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Alcohol Withdrawal

Even casual, mild drinkers may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Many chalk this up to having a hangover and think nothing of it, but those hangover symptoms are actually the body’s way of detoxing from the alcohol.

Alcoholism is running rampant in the United States. In fact, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, there are 17.6 million adults struggling with an addiction to alcohol today in America. Drinking is oftentimes portrayed in the media as harmless and a great way to have fun, but the reality is that regular drinking can cause the brain to become addicted, causing psychological and physical dependence.

Chances are you or someone you know has a problem with managing their alcohol intake and could very well be experiencing various problems because of it.

WHAT ARE ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS?

Whether it’s mild, moderate, or severe alcohol addiction, quitting will cause the body to start detoxing from the toxins associated with alcohol. Some of the withdrawal symptoms can be quite uncomfortable – even dangerous. This is why addiction specialists state that those seeking to stop drinking should do so under the care of a physician, preferably in a detox treatment environment.

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Hand tremors
  • Depression
  • Sleep issues
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shaking
  • Mood swings
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

More severe withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremors (DTs)

WHAT ARE THE STAGES OF ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL TIMELINE?

It can be dangerous to stop using alcohol, which is why most addiction specialists agree that detoxing in a medical facility is the safest method of detoxing. The pace at which one gets through detox, as well as the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, will vary from person to person depending on various factors, such as:

  • How long you’ve been drinking
  • The severity of the addiction
  • How frequently you drink
  • Medical history
  • Polydrug use
  • Metabolism
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Weight

Typically, the timeframe to get through alcohol withdrawal is about one week. More specifically, the timeframe is as follows:

6 -12 HOURS

You may begin to feel withdrawal symptoms as fast as six to 12 hours after the last drink. These may include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, and fatigue.

12 – 48 HOURS

At this stage, some of the withdrawal symptoms can intensify, especially for heavy drinkers or those who have been drinking regularly for a long time. Therefore, monitoring by a healthcare professional is important. Common AWS during this stage are:

  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Hands shaking
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizures

DAYS 2-3

During this stage, some symptoms can become severe, so it’s essential to be under the care of a physician, preferably at a detox center. The physician can monitor you and administer medications to help with the most dangerous symptoms. Common symptoms during this state include:

  • Fever
  • Vivid hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)
  • Seizures
  • Confusion

WHY SHOULD I DETOX?

Detoxing under the care of a physician or addiction specialist is the safest way to detox from alcohol. No one should try to quit drinking cold turkey or abruptly because of the daunting and dangerous withdrawal symptoms that could arise.

Detox is necessary, as the body will have to get rid of the poisons associated with alcohol. However, just getting through detox isn’t enough to assure continued sobriety. Detox is simply the first step toward recovery from alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Continued treatment for any underlying psychological factors will be necessary.

WILL I GET MEDICATION TO HELP WITH WITHDRAWALS?

It’s fairly common for medical detox facilities to administer helpful medications to help with moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms. These medications can help deter hallucinations and seizures, and can also help relieve anxiety that might come with getting off of alcohol. The most common medications given for withdrawals are:

BENZODIAZEPINES

If the withdrawal symptoms are fairly severe and a lot of discomfort and anxiety are being experienced, “benzos” may be prescribed to help curb such symptoms. This type of medication has a calming effect on the body. There are short-acting benzos like Ativan and Xanax and long-acting benzos like Klonopin and Librium. The long-acting benzos may be prescribed for the initial few days of the harshest withdrawal symptoms, followed by a week or two of the short-acting benzos. Keep in mind that benzos can be addictive and should only be taken as prescribed. And, coming off of them should be done under the care of a physician.

ANTI-CONVULSANTS

For heavy drinkers who attend alcohol detox, anticonvulsants may be prescribed to prevent seizures.

BETA-BLOCKERS

Attending a medical detox allows you or your loved one to be surrounded and monitored by medical professionals who will be able to treat any medical issues that arise. This ought to bring you comfort and ease, knowing that you are in safe, reliable hands.

While at an alcohol detox center, you’ll be able to rest while going through detox. As your body cleanses itself from the harmful chemicals associated with alcohol, medical staff will make you feel comfortable with support and encouragement. The detox process usually lasts between three to five days, and then you’ll have the option to continue treatment at an inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab or you can create a recovery plan that suits your desires. Either way, continued treatment is quite beneficial.

WHAT IS THE NEXT TREATMENT STEP?

A common question among those entering alcohol or drug detox is whether or not substance abuse treatment will be necessary after detox. If you ask substance abuse professionals, most of them will tell you that aftercare treatment is necessary and helpful.

If you’re thinking about detox, it’s a good idea to think about what types of aftercare treatments are available to help you continue to abstain from alcohol and fully recover. Here are two types of treatments available after detox for you to consider:

INPATIENT TREATMENT CENTER

Inpatient rehab centers are for those who might not be ready to go home just yet after detox. It is there you will be able to learn about the disease of alcoholism, 12 step recovery groups, be assisted with creating a relapse plan, formulate a treatment plan, and have individual counseling. You will also meet others who, like you, are ready to embrace sobriety and make positive changes in their lives. If by chance you do not have suitable housing, the staff there can assist you with finding suitable shelter.

OUTPATIENT TREATMENT

You can opt to receive outpatient treatment at regular intervals at various mental health agencies in your community. There are usually individual and group counseling sessions available that will help you deal with emotional issues and help you learn how to face life and its problems without picking up alcohol or drugs. This is a good choice for those who have family or work responsibilities and cannot reside at the treatment center for the duration of treatment.

Detox is a great way to begin your new life of recovery, but don’t forget to have an aftercare plan in mind for when you complete the detox program. It is important to surround yourself with a solid support system to help you with your recovery efforts.

START YOUR JOURNEY TO RECOVERY TODAY

If you or your loved one are struggling with an addiction to alcohol, know that treatment is available. You don’t have to try to stop drinking on your own. Chances are, you’ve already tried, but sooner or later get back to drinking.

Perhaps it’s time to reach out for help from professionals trained to get people free from addiction. Recovery isn’t something you have to do alone. We’re here and we care. Please give us a call today and take that first step toward recovery from alcoholism.

Sources

National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence. Facts About Alcohol from https://www.facingaddiction.org/resources/facts-about-alcohol

Medline Plus. Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse from https://medlineplus.gov/alcoholismandalcoholabuse.html

Web MD. Understanding Alcohol Disorder: The Basics from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/understanding-alcohol-abuse-basics#1

Web MD. What is Alcohol Withdrawal? from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments#1

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