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How Psychoeducation Groups Help With Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Individuals beginning to adjust to sobriety in early recovery are uniquely vulnerable to post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). The symptoms of PAWS can last many months and be distressing, from brain fog to a general lack of motivation for recovery. Fortunately, there are treatment options available to help with PAWS and its associated symptoms, such as psychoeducation groups. 

Understanding Initial Withdrawal

When a person is seeking to break a chemical dependency on alcohol or other drugs, they must prepare for the plethora of symptoms that they will likely experience as a result of withdrawal. To some degree or severity, acute, physical withdrawal symptoms are expected upon the initial cessation of substance use. 

This is because the recurrent use of alcohol and other drugs alters brain structure and functioning, so much so that an individual’s brain begins to rely on substance use to function normally. Nonetheless, detoxing from substance use can bring about a host of physical withdrawal symptoms, often reported as “flu-like” symptoms.

Although initial withdrawal symptoms are moderate for many, in many cases, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. Therefore, professional detoxification services are always recommended for those attempting to cease their substance use. These services can ensure that an individual remains safe, comfortable, and supported throughout the challenges of detox and withdrawal. Moreover, professionals can provide medical care, medication, and psychological support once PAWS sets in. 

What Is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?

Contrary to what some may believe, there is more to detox and withdrawal than just navigating uncomfortable physical symptoms. PAWS occurs once an individual’s brain begins to adjust to abstinence. Unlike the physical symptoms of acute withdrawal, PAWS is characterized by the psychological and emotional symptoms of withdrawal. Similar to acute withdrawal, however, the symptoms of PAWS can range in severity and intensity, often dependent on the following factors:

  • Frequency of drug use
  • Intensity of drug use
  • Duration of drug use
  • Type of drug being used, especially noting polysubstance use 

PAWS can take effect as quickly as a week after detox or as slowly as a few months into recovery. It can be triggered by stressful situations, such as being around things or people that serve as reminders of past substance use. Additionally, it can be triggered by feelings of loneliness, isolation, and a lack of motivation for recovery. Moreover, despite PAWS being a temporary condition, its symptoms are undeniable driving factors for relapse. 

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of PAWS

As individuals work to establish early sobriety, they must recognize that most unpleasant thoughts and sensations are otherwise normal and expected symptoms of PAWS. Some common symptoms of PAWS include, but are not limited to:

  • Brain fog
  • Issues with memory
  • Cravings to use substances
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Stress sensitivity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Increased irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of initiative

What Are Psychoeducation Groups?

According to a publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), psychoeducation groups “are designed to educate clients about substance abuse, and related behaviors and consequences.” They are a resource that individuals can use to gain information that they can directly apply to their life. For example, SAMHSA notes the following purposes of psychoeducation groups:

  • Instills self-awareness
  • Suggests options for growth and change
  • Identifies community resources that can assist those in recovery
  • Develops an understanding of the process of recovery
  • Prompts individuals using substances to take action on their own behalf

The Value of Psychoeducation Groups for Navigating PAWS

For most, attempting to navigate the symptoms of PAWS alone can seem daunting and unmanageable. Fortunately, psychoeducation groups can provide a plethora of benefits for individuals seeking additional support and guidance as they manage PAWS throughout early sobriety and beyond. Some specific ways that psychoeducation groups can help in managing and overcoming the symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Providing learning opportunities for individuals to learn about, process, and manage their feelings effectively. Often, difficult emotions from PAWS get the best of a person in early recovery. With psychoeducation groups, individuals can learn how to identify their emotions and process them without relapse playing a factor. 
  • Offering individuals a deeper understanding of the short and long-term effects of substance abuse. In psychoeducation groups, individuals can better understand how their substance abuse has affected their whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Following this, they can make more informed decisions in healing from PAWS and their well-being throughout recovery. 
  • Informing individuals about various stress management techniques and coping skills available. PAWS can disrupt a person’s daily moments. Psychoeducation groups can help individuals discover important resources – such as meditation, breathwork, anger management, and more – to foster sustainable recovery and promote present-moment awareness. 
  • Providing a sounding board and social support network for individuals in early recovery. PAWS can feel like an isolating condition. However, by participating in psychoeducation groups for PAWS, individuals can feel validated, encouraged, and supported by their fellow peers in recovery.

Psychoeducation Groups at Malibu Wellness Ranch

At Malibu Wellness Ranch, we are committed to helping individuals, as well as their loved ones, effectively recover from the challenging effects of substance abuse. To ensure this, we offer several different treatment programs and services, including psychoeducation groups. These groups are led by clinical staff, often involving a lecture, therapeutic workshop, or community activities. These resources provide different pathways for educating clients on various topics of addiction. 

Moreover, the psychoeducation groups we provide at Malibu Wellness Ranch utilize a whole-person approach: mind, body, and spirit. We believe that this encourages total wellness for all clients who walk onto our ranch. In addition to educating clients on PAWS, clients will receive education on the following various topics in our psychoeducation groups:

  • The disease of addiction
  • Relapse triggers
  • Family roles and dynamics
  • Feelings of stress, guilt, and shame that often manifest from addiction
  • Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation
  • Grounding techniques
  • Self-care practices
  • Emotional regulation practices
  • How to have fun in recovery
  • Information on various recovery programs

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is characterized by the psychological and emotional symptoms of alcohol and drug withdrawal. As its symptoms can be distressing, it is necessary to recognize the value of psychoeducation groups for navigating its effects. At Malibu Wellness Ranch, we offer a number of psychoeducation groups for individuals seeking to understand and overcome the effects of addiction. We believe that education plays a key role in fostering motivation to overcome the damaging effects of substance abuse, which only scratches the surface of the value of psychoeducation groups for addiction recovery. In addition, we offer several treatment program options that utilize a whole-person approach to care. To learn more, call us today at (800) 862-5428.