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The Good News Is Alcohol Withdrawal Is Easily Treated

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

By BuddyT

Anyone who drinks more than a moderate amount of alcohol, can experience discomfort when they stop drinking. Those who drink heavily or have been drinking for a long period of time will almost certainly have withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly quit drinking.

For some drinkers, the withdrawal symptoms can be very mild; they may experience some mild discomfort for a short period of time and nothing more. For others, however, the withdrawal after ceasing alcohol consumption can been severe, producing extremely uncomfortable symptoms that can last for days, if not weeks.

Some symptoms, such as not being able to sleep well, can last for months. And, for some chronic heavy drinkers, withdrawal symptoms can even be life-threatening.

How Severe Will They Be?

There are many factors that can determine the level of withdrawal symptoms you will have if you quit drinking. Some of them include:

  • How well your body normally metabolizes alcohol
  • How much you consume when you drink
  • How long you have been drinking
  • If your drinking has damaged your liver
  • How you protect yourself against the symptoms

No. 1 Cause of Relapse

Withdrawal symptoms can happen to anyone who drinks. They most often occur in adults, but they can also occur in teens and children. Anyone who has ever drank enough alcohol to get a "hangover" has experience some form of alcohol withdrawal.

Whether they range from mild to moderate to severe - from a lack of sleep, a general feeling of malaise, to full-blown seizures - alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the No. 1 cause of relapse in people who are trying to quit drinking.

As the symptoms increase and linger for too long, many trying to stop drinking will instead reach for a drink to stop the discomfort.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Typically, the first withdrawal symptoms will begin to occur within 8 hours after you take your last drink, however, some symptoms may not show up until days after you quit.

Symptoms will usually reach their peak between 24 and 72 hours after quitting, but some symptoms can go on for weeks. Symptoms such as sleep disruption, rapid changes in mood, and fatigue may last for months.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Jumpiness or shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Not thinking clearly

Other symptoms may include:

  • Sweating, clammy skin
  • Enlarged (dilated) pupils
  • Headache
  • Insomnia (sleeping difficulty)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pallor
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremor of the hands or other body parts

Delirium Tremens

A severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens (DTs) can cause:

  • Agitation
  • Fever
  • Seeing or feeling things that aren't there (hallucinations)
  • Seizures
  • Severe confusion

Withdrawal Symptoms Can Be Treated

You might think, if you have been drinking a lot or for a long time, that you might not want to try to quit because of the severity of the symptoms you might experience. If you have ever experience severe withdrawal symptoms you may have decided that you do not want to go there again!

The good news is that alcohol withdrawal symptoms can easily be treated to the point that you may not even experience any physical discomfort at all, or very little.

Outpatient Treatment of Withdrawal

If your withdrawal symptoms are mild to moderate, they can usually be treated on an outpatient basis. Your primary care physician, or a clinic that specializes in alcohol detoxification, can provide you with medication that will relieve most of the symptoms.

It is important, however, that even in an outpatient setting that you have someone who can monitor you during the withdrawal period just in case your symptoms turn severe.

An outpatient alcohol treatment program will usually include the following:

  • Sedative medication to help ease the symptoms
  • Medication to help you sleep
  • Blood tests to check for health problems
  • Counseling to discuss the long-term alcohol issues
  • Treatment for any other medical problems linked to alcohol use

Inpatient Treatment

If your symptoms are moderate to severe, however, you may need short-term impatient treatment as you go through withdrawal where you will be monitored closely for signs of DTs.

This type of treatment is generally called detoxification or "detox" and is provided by some hospitals or other facilities that specialize in substance abuse detoxification.

If you go to detox, your treatment will likely include:

  • Monitoring of blood pressure
  • Monitoring body temperature, heart rate
  • Blood tests for different chemicals in the body
  • Fluids or medicines given through by IV
  • Sedation using medicines until withdrawal is complete

Relax, Treatment Works!

The detoxification process for severe alcohol withdrawal usually will last up to a week to 10 days. (Some symptoms of DTs do not show up until about 6 days into abstinence).

The good news is the treatment works. Even if you have extreme withdrawal symptoms they can be reduced and sometimes eliminated if treated properly.

If you want to stop drinking, for whatever reason, you don't have to concern yourself with the looming prospect of dealing with withdrawal. There are professional treatment programs that have years of experience making the process as comfortable as possible.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine. "Alcohol withdrawal." Drugs & Supplements Updated Jan 14, 2017

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