One of the lesser known dangers of detoxing on your own is the incredibly high risk of relapsing after your physical withdrawal symptoms are done. Although people have already mustered their way through one of the most difficult phases of the recovery process, there is still much that lies ahead. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) often follow right on the heels of physical detox. Moreover, although these symptoms are largely psychological, they’re also intense. If you aren’t prepared for the challenges they entail, you may find yourself right back where you started.
As physical withdrawal nears its end, it means that your body has largely cleared itself of the toxins introduced by your drug of choice. Many important physical functions have returned to normal, and your body is on the rebound. The development of PAWS is an indication that your brain and your brain chemistry are still affected. The chemical changes that substance abuse has wrought remain unresolved. Although PAWS might last for just two to three months, these symptoms can linger for one full year. When you start your recovery in a licensed rehab center, you’ll get ongoing and needs-specific support for any physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms you experience. This makes dealing with PAWS infinitely easier. It also minimizes the risk of relapsing early-on.
What to Expect With PAWS
Common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include:
- Difficulty focusing
- Heightened anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Loss of motivation
- Lack of initiative
- Hostility or irritability
For some people and with certain substances, PAWS can additionally include suicidal thoughts and suicidal ideations.
In short, PAWS saps your motivation and causes a host of mood balance issues. Many people feel hopeless, out of touch, and incapable of getting anything done. PAWS also causes a variety of sleep disturbances including:
- Vivid and disturbing dreams
- Broken sleep or low sleep quality
In a rehab facility, there are many things that professionals can do to alleviate the distress that PAWS causes. Various forms of non-habit-forming sleep support are offered. Patients also have access to a number of options in behavioral therapy where they can learn to work through their frustration, manage their stress, and build their tolerance to outside distress. One large part of addiction treatment is learning to develop new and healthier coping strategies. Although this phase of recovery isn’t easy, it is possible to complete without reverting back to old, self-harming behaviors or undoing the accomplishments that you’ve already achieved.
It’s important to note that the development of PAWS is natural. It is perfectly normal to feel depressed, overwhelmed, excessively tired, and unmotivated right after your physical detox is complete. In part, some of these developments reflect the anxiety and lack of surety that comes from radically changing your life habits. When people quit drugs or alcohol, all of their behaviors have to change. They often distance themselves from toxic or otherwise triggering relationships and environments, and totally restructure their schedules. Although these changes are positive and represent proactive steps towards a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle, they don’t always feel good at first.
Another key thing to remember when experiencing PAWS is that they’re an indication that your brain is healing and that your brain chemistry is gradually normalizing. Drug and alcohol use disrupt the natural production and release of important mood-boosting chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Most commonly, drug and alcohol abuse affect dopamine, gamma-Aminobutyric acid, and other “feel good” chemicals like them. Without sufficient dopamine being produced, it’s difficult for people to feel happy. Fortunately, dopamine rebound or the return to normal dopamine production often occurs within just 60 to 90 days of quitting. Best of all, if you choose to complete a 90-day rehab program, there’s a very high likelihood that your post-acute withdrawal symptoms will have naturally abated by the time you exit treatment.
Just like physical withdrawal symptoms, unmanaged PAWS can greatly increase the risk of relapse. The potential for experiencing severe post-acute withdrawal symptoms is but one more reason to seek professional help. Although PAWS gradually wind down after approximately three months, many of these symptoms can periodically reoccur all throughout your first year of recovery. Thus, the more treatment you ultimately get, the easier it will be to stay the course.
If you’re eager to start the recovery process but need help finding the right rehab program, we’re here to provide it. Get in touch with us now by calling 833-610-1174.