EP 96: Reader Question – What is PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome)? And does it happen for everyone?

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In what stage of recovery does PAWS occur and does it happen to everyone? Annie answers questions about PAWS and shares scientific research and her opinion on why it happens, how long it lasts, and how to change our thinking in order to avoid it.

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PAWS or Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome is often experienced during the detox process. Annie Grace dives into the physical and emotional toll it can take and how best to deal with it. When to seek medical help for PAWS (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) along with tips for dealing with it and working through it.

Stage One

There’s two stages of alcohol withdrawal. One is the acute stage. This is when you’re actually physically detoxing. This is when alcohol is leaving your system and you feel the associated kind of lows about that. This can happen for a week, ten days, where you’re actually detoxing from alcohol and the effects of alcohol. So any counter-chemicals that your body has produced.

Stage Two

Then after that, there’s the second stage, which is this PAWS – post-acute withdrawal syndrome. During this stage, you’re not going to have as many physical symptoms but you can have a lot of emotional and psychological symptoms. This, you should know, it’s not a medical diagnosis so it isn’t something that’s actually in the DSM. But it is something that a lot of people report. I think one of the beauties of the method that I’ve outlined and the methodology in This Naked Mind is that it addressed the psychological aspects of alcohol addiction almost before you stop drinking.


What will happen is somebody will stop drinking and they will have not have let go of the drug. They still believe that they need alcohol to relax, to have a good time, to de-stress, to do all of these sorts of things. So they have stopped drinking but their mind is still very addicted. Emotionally, they’re still very addicted, psychologically, there’s a huge dependence. So what happens with PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) is when something happens in your life, something stressful happens in your life, you can feel just desperate for a drink and feel cravings, feel irritability, fell anxiety.

PAWS Symptoms

Some of the symptoms of this are: depression is a big one, psychological dysfunction, not being able to relate to other people, feeling of guilt, being very pessimistic, being very down on yourself, craving, having a lack of energy, a lack of initiative, having memory issues, emotionally being over-reactive, having sleep. All of these things are things that happen when you still believe that you need alcohol in order to navigate your life, when you still believe that alcohol is a viable method of self-medication in terms of what else is going on in your life. I think that what happens is you haven’t given up alcohol, mentally. And so you still retain a very strong attachment to it. This can happen for years.They say up to two years.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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