August 16 | By Rachael
Every person addicted to alcohol goes through two stages of withdrawal during recovery. The acute withdrawal syndrome (AWS) and the post-acute-withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). During these phases, recovering patients witness a range of cognitive and emotionally debilitating impairments. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, alcohol withdrawal can also turn out to be life threatening in nature. However, it is necessary to endure the struggle and pain to achieve long-term sobriety.
When an alcohol-dependent person suddenly stops consuming alcohol, he embarks upon a long arduous journey and witnesses a range of symptoms due to AWS, such as intense cravings and other physical symptoms. It usually occurs between 24 hours and seven days from the last drink. The phase of AWS is generally triggered when the body attempts to adjust to the sudden absence of alcohol that it had relied on for so long.
During this phase, the desire for relief from pain induced by intense cravings can be so overwhelming that the person begins to experience the fear of death if relief does not come imminently. This is only the beginning of the ordeal for an individual who decides to quit alcohol abruptly. After the AWS stage ends, the stage of PAWS begins. This period can last up to 20 months or longer. It may take up to two years for the normal state of neurochemistry to return.
Alcohol and substance abuse cause more than just physical dependence. During the PAWS stage, the emotional and psychological symptoms of withdrawal start to dominate the person recovering from an addiction and push him or her through a “roller-coaster ride” of thoughts, feelings and reactions.
It can be quite unnerving, with rapid highs and lows of emotional and psychological turmoil that alternate in unexpected and sudden ways. Patients going through this phase often feel as if their life is careening out of control. This is the stage where a person is most vulnerable to a relapse.
Each episode of PAWS can last for a few days and the symptoms surface and retreat mysteriously without any warning and may continue to do so for a year. These withdrawal stages are a part of the journey of a person recovering not just from alcohol, but also from other substances, such as antidepressants, barbiturate, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, marijuana, opioids and stimulants.
Though each person would experience PAWS differently from the other, some of the commonly reported symptoms are:
The symptoms of PAWS are largely psychological in nature and related to mood. They rarely involve physical symptoms. There is no precise tool to measure them, thus resembling a mental health condition. The symptoms are categorized according to their impact on the following areas of functioning:
Withdrawal syndromes like AWS and PAWS can prove to be life-threatening in the long run. The sudden abstinence from alcohol can prove dangerous as it can cause delirium tremens (DTs) and even death in extreme cases. The ongoing support from therapists and counselors is important in reducing the intensity of this experience. Fortunately, the severity of PAWS decreases as time progresses.
If you or your loved one is fighting alcohol addiction, contact the Colorado Alcohol Addiction Help for guidance on the best facilities offering addiction treatment in Colorado. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-592-9261 or chat online with our counselors to know about the finest alcohol addiction treatment centers in Colorado.