Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome Essay

891 words - 4 pages

Many of the problems associated with early sobriety do not stem directly from psychoactive substances. Instead they are associated with physical and psychological changes that occur after the substances have left the body. When a person regularly uses psychoactive drugs, the brain undergoes physical changes to cope with the presence of drugs in the body. When the drugs are removed from the body, the brain craves the drugs that it has become accustomed to and as the brain attempts to rebalance itself without the presence of psychoactive drugs the person often experiences feelings of confusion, pain, and discomfort. The symptoms that are experienced immediately after stopping drug use are called acute withdrawal. But often the symptoms do not stop at acute withdrawal. After the body makes initial adjustments to the absence of drugs, the changes that have occurred in the brain still need time to revert back to their original state. During this period, a variety of symptoms known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) begin to occur. In the book Uppers, Downers, All Arounders, published by CNS Productions, authors Darryl Inaba and William Cohen define PAWS as “a group of emotional and physical symptoms that appear after major withdrawal symptoms have abated” (Inaba & Cohen, 2011).
According to Inaba and Cohen, PAWS is a result of damage to brain neurons combined with the psychological stress of living a drug and alcohol free life (Inaba & Cohen, 2011). The symptoms of PAWS typically last six to 18 months but sometimes can last up to ten years. The major symptoms of PAWS include sleep disturbances, memory problems, inability to think clearly, emotional overreaction or numbness, problems with physical coordination, and a high sensitivity to stress. Because recovery already causes a great deal of psychological stress and because PAWS symptoms can appear over and over again without any warning which can cause a person to feel confused, embarrassed, inadequate, and ashamed, PAWS is the cause of most relapses in early recovery (Inaba & Cohen, 2011).
In reflecting upon PAWS, I cannot help but wonder why treatment agencies are not educating and warning clients more often about the symptoms and the likelihood of experiencing PAWS as well as ways to manage the symptoms and speed up the process of repairing the brain. Because PAWS causes an array of problems on top of an already stressful situation I would think PAWS would be an important topic of discussion with clients who are recovering from addiction. Through my own experiences with addiction I believe that I encountered PAWS symptoms early on in my sobriety. For about a year after stopping my gambling and drug use I experienced sleep problems, memory problems (I still experience memory problems), an inability to...

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