Understanding Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome: Navigating the Road to Recovery

Starting a new journey towards sobriety from drugs or alcohol is a courageous step that requires a lot of strength and perseverance.

And the path to recovery is more challenging than the initial hangover and withdrawal phase.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) can create bigger obstacles for your sobriety and you may not even know it's happening. 

We're getting into the world of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, what it is, how it affects you, and effective ways to navigate the challenge.

What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, often abbreviated as PAWS, is a prolonged withdrawal syndrome that some people experience after the initial withdrawal or detox stage. 

While the acute (immediate) withdrawal phase typically lasts for a few days to a couple of weeks, PAWS can persist for several months, even up to a year. 

PAWS happens because of neurological changes caused by substance abuse.

With continued substance use, the brain changes because of the constant presence of the drug, which leads to altered neural pathways. When the drug is abruptly removed during withdrawal and detoxification, the brain struggles to readjust to its new chemical balance, and this can lead to various lingering symptoms.

How Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Affects You:

  1. Emotional Turmoil: PAWS can bring about intense mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and depression. Individuals may find themselves experiencing emotions in an amplified and unpredictable manner, making it challenging to manage day-to-day life.
  2. Cognitive Impairment: Memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, and impaired decision-making are common cognitive effects of PAWS. These challenges can hinder productivity and cause frustration.
  3. Sleep Disturbances: PAWS can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or excessive sleepiness. The lack of restorative sleep can further exacerbate emotional and cognitive struggles.
  4. Physical Symptoms: Physical manifestations of PAWS include headaches, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal issues. These symptoms can make individuals feel unwell and may be mistaken for other health problems.
  5. Cravings and Triggers: PAWS can reignite cravings for the substance, especially during stressful situations or when exposed to triggers associated with past substance use. Managing these cravings is a critical aspect of recovery.
  6. Loss of Interest: Individuals in the throes of PAWS may experience a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, isolating them from social interactions and support systems.

For more in-depth insights and information on PAWS, you can listen to, The Science of Sobriety and How to Feel Better Faster.

Getting Through Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome:

  1. Education and Awareness: Knowledge is power, and understanding PAWS can help individuals anticipate and cope with its symptoms. Learning about the duration, symptoms, and common triggers can reduce anxiety and foster resilience.
  2. Professional Support: Seeking professional help from addiction counselors, therapists, or support groups can provide invaluable assistance during PAWS. Therapists can guide individuals through emotional challenges and offer coping mechanisms.
  3. Healthy Lifestyle: Adopting a balanced and healthy lifestyle can aid in managing PAWS symptoms. Regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and sufficient sleep promote overall well-being and can mitigate some of the negative effects.
  4. Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness and meditation can enhance emotional regulation, reduce stress, and promote a sense of inner peace. Incorporating these practices into daily routines can be beneficial during PAWS.
  5. Avoid Triggers: Identifying and avoiding triggers that may lead to substance cravings is essential during PAWS. This may involve making changes to one's environment or social circle to minimize exposure to these triggers.
  6. Patience and Self-Compassion: Overcoming PAWS is a gradual process, and it's crucial to be patient with oneself. Recognize that setbacks may occur, but treating yourself with compassion and kindness can help you stay focused on the journey to recovery.


Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome can be a challenge on the road to recovery from drug or alcohol addiction or abuse.

Understanding it and the impact it has is crucial. Get support with a Coach, therapist, or counselor to increase your chances of successfully navigating PAWS so you don't fall into a relapse because your feelings are overwhelming and you don't know how to cope.

Remember, everyone's journey is somewhat unique, and with patience, perseverance, and self-compassion, you can overcome anything.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.