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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms What is alcohol withdrawal syndrome?

When someone who has been abusing alcohol for a long time, suddenly stops or reduces the alcohol intake, he/she might suffer from something known as ‘Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome’.

Alcohol abuse interferes with the neurotransmitters in your brain which produce feelings of relaxation, endorphins and your sense of well-being. A sudden or unexpected withdrawal can result in seriously unpleasant side effects including (but not limited to) confusion, restlessness, palpitations and even seizures, particularly in long term alcoholics.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol also affects your body’s ability to produce Dopamine, a chemical which is linked to your naturally occurring ‘reward center’. As your alcohol intake increases, your body will come to depend on it to produce Dopamine – this means that when heavy alcohol intake suddenly ceases, your natural production of Dopamine will plummet, casing withdrawal symptoms and the associated cravings.

Symptoms of withdrawal

There are three distinct stages of alcohol withdrawal. The minor stages usually commence anywhere from 6 – 12 hours after alcohol cessation. The onset of moderate symptoms usually starts within 12-24 hours and major symptoms between 48 and 72 hours later.

Mild symptoms include nausea, vomiting, mild tremors, headache, anxiety and loss of appetite. The moderate stage of withdrawal can bring the onset of confusion, mood swings, sweats, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, a higher state of anxiety and irritability. The severe stage (Delirium tremens) includes hallucinations, seizures, fever, irregular heart rate, body tremors, and profuse sweating.

Severity of these symptoms depends on several factors – how long the individual has been addicted, the extent of the abuse and medical history, all play a part in how many of the symptoms are experienced, and to what level. If you do experience any of these symptoms after reducing or completely withdrawing alcohol, it is crucial that you contact a medical practitioner as soon as possible, as they can become life threatening if not treated quickly.

Delirium Tremens

The DT’s as they are known are the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal and can have a serious effect on mental health and your nervous system. Although there is no hard and fast rule for when DT’s will occur, it is more likely in people with long term alcohol addiction (greater than 10 years), or who have abused alcohol on a daily basis for a period of many months. The symptoms frequently include fear, mood swings, altered cognitive functioning, a comatose like state and at a more serious level, seizures. All of these symptoms can worsen suddenly, so it is important to seek medical advice if you suspect Delirium Tremens in yourself or in your loved one.

How long does it take to Detox?

Again, there is no conclusive answer to how long alcohol rehab can take. A variety of factors is likely to come into play and will include the length and severity of the addiction, and any other substance abuse issues. Programs can last anything from a week to several weeks, and you can expect your symptoms to tail off after around 7 days. Cravings and less severe symptoms might continue for considerably longer.

Alcohol treatment

Essentially, there are two types of treatment for alcohol addiction – Partial hospitalization and outpatient. If you are treated for an Partial hospitalization , you will receive 24 hour care under the supervision of a medical team which includes doctors, nurses or other care professionals. They will provide medication if required, as well as identifying nutritional and other therapies to help you detox safely.

If you are treated as an outpatient, you will continue to live in your normal place of residence, but still be visited by the appropriate care professionals while you continue your detox. Although the cost is lower and they may offer some flexibility if you have work or family commitments for example, outcomes are generally better if you are initially treated as an Partial hospitalization. For severe addiction to alcohol, outpatient treatment might also not be clinically indicated due to the risk of withdrawal becoming dangerous.

How is alcohol addiction treated?
Detoxification at home:

Although this is possible for mild or short term alcohol addiction, its use should be carefully considered due to the potential dangers of withdrawal. If in doubt, it is best to consult your Doctor prior to attempting this.

Professional Medical Detox:

Apart from the inherent dangers of sudden alcohol withdrawal, there can be little doubt that outcomes are markedly improved by carefully supervised withdrawal and the receipt of emotional and physical support from a specialist medical team. They will be able to monitor your progress and tailor a package of support suited to your particular physical, mental and emotional needs, as well as responding to any symptoms that you might not have been expecting. Visit slorecoverycenters.com for more information and get your alcohol addiction related problems addressed in a scientific manner.

Detox medications

There are a small group of medications that are currently approved for use in the treatment of alcohol addiction – Antabuse, Campral and Naltrexone.

They all work in slightly different ways, but each has shown to be highly effective in helping to alleviate the immediate symptoms of withdrawal and to help with the cravings that are frequently associated with cessation of alcohol.

Getting help

If you are concerned about your own alcohol intake, or worried about a loved one or family member, it is essential that you seek medical advice prior to detox commencing. Many alcoholics are able to hide the level of their abuse (sometimes even from themselves), so it can be hard to accurately gauge the amount that someone is drinking, and to subsequently make an informed choice about the likely safety of withdrawing alcohol.

It is also statistically more likely that long term recovery will be achieved if the addicted person is supported by professionals during their withdrawal and recovery – SLO recovery centers take pride in putting the person at the center of the recovery process as we believe that the treatment of the causes of addiction is as important as treating the symptom. We help you on the path to a happier, more fulfilling life with empathetic and holistic care in a warm and non-judgmental environment.