PAWS A Major Reason for Relapse

PAWS: A Major Reason for Relapse

SoCal Detox
SoCal Detox

SoCal Detox editorial contributors include writers, editors, mental health and substance abuse treatment professionals who are trained to create credible and authoritative health information that is accurate, informative, and easy to understand.


So you detoxed. You did your residential treatment. You’ve been in IOP and are still meeting with a support group—even feeling pretty good and … wham! Something hits you. A couple of months into your recovery process is a tough time to experience a new set of withdrawals, but no one said recovery was fair. So you might as well be prepared for it.

What Is PAWS?

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (also known as PAWS) is a recalibration. Although the acute withdrawal symptoms are over within the first or second week of going clean, the nervous system of an addict has been altered by prolonged substance abuse. This means the rewiring will take time (but it will happen if you stick with it). Involved in this time period is some tough stuff that requires awareness and a renewed commitment to your program and continued connection to your support community.

What Will You Feel?

Stress. Yes, it is a bummer. Stress is a major contributing factor to why people become addicted to substances in the first place. However, in the first 4-8 weeks of sobriety, a recovering addict will be even more sensitive to stress and their cravings will be heightened.

To make matters worse, PAWS tends to generate impulsivity. And yes, impulsivity is also a contributing aspect of an addictive personality. So you get more stress, and you get more impulsive, thinking less about the future and your life’s most important truths and more about how to get through the immediate.

As if those weren’t enough, other symptoms include a loss of memory (did I miss my group session again?), unpredictable moods, insomnia and sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, fatalism, even suicidal ideation.

Make You Want to Relapse

The cravings come fast and hard with these withdrawals, and this is often right around the time a person is starting to experience a bit more independence, starting to transition back into society. But there is hope. What is important to remember is that this is part of recovery, and the symptoms will not last forever.

What Can You Do About PAWS?

Be Aware

The early recovery period is tough enough without these psychological and physical withdrawals. But it is part of the process. It is not something that will continue forever, and just the fact that you know it is part of recovery will help you fend off the temptations and cravings.

Stick to Your Program

When you feel like it, and when you don’t. There is a reason a group of professionals has rallied around you and set up a treatment program. You might feel like you are handling your recovery fine on your own, and there is something to be said for the work you have done. But often PAWS, along with other surprises in life, come when you are feeling most confident (read: over-confident), and the result might get away from you.

Be Patient

Recovery is a one-day-at-a-time process. Remember to take care of yourself. Practice meditation. Exercise. Pay attention to your nutrition. Practice gratitude. You are going to have bad days, but you are also going to have good days. Trying to rush the process will only make you resentful.

Be patient, and stick with it. Recovery is possible for you, and you will get through this. You are part of a community of courageous people who were strong enough to reach out for help when it was most important. Stick with it. More bravery will be required of you, but you are going make it through.

Call Us

If you or your loved one lost sobriety as a result of PAWS please call us. Relapse does not have to be the end of the world and our addiction specialists are ready to listen to your story and guide you through the process of lasting sobriety: 888-590-0777.

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