What Is Alcohol Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?
Alcohol post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is the recurrence of withdrawal symptoms for months—or even years—after alcohol detox. Acute withdrawal symptoms are usually physical symptoms that last about a week or two during detox. As your symptoms peak during the acute phase of withdrawal, you might begin experiencing mental health symptoms such as anxiety or depression for example.
PAWS is characterized by the mental health symptoms that start during detox and continue to linger after detox. The symptoms can linger over the long term and can vary from person to person. These symptoms depend on the underlying issues driving your alcohol addiction, your ability to cope with stress, and the severity of your addiction.
How Does Alcohol Abuse Cause Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?
Your brain needs time to heal after active alcohol addiction. This helps the brain rebalance the chemicals and repair neural pathways damaged by alcohol abuse. Alcoholism causes post-acute withdrawal syndrome due to changes in the brain caused by addiction. Those suffering PAWS can have varying symptoms from person to person, with different levels of intensity depending on the severity of the addiction.
In addition, alcohol abuse could be a way of numbing your emotions or masking an underlying mental health disorder. Self-medicating with alcohol to manage stress or psychological issues is a maladaptive way of coping. You might drink excessively to avoid negative emotions. After detox, you can no longer avoid underlying mental health symptoms.
Common underlying mental health issues associated with addiction include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Mood disorders, like depression and bipolar disorder
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic attacks
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PAWS occurs when the veil of addiction is removed, and as a result, this may be why symptoms can be so distressing. Now, you need to experience your raw emotions and mental health symptoms without anything to mask or numb the way you feel. Fortunately, long-term treatment solutions, like group, family, or individual therapy, can help you learn healthy ways to cope with your emotions and with the everyday stressors that drove your alcohol addiction.
What Are the Symptoms of PAWS?
Consequently, the symptoms of PAWS are similar to the mental health symptoms of acute withdrawal during detox. While the physical symptoms of withdrawal usually end after a few weeks, however, the psychological effects can last much longer.
Common symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to stress
- Sleeping issues
- Intense emotions
- Mood swings
- Trouble thinking
- Cravings and urges for alcohol
Mental health symptoms like anxiety, panic or depression could lead to a relapse, which is common in early recovery. You might stay sober for months or years and slip up, for example, much like any relapsing disorder. At any rate, as you grow in your recovery, you learn more effective ways to manage your symptoms and avoid relapse triggers to commit to sobriety.
Treating alcohol-related PAWS symptoms is crucial, as you might experience a honeymoon phase in early recovery that clouds your judgment. After detox and initial withdrawal symptoms, many people feel that they are “cured” or no longer have an issue with drinking. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process with many ups and downs along the way.
How to Treat PAWS
The alcohol post-acute withdrawal syndrome symptoms can be treated by engaging in long-term recovery. The psychological impact of addiction can affect you for years after you stop drinking alcohol. You might shamefully look back on past mistakes and regrettable behavior, which can send your mental health spiraling if you don’t have healthy outlets in place.
Treating PAWS means engaging in the recovery process and taking care of yourself. Committing to a healthy lifestyle, staying focused on goals, improving relationships, and connecting to the recovery community are all part of treating PAWS. As your brain adjusts to managing stress and mental health issues without abusing alcohol, you need to replace unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthy daily habits for long-term addiction recovery. You can learn these in treatment, and incorporate them into your life long after.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a combination of behavioral therapy and medications (if available) is the best approach to treating substance abuse. In addition, “[t]reatment approaches must be tailored to address each patient’s drug use patterns and drug-related medical, psychiatric, environmental, and social problems.”
Long-term recovery and treatment of PAWS include:
- Healthy diet and nutrition
- Support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
- Managing relapse triggers
- Finding meaningful connections with others
- Focusing on life goals
- Developing healthy relationships
Alcohol addiction is a complex, relapsing disorder affecting you in all areas of life. Therefore, the best approaches to treating addiction and PAWS involve leading a healthy and fulfilling life with quality habits. Since your addiction to alcohol did not develop overnight, then your recovery will also not occur within a short period of life. Nevertheless, there is hope. Committing to a healthy lifestyle one day at a time is the best way to treat alcohol PAWS.
Treat Post-Acute Alcohol Withdrawal in Los Angeles, CA
MD Home Detox is here to help you with post-acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Our program offers home detox services to help you manage acute withdrawal symptoms in the comfort of your own home. Additionally, our aftercare services for PAWS include sober companions to support long-term recovery. We also offer drug testing to ensure accountability, in addition to family therapy to improve the vital relationships in your life. Contact us and begin your new life today.