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 Post subject: PAWS - How do you know?
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:34 am 
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I have a probably stupid question, how do you guys figure out whether you have PAWS after quitting buprenorphine? Before I quit I took opiates every day for 20 years, so I basically have no experience how an adult should normally feel. And I have no recollection of how I felt as an adolescent (which due to hormones and stuff is probably not "normal" anyway). What do you mean when you say I'm not feeling 100% e.g.? Compared to what? To how you felt when taking buprenorphine?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:36 pm 
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Really interesting question.

Many people don't really know whether what they're feeling is associated with PAWS, or simply the feeling of being clean off opioids. It is SO hard to figure out the boundary of what's a symptom and what's just reality when living without opioids. Any PAWS a person has fades away SO gradually (over a year for sure) and there is no clear end-point as such.

And as you said, most addicts have been dependent for so long and aged so much during their dependence that they simply cannot remember how it feels to live without opioids. It can be such a futile exercise trying to figure out whether or not any feeling are PAWS associated or just life because they have no reference to compare. And I do believe, in fact, that focusing on it and trying to analyse it too much can be unhealthy for a person's recovery.

It is really useful though to keep PAWS in-mind when we start to find ourselves overwhelmed in early recovery. I don't know if you've experienced them, but occasionally I would find all the raw emotions / anxiety / uncomfortability of being opioid free overwhelming. I'd question whether that's just how it is without opioids, and whether being opioid free was worth it. THEN it's useful to remind yourself that you ARE likely experiencing some PAWS at this stage, that it does get better, and that we DO grow out of those uncomfortable feelings, and that life DOES get easier. It just takes time.

IMO the only real perspective you can get on your PAWS is with hindsight. ie when you're 12 months off opioids, THEN you notice how crazy you were at 3 months... etc.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:57 pm 
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For me, PAWS were many of my acute wd symptoms, but much less intense. I used to compare PAWS to dragging a boat anchor around everywhere I went.

Tear brings up some very good points, though. Where PAWS ends and where "learning to live life without drugs" begins is a blurry line, at best. A lot of us have been on drugs for so damn long, we wouldn't know normal if walked up and smacked us in the face.

IMO, this is why recovery is so important. Just quitting drugs is only the first step, it's a huge step, no doubt, but REALLY learning to live without drugs is where the rubber meets the road. You basically have to learn who you are.

So, whether you're suffering from PAWS or just learning how to live life without drugs, your recovery is of utmost importance. You should be trying to eat right, you should be exercising and you should be participating in life. In my case, I also attend NA a couple of times per week to help me with my recovery and I participate on this forum, which has helped me greatly.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:31 am 
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You will notice you have PAWS because you will be feeling okay, and then suddenly, you feel w/d-type sick. For me, my hands and feel would feel cold; I'd get sweats and those prickly hot flashes; and I'd get diarrhea. Sometimes, I'd feel so exhausted that it seemed impossible to get through. We were out of town once and I got slammed with PAWS. Holy hell, it was tough. I was SO TIRED that I barely spoke to anyone the entire weekend...just forced one foot in front of the over. There is an absolute lack of motivation as times. Nothing seems worth the effort and you just want to sit and be one with the couch. Brain feels like an engine that just won't turn over. That's been PAWS for me. I'm pretty much out of the PAWS woods though...(knock on wood!)...and if I think back on how I felt a few months back, the different is huge.

LT

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Fond Du Lac Psychiatry
Dr. Jeffrey Junig, M.D., Ph.D.

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