Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome and Depression

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is something that most addicts experience when they stop using drugs. But, to understand Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, we must first understand what comes before PAWS. Before post-acute withdrawal syndrome is the stage of detox or acute withdrawal. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Acute withdrawal symptoms are the immediate symptoms that a person feels after they stop using drugs or alcohol. The symptoms will vary depending on the substance or substances that were being abused, but oftentimes these symptoms can be life-threatening. Many people prefer to detox in a supervised setting like a medical detox facility.

The second stage is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This happens as the brain begins to re-regulate after a person was in active addiction. Where most of the symptoms of acute withdrawal are primarily physical, the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome are mostly emotional and psychological, and depending on the severity and duration of the person’s drug/alcohol abuse, these symptoms can last for months and even up to 1-2 years. Many common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia and/or other sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Hostility
  • Impaired concentration
  • Lack of motivation
  • Fatigue and low energy
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Increased anxiety
  • Drug and alcohol cravings
  • Drug or alcohol dreams
  • Apathy
  • Depression

Depression is quite common during the PAWS stage recovery because you’re still not feeling 100% and often quite lethargic, which can lead to lower energy and feelings of sadness.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome and Depression

Symptoms of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

The symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome don’t happen all the time or all at once. Symptoms can appear sporadically, which oftentimes leads to relapse Many of these symptoms are manageable and can be dealt with if you have some help, but one of the hardest symptoms to get past is the depression. Depression can often drive some people back toward the substance to cope with it.

In reality, you are only making the problems worse. It is helpful to know that depression is common among those battling with addiction and alcoholism. It is important to remind yourself that the depression you are feeling is only temporary and just a side effect of post-acute withdrawal syndrome. It will not last forever and neither will the PAWS. Depression comes in many forms and the symptoms often look like:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • No motivation

There are many different ways you can combat the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome and depression.

  • Educate yourself – Gain as much knowledge as you can about the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome. This is so you can be prepared for any symptoms popping up in the future. You may go a few days or even a couple weeks without feeling symptoms, then wake up one morning with depression or anxiety. Educating yourself is key to staying prepared to manage the symptoms.
  • Practice Self Care – Take time for yourself and give yourself breaks to remind yourself that you are worth it and to remain well mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Self-care also includes practices such as eating healthy, exercise, meditation, and having healthy relationships with supportive people.
  • Talk About it – Share your feelings, emotions, and when you are experiencing PAWS with those you trust such as a close friend, family member, counselor, or your peers going through the same thing. This allows you to have accountability for your actions and have some help sorting through what you are feeling and thinking.

Get the Help You Need With Addiction

For those suffering from the disease of addiction and/or alcoholism, it is important to know that you are not lone during trying time. Garden State Treatment Center addiction professionals are here to help you in any way we can. Now is the time to get your life back on track. Let us help you do it.