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Alcohol Withdrawal

It doesn’t take a Google search to know the inherent dangers associated with alcohol; but were you aware that it is widely considered the most dangerous drug in the world? Its destruction goes deep into the roots of this country, and nearly 88,000 men and women die each year from alcohol-related causes. Many would assume that with a number so high you wouldn’t be able to walk into a store and purchase the substance. Unfortunately, that’s the truth.

Alcoholism has seeped into society and affects us on a global scale. Despite its global reach, men and women in the U.S. succumb to alcohol use disorder (AUD) every day. While the statistics were released in 2015, we can all agree that the numbers have probably grown significantly since that time. It’s a devastating figure that demands more attention.

Before we can touch on these issues, we need to focus on the image of the drug portrayed by the mass media. It is viewed as a substance that can add to your fun at social events, but for most, it is a highly addictive substance that often turns deadly. Alcohol addiction will cause problems for many who use it, and these can include health problems, legal matters, or relationship issues.

What Are the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

If you’ve developed an alcohol addiction, it is common to experience withdrawal symptoms upon abrupt cessation of alcohol. When you consume alcohol regularly, it is common for the body to develop what is known as a tolerance for the substance.

Tolerance refers to your body requiring more substantial amounts of alcohol to experience the euphoric effects you’re used to feeling. You may have only needed a beer or two to feel buzzed, but now your body may require two or three times the amount to feel that. It is indicative of a growing tolerance.

Tolerance is one of the reasons why withdrawal symptoms will occur if you try to cut back or stop drinking. The more alcohol someone drinks, the more intense they should expect their withdrawal symptoms to be.

There are various withdrawal symptoms someone can expect, which include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • A loss of appetite
  • Tremors in the body & hands
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Twitching eyelids
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs)

Psychological symptoms that should be expected include:

  • Depression
  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Confusion
  • Increased anxiety
  • Cravings for alcohol

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a sometimes fatal reaction to alcohol withdrawal. Estimates point out that one in 20 people in alcohol withdrawal will experience delirium tremens. If you are struggling with severe alcohol addiction, you need to detox under the safety of addiction specialists to ensure this does not occur.

Delirium tremens symptoms include:

  • High fever
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Severe hallucinations
  • Feeling detached from the world
  • Excessive sleep
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors

What Are the States of the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?

If you consume massive amounts of alcohol and decide to stop at once, you should expect some form of alcohol withdrawal. There are three stages when it comes to this process, and it involves mild, moderate, and severe symptoms. 

The amount of time you can expect withdrawal to last is going to vary. You can expect the type of symptoms to as well. Some of these factors include:

  • Metabolism
  • Dietary habits
  • Mental health
  • How much alcohol you consume on a consistent basis
  • The amount of time you’ve been using alcohol
  • Overall health
  • If drugs are being used in conjunction with alcohol
  • Age

Knowing the alcohol withdrawal timeline will be essential during your process. You must prepare yourself mentally for what is next. A general timeline consists of:

  • Day 1: Overall symptoms will be mild, and a craving for the substance will be the most prevalent. You may not know you are experiencing any symptoms. The other common mild symptoms include anxiety, headache, stress, fatigue, nausea, shakiness, or just feeling sick.
  • Day 2: At the 12 to 48-hour point, you will experience much more intense symptoms. During this period, you will be the safest under the supervision of a medical team. If you consider yourself a heavy drinker, you must get help. You should be concerned about grave consequences without the right care. Delirium tremens is possible during this point.
  • Days 3-4: You will likely feel awful by now, and this is still a period when heavy drinkers should be monitored for DTs or seizures. Severe symptoms can include fever, confusion, and hallucinations. Withdrawal can be intense enough to cause death. You must take medical precautions.

Symptoms may still appear after a week, but they will start to dissipate. You may have lingering cravings and mood swings, but you must stay focused on your recovery.

Why Should I Detox?

Only a few drugs will pose extreme dangers when going through detox – alcohol is one of those. Detox is the first and most intensive step on a path to freedom from addiction. Medical detox works by ensuring your safety with specialists at a hospital or residential treatment center. You will be provided with medications that help the intensity and severity of your withdrawal.

In extreme cases, the person could be tapered off alcohol over a short period. It will be done under the care of a physician to ensure safety. You should never stop using alcohol by yourself because it can be life-threatening. You must speak with a substance abuse professional.

What Is The Next Treatment Step?

After a short stint in detox, you will move into the next step of care. The time spent here will vary based on your addiction level. Once you leave, the addiction specialists may place you into a residential treatment center, intensive outpatient center, or outpatient facility.

Treatment will be responsible for helping you overcome lingering symptoms and focus on your sobriety. Moving forward with treatment will give you the best chance of long-term recovery. You will be placed in therapies that help you understand the root cause of your addiction and help you move forward on your path to a better life.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 8: Medical detoxification. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction/section-iii/7-medical-detoxification

Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Alcohol Withdrawal. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/alcohol-withdrawal-a-to-z

Rahman, A. (2018, November 18). Delirium Tremens (DT). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482134/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). 6: Definition of tolerance. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/teaching-packets/neurobiology-drug-addiction/section-iii-action-heroin-morphine/6-definition-tolerance

(2019, August 8). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

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