Understanding Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Many recovering drug users are excited to get over the initial, acute withdrawal phase. While this is reasonable, users are often disheartened to discover the much more protracted phase of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS.

PAWS is a collection of persistent withdrawal symptoms, mostly psychological in nature, that tend to remain after the user has overcome physical withdrawal. PAWS symptoms are usually challenging to overcome and require consistent effort.

If they are not addressed with the help of detox center San Diego or prevailing determination, the likelihood of relapse is increased.

What Is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is generally the result of long-term changes that have occurred, either biologically (in the brain) or psychologically (as the result of behaviors becoming embedded during active addiction).

Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks, months, or years after someone has stopped using drugs. The drawn-out and persistent nature of these symptoms makes them one of the largest obstacles for anybody hoping to remain stable following treatment at a detox center in San Diego.

PAWS Symptoms

There are many symptoms associated with PAWS. Most of them are psychological and can be a hindrance for someone hoping to move forward with their recovery.


Depression is a fairly common PAWS symptom. Depression can emerge for many reasons following a long-term drug addiction.

Biologically, downregulation of the dopamine system can lead to depression. If you’re constantly stimulating your dopamine system by using drugs, over time your body will try to compensate by desensitizing it.

Since dopamine regulates things like mood and motivation, this can result in feelings of depression. It can take a while for the system to return to its ideal level.


Anxiety is another common symptom of PAWS. People may experience an increase in previous anxiety disorders, or they may develop anxiety where there was none before.

Anxiety or panic attacks can be significant triggers for relapse. It’s important to develop a coping strategy for any anxiety that you might be experiencing.

Low Motivation

Another issue often faced by those fresh out of addiction is low motivation. It can be very difficult to draw up the willpower needed to accomplish even simple daily tasks. Low motivation may be accompanied by a lack of energy or a general loss of passion and drive.


Anhedonia is marked by the inability to find pleasure in everyday activities like eating, playing games, being creative, or even having sex. It is often accompanied by low motivation, lack of drive, and fatigue.

Anhedonia is different from depression in the sense that it is associated with apathy, a lack of feeling, whereas depression is marked by negative and unpleasant feelings.

Sleep Problems

People may also experience insomnia or sleep disorders following their initial recovery.


Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is a challenging collection of symptoms that can affect people for weeks or months after they’ve stopped using drugs. If you or a loved one are struggling with some of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to a detox center San Diego.

Even if you’ve already managed to get sober, you could still benefit from the help of a therapist or psychiatrist for managing PAWS.

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