2 stages to withdrawal…. acute and paws.

2 stages to withdrawal…. acute and paws.

There are TWO stages of withdrawal


The first stage is the acute stage, which usually lasts at most a few weeks. During this stage, you WILL experience some type of physical withdrawal symptoms.

Every drug is different, and every person is different. Different drugs have different affects and a person’s genetics play a major role. Some people have very resilient systems and some do not.  Some people should have a stamp on their foreheads at birth that says ” this person should never ingest drugs. alcohol or certain medications”

Acute withdrawals is your body saying ” I need drugs or alcohol and I am used to having them and I have not been making these chemicals because you have been giving them to me  SO I am going to give you signals to give me some.”

A person can go to a publicly funded non- medical withdrawal centre ( formerly known as DETOX centres). The individual must call themselves for a bed to various centres on regular basis for availability.  This can be challenging at the bst of times and takes a lot of determination. They are typically given a window of 2 hours max to get themselves to the centre.

Once admitted, the centre will administer medication if it is prescribed prior to intake. They will monitor a person for 24-72 hours typically.  They are all non-smoking, and the first 24 hours there are no calls permitted.  This is not a jail so there are no lock downs and a person can leave at any time.  Many leave because they can’t handle the withdrawals, want a cigarette or feel scared and alone. They are given high carb diet and at most one multi-vitamin. There is huge waits for treatment so upon discharge, the individual must return home and wait for a bed or an opening in outpatient supports before they can access further support. 12 Step is typically the only support that is available upon discharge for the individuals and their families.


Typical acute withdrawals may include but are not limited too:

  • headaches
  • body aches
  • diarrhea
  • shaking
  • heart palpitations
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • delusional
  • psychosis
  • sweating
  • twitching
  • emotional- sad, angry, anxious
  • agitated
  • flu-like


The second stage of withdrawal is called the Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).

During this stage you’ll have fewer physical symptoms, but a lot more emotional and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Post-acute withdrawal occurs because your brain chemistry is gradually returning to normal.

As your brain improves the levels of your brain chemicals fluctuate as they approach the new equilibrium causing post-acute withdrawal symptoms. In the acute stage of withdrawal every person is different, in post-acute withdrawal most people have the same symptoms.

The Symptoms of Post-Acute Withdrawal aka PAWS

The most common post-acute withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia- this can last for a very long time
  • Tiredness
  • Variable energy
  • Low enthusiasm
  • Variable concentration
  • Disturbed sleep – substance using dreams
  • “Normal life” feeling very uncomfortable

Post-acute withdrawal is extremely challenging and very frequently misdiagnosed. The expectations of the individuals, their families and employers are unrealistic as they do not stop overnight. They can appear from minute to minute and from hour to hour without any notice. Sometimes they will disappear for a few weeks or months only to return again. As you continue to recover the good stretches will get longer and longer however, the bad periods of post-acute withdrawal can be just as intense and last just as long.  Post-acute withdrawal usually lasts for 2 years.

This is one of the most important things you need to remember as it is the reason many strong willed individuals relapse over and over.

People relapse because: 

  • they have no awareness about the severity of Post Withdrawal Symptoms
  • they seek no physical support to aid in the withdrawals that do not mask the symptoms but offer a solution to the symptoms
  • they do nothing to support themselves emotionally
  • they do nothing to educate their families or employers
  • the family/employer/individual does nothing to resolve the pain, guilt, shame and anger resulting from the addiction

If nothing changes — NOTHING changes.  The behaviors will be the same; and eventually they will go back to the substance,

and the relationships will continue to be damaged.


Our integrative team medically supervises our clients through the initial stages of this process. With natural and/or traditional medical support the client’s feel their acute withdrawal symptoms dissipate. Over time, they feel a greater sense of physical and mental relief from the withdrawals. 

All of our clients are fully assessed medically, psychologically and socially to ensure their safety and the safety of others. There is no other program in Canada that has the ability or the experience to do this compassionately with this cutting edge approach using natural supports,The Habitude™Addiction Program essentially fast tracks an individual’s acute and post-acute withdrawal symptoms, allowing the emotionally healing to start.

PLEASE call us today- we understand PAWS and can help





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