Last Updated on August 26, 2022 by
Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr John Motl MD
Table of Contents:
What is Protracted Withdrawal?
If you are reading this article, you may, or suspect you may be suffering symptoms of protracted withdrawal. One may have experienced the tremendous difficulties of ceasing drug or alcohol use while continuing to suffer debilitating and relentless withdrawal symptoms. Clinicians often refer to protracted withdrawal as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) or PWS (protracted withdrawal syndrome). Below we’ll cover how to know more about the symptoms of protracted withdrawal and measures that can help navigate through these challenges. While medical consensus is as yet not clearly decided on a clear-cut definition, there are commonly reported symptoms that should be known about protracted withdrawal.1-4
Common signs and symptoms of protracted withdrawal can include:
- Withdrawal symptoms lasting longer than the expected timeline for withdrawal
- The rebound of original symptoms after cessation
- Emergence of new symptoms
- Tendency to self-medicate even after cessation
- Cravings or other physical or psychological reactions when exposed to drug-related stimuli
- Lingering anxiety, depression, dysphoria
- Sleep disturbances, insomnia, over-sleeping
- Hyper-reactivity to stress
Physical symptoms may rebound or newly emerge and intensify, including muscle aches, cramps, brain zaps, chills, fever, pain, nausea, crying spells, other emotional distress, sleepless nights, nightmares, appetite changes, weight loss or gain, energy deficit, depression, anxiety, and many others. There can be so many variations that it is not easy to directly link them to one specific drug withdrawal syndrome, but some patterns are commonly observed.
For instance, when withdrawing from a CNS depressant such as a benzodiazepine, an antidepressant, or an opiate, the calming and pleasant feelings that it initially provided are now reversed, so the euphoria is now depression. The pain relief is now pain. The calm feeling may now reverse into anxiety, a panic attack, or the dread of one about to occur. It can be life-threatening, in fact, to try and withdraw too quickly from a number of drugs. Except in certain medical emergencies where immediate cessation is needed to save the person’s life, once dependence or addiction has developed, it is not a good idea to cease any substance suddenly, including chronic heavy alcohol use.
Alcohol cessation in particular needs clinical oversight and medication to avoid cardiac arrest, coma, or other life-threatening emergencies. In most cases, sudden cessation can overwhelm the various systems in the body and can be life-threatening. Abrupt withdrawal is a common precursor to protracted withdrawal symptoms that may linger and even worsen for months and even years without going away.
Protracted Withdrawal Solutions
The best solution is to seek medical assistance and guidance before attempting cessation. Guidance is recommended during and even after the process to ensure the path to recovery is smooth and safe. However, in too many cases, even with medical oversight there may have been too many factors that needed addressing well before the tapering process was attempted. At Alternative to Meds Center, we place great importance on seeking root causes for original symptoms so that these do not continue to plague the person unnecessarily.
Some of the most commonly overlooked areas are listed below.
- Nutrition 5
- Unresolved toxin exposure 6
- Unresolved psychological trauma 7
- Lack of emotional (familial or peer) support 8
- Unsatisfactory lifestyle 9
- Overlooked/untreated medical conditions such as hypoglycemia, infection, injuries, illnesses, or other physical conditions 10
- Genetic factors 11
Through the use of lab testing, we can discover nutritional deficiencies or imbalances that can be fixed by correcting the diet, eliminating offending foods that are contributing to symptoms, and providing targeted supplementation to rectify nutrition-related conditions.
Neurotoxic accumulations can also be tested for and purged safely from the body to allow neurotransmitter rehabilitation naturally.
CBT and other genres of counseling can be provided to alleviate the burdens of past trauma, and allow for restructuring and optimizing one’s lifestyle, so that life can move forward with optimism, confidence, and hope.
Diet and supplementation can also mitigate genetic polymorphisms and other factors that have possibly contributed to one’s symptoms even before drug or alcohol use needed treatment.
Protracted Withdrawal Help
In general, where long-lasting withdrawals are occurring, the cessation was likely exacerbated by the shock of abrupt cessation, and other overlooked health factors. A thorough medical check-up can be crucial to isolate physical injuries or other conditions that should be treated as part of a full recovery program. Where certain drugs are concerned, even very small incremental cuts can set off reactions that are intolerable. There are several effective strategies to get stabilized before resuming a safe and slow taper if lingering withdrawals have caused the process to go off the rails. You can read more about tapering methods and adjunct therapies used at Alternative to Meds Center that can be tailored to an individual’s exact profile and medical history for a much more tolerable and even enjoyable cessation and recovery.
It is recommended to always seek medical monitoring when deciding to taper off any substance whether prescribed or otherwise. It is unsafe to try it without medical oversight. Be safe and seek medical help with alcohol or drug withdrawal planning. Even under a general practitioner’s care, the symptoms associated with protracted withdrawals can become intolerable, and puzzling to a medical practitioner who is unfamiliar with proper drug withdrawal. However, one must not despair, because there are better solutions available for recovery.
Don’t Give Up, We are Here to Help
Please call us for more information about a comfortable and safe cessation to avoid or get relief from protracted withdrawal symptoms. Our staff has helped literally thousands go through their withdrawal process with success. We are here to assist and we do understand the problems and how to avoid protracted withdrawal symptoms. We have many families who have successfully had a loved one complete their taper and recovery with Alternative To Meds Center without suffering from symptoms of protracted withdrawal.