Ft. Lauderdale, FL (PRWEB) September 10, 2013
Despite widespread recognition as the leading cause of relapse among recovering addicts and alcoholics, few addiction treatment centers address Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome. But in a large survey conducted by the nation's leading expert on PAWS, the results indicate that this lack of focus could be largely responsible for the revolving door nature of most drug rehab centers.
James F. Davis, CAS, is a Board Certified Interventionist and an authority on Post Acute Withdrawal. He's also the founder of a large drug treatment center in South Florida. When he learned that his treatment center was one of just a handful in the country that treats Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, he set out to do something about it.
Davis founded the website PostAcuteWithdrawal.org and spent 6 months polling recovering drug addicts and alcoholics in the first-ever survey to collect information about PAWS.
Now Davis says the survey indicates that the drug addiction treatment industry needs to undergo a transformation.
"What we found is that very few treatment centers address Post Acute Withdrawal, and those that do approach the condition rather cursorily. As a consequence many addicts leave rehab sober but quickly relapse when their PAWS symptoms go untreated."
Davis went on to explain that PAWS is the most critical and persistent problem facing people in recovery.
According to the Wikipedia entry for the condition, Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome;
"The syndrome may be in part due to persisting physiological adaptations in the central nervous system manifested in the form of continuing but slowly reversible tolerance, disturbances in neurotransmitters and resultant hyper excitability of neuronal pathways." (1)
But Davis claims that there's a lot more to this relapse-causing condition than neuronal disturbances alone:
"PAWS is caused by changes in neurons as a result of prolonged substance abuse, but this is just one piece of the puzzle. Other forces are at work, including the backfiring of evolutionary survival mechanisms and a powerful conditioned response similar to that experienced in the case of Pavlov's drooling dogs."
Davis is in the process of publishing a book which explains his theories on PAWS in expansive detail. The book is based in part on the survey results, which shows that of the 91% of recovering addicts afflicted with the condition, more than 25% will experience symptoms lasting longer than 2 years.
Other key findings in the Post Acute Withdrawal Survey include:
*71% of survey respondents believe that PAWS has led to one or more drug/alcohol relapses
*AA & NA Meetings are the favored method of treatment for symptoms related to PAWS
*Most respondents do not treat symptoms with medication
*Most physicians are not familiar with PAWS
*"Stress" and "Emotional Symptoms" were chosen by nearly half of all respondents as the primary symptom types leading to relapse
*61% of those polled had attended an inpatient drug treatment program, with 34% of those failing or quitting the treatment early
*28% of respondents have relapsed 3-6 times, with another 20% relapsing more than 10 times
At Davis' clinic in South Florida, Post Acute Withdrawal is a primary focus of treatment. Recovery First, Inc. was founded by Davis more than a decade ago, and in that time he's helped thousands of addicts and alcoholics achieve sobriety. By addressing the condition on a national level, Davis hopes to bring awareness to both the medical community and the general public.
"Many people still view addiction as a matter or poor morals, weak will power or some other character defect. But the fact of the matter is that this is a progressive neurological disease that if left untreated invariably leads to death. Many of these deaths occur during a relapse episode caused by PAWS. This means that understanding this inactive state of addiction is critical in order to save lives, and that's where the survey comes in. By distributing these troubling results, we hope to transform the way we treat addicts.
The traditional focus has been to get addicts clean and get them out the door and into some support [networks], but this method does not address the fact that people in recovery will experience severe withdrawal-like symptoms for months after rehab. Without a plan to identify and manage PAWS symptoms, relapse is highly likely for people in the early stages of recovery."
According to an astonishing number of forums, chats, blog posts, articles and recovery communities, the symptoms of PAWS include cognitive impairment, balance and coordination problems, wild emotional disturbances, sexual dysfunction, communication and socialization impairment and a wide range of physical ailments like headaches and sleep disturbances. However, the primary symptom that most people in recovery report is a profound, often uncontrollable urge to use drugs or drink again despite devastating consequences.
Preventing relapse is the singular focus at Recovery First, Inc. - the leading sponsor and driving force behind the 2013 PAWS Survey. Interestingly, when James F. Davis, CEO speaks about addiction, recovery and relapse, he isn't just speaking from a professional standpoint. 32 years ago he was severely addicted to cocaine and had been nursing a lifelong problem with alcoholism that almost killed him. Now he says his mission is to ensure that other addicts don't travel a similar path.
Eric Oakes, LCSW and chief clinician at Recovery First, agrees that treatment of Post Acute Withdrawal is the most effective method of helping addicts avoid a relapse that could lead to imprisonment, illness or death;
"It's not over when an addict or alcoholic leaves rehab, and this is where most treatment centers fail. According to the PAWS survey, the majority of people in recovery experience the most debilitating symptoms with the most likely propensity to relapse within 6 months or less of completing a rehab program. If we don't prepare them for this, we have failed them as treatment providers."
The Post Acute Withdrawal survey is a 20-question survey that polled 1,246 addicts and alcoholics over the course of more than 6 months. The entire survey including raw data, formal results and graphic representations can be found on the following URL: http://www.postacutewithdrawal.org/post-acute-withdrawal-survey/. Davis, Recovery First, Inc. and PostAcuteWithdrawal.org have given public permission for all survey results and data to be republished or used for any purpose with proper attribution.
Plans to broaden the survey with questions related to specific drugs of abuse and how those symptoms might compare with other substances are in development. An updated version of the PAWS survey will be available in early October 2013.
To learn more about the PAWS survey or to get involved call 954-378-9202 Or Email: jim(at)postacutewithdrawal(dot)org, or editor(at)recoveryfirst(dot)org