What should you do when PAWS feels like it’ll never end? The very first thing to do is not to get discouraged. You’ve been through acute withdrawal. You’ve likely been through at least part of your rehab. You’ve come this far. Don’t give up now. PAWS, which stands for post-acute withdrawal syndrome, will end.
Why Does Opioid Withdrawal Occur?
Opioid withdrawal symptoms are painful and most unpleasant. They include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Extreme weakness
- Restless leg syndrome
- Bone and muscle pain
These acute symptoms can persist for weeks or even a month and longer. Eventually, with or without treatment, they will subside and stop. It’s a gradual process. Even after the acute withdrawal symptoms have stopped, PAWS can continue for months on end. Not everyone will get PAWS, but many do. Some people have it worse than others. It can continue longer in some individuals than in others. There is no way to predict who will get it and who will not. More serious addictions with very powerful opioids may carry a higher risk of PAWS, but this is not true for everyone, either.
What is Opioid Withdrawal?
Why do opioids cause withdrawal symptoms in the first place? To understand this, you must first understand some basic information about opioids and the brain. The brain has special cells called opioid receptors. The brain also produces its own natural opioids. These are called endorphins. Endorphins act as natural pain relievers and mood elevators. These endorphins work by binding to the brain’s opioid receptors. Opioid drugs work the same way. They also bind to the same receptors, producing pain relief, sedation and in some people, subjective euphoria and feelings of well-being.
When someone takes opioids from an outside source for long enough, the brain will stop producing its own endorphins because it doesn’t need to. Chemical changes in the brain occur. The brain also starts to grow extra opioid receptors that normally wouldn’t be there. By the time physical dependence sets in, the brain can no longer function normally without its supply of outside opioids.
When this supply is suddenly discontinued, the brain is left in a lurch. It’s forgotten how to function normally. No one is positive, but experts think withdrawal is partly caused by the absence of the body’s own endorphins, which it has stopped producing. It takes time for the body to ramp up endorphin production again. Until then, you will feel the miserable effects of opioid withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms are also probably related to the abnormal extra receptors sites now present in the brain. It takes time for the brain to resolve these issues. Some symptoms may also be the result of toxic substances from opioid abuse that the body is working to eliminate.
Some possible symptoms of PAWS include:
- Drug craving
Help for PAWS
It may also be difficult to concentrate at work or school. You may not find pleasure in hobbies and activities that you once did. You may just plain not feel like yourself. Mostly, dealing with PAWS is about patience. It will go away. While you’re waiting, be sure you exercise and eat nutritious foods. Take a vitamin supplement to be sure. It’s especially important to be sure you’re getting enough calcium and magnesium. With your doctor’s approval, you can try some herbal teas, such a lemon balm, passionflower and chamomile. These contain natural calming substances that may help. Although you may be craving sugary foods, avoid them as much as you can.
Counseling helps many people to cope with PAWS, too. Try to stay busy. Volunteer to help others struggling just to get through the initial withdrawal. It will help you to see how far you have come and encourage you to keep going, and it will help someone else, too. Make sure you have a support network. This could be anyone who is non-judgmental and willing to listen, whether they have experienced addiction themselves or not. Just talking to someone may be enough to get you through another day. Every day you will get closer and closer to the end of PAWS for good.
Help is Available
If you need help with an addiction problem, we are here to assist. We are professional drug counselors, and you can call us anytime at 772-266-5320. We have extensive experience in our field. We also have a large network of resources to help with any kind of addiction issue. We look forward to your call.