What Symptoms Will You Experience If You Have Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome?


Protracted Withdrawal: The Definition

Protracted withdrawal is different from acute withdrawal (which is usually just referred to as “withdrawal”) in one profound way. While the symptoms of protracted withdrawal are similar to those of acute withdrawal, protracted withdrawal symptoms last much longer. Acute withdrawal symptoms typically last anywhere from about 5 days to 3 weeks, while protracted withdrawal symptoms could last as long as 7 to 10 years. About 10 to 15 percent of people who abuse benzodiazepines long-term will experience protracted withdrawal symptoms.

These long-lasting symptoms are a clear sign of Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome, or PWS. You may hear several other names for this condition including chronic withdrawal, extended withdrawal, late withdrawal, long-term withdrawal, persistent post-use symptoms, and post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

This type of withdrawal affects patients who have withdrawn from benzodiazepines or other substances in the past but have not been able to shake the long-term effects. It is most common in individuals who have used and abused benzos for an extended period of time, but it can also affect those who only took these medications for a few weeks.

Essentially, Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome is the body’s response to no longer having benzodiazepines in the body. The symptoms will reflect its effort to get back to normal.


What Are Protracted Withdrawal Symptoms?

The symptoms of Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome (PWS) occur because of how greatly benzos affect the central nervous system. When someone suddenly stops taking benzodiazepines after taking them for years, a major functional change will happen.

Protracted withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Hostility
  • Irritability
  • Numbness
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors and spasms
  • Sensitivity to stress
  • Pain in the limbs
  • Strange skin sensations
  • Poor memory and cognition
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

These symptoms may last for several years and are likely to wax and wane over time.


How to Prevent Protracted Withdrawal

If you are currently using benzodiazepines and are thinking of stopping but want to avoid getting protracted withdrawal symptoms, the best step to take is to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will create a schedule to help you slowly wean off of benzos instead of going cold turkey. If you suddenly stop using benzos or wean off too quickly, you are more likely to experience PWS.

Another way to prevent developing protracted withdrawal symptoms is to avoid using benzos for an extended period of time. While these prescription medications can help for short periods of time, they can be extremely harmful if used for too long. You should also avoid using other substances or taking other prescription medications while on benzodiazepines.


Protracted Withdrawal Treatment Methods

Unfortunately, there are not many treatment methods that are specifically designed for individuals with Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome (PWS) because most cases of withdrawal only last a few weeks. When symptoms last for several months or years, it’s harder to know how to handle or eliminate them. If you think you are experiencing protracted withdrawal symptoms, talk to a trusted doctor or psychologist about what you’re going through as soon as possible.

While PWS may be hard to treat, our substance abuse treatments specialists are determined to help individuals fight this disorder and get their physical & mental health back on track. If you or a family member is struggling with PWS, the team is here to answer all of your questions and assist you with determining the next best steps.

For more information about treatment for protracted withdrawal symptoms or related issues, give us a call at 267.209.7312.