the recovery plan of your loved one. This includes having contact information for sponsors, health professionals (like the ones at West Coast Recovery Centers), and treatment resources, as well as insight into their relapse prevention plan. 

Another great way to support your loved one is to offer continuous emotional support. Recovery is hard enough, but when you throw in PAWS symptoms, some days can be truly unbearable. Knowing that they have a friend to lean on in times of trouble can make all the difference in them maintaining their sobriety. 

Individuals who seek addiction treatment must typically go through detox before entering or continuing their treatment journey. Detox rids the body of any toxic substances – drugs and alcohol – before the hard work of recovering begins. Unfortunately, people can sometimes experience additional withdrawal symptoms well beyond the point of detox. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) describes a secondary phase of withdrawal symptoms people sometimes experience when in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). They can be managed through medication-assisted treatment (MAT), therapy, and aftercare support. However, you can also help your loved one manage these symptoms by staying informed on their recovery plan and offering emotional support. Call West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509 to learn more today.