Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms and the Treatment for Them

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Find out what to expect when suddenly stopping alcohol intake and how to deal with these symptoms of alcohol withdrawal safely.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

A person who cuts back on or stops drinking alcohol may experience a number of symptoms together referred to as “alcohol withdrawal syndrome” (AWS). These signs and symptoms show up when a person with AUD engages in extended, excessive alcohol use—or even when only brief bouts of high alcohol consumption occur. According to studies, 15% of people in the West struggle with AUD, and when they cut back on alcohol, half of them experience AWS. 15% of AUD patients experience severe symptoms that are fatal.

Sweating, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, fever, shaky palms, and an accelerated heart rate are some of the signs of alcohol withdrawal. Seizures, delirium tremens, and hallucinations are the more severe AWS symptoms (DTs). The majority of the time, symptoms begin six hours after the last drink and peak between 24 and 72 hours afterward. The symptoms should greatly diminish after a week.

Managing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Most medical professionals would advise doing alcohol detox in a hospital setting where they can receive care and medication to help them feel better and manage their symptoms. There are methods for controlling AWS without a doctor’s supervision, though. It’s crucial to make sure the person detoxifying is in a cozy and encouraging setting, with someone assigned to watch over them carefully. Drinking plenty of water, eating balanced meals, and taking frequent cold showers will all be beneficial. Gentle exercise, yoga, walks, reading, picking up an old pastime, focusing on mindfulness, concentrating on breathing methods, and listening to relaxing music all assist in lessening minor AWS symptoms. Focusing on the endgame of detox and overcoming cravings can help the person succeed. Regular checks of the temperature, blood pressure, and pulse should be done, and if there are any significant changes or the person exhibits severe symptoms, medical attention should be sought.

Where to Undergo Alcohol Detox

The initial step in treating AUD is alcohol detoxification, which involves draining the alcohol from the body and managing the side effects of the body’s loss of dependence on alcohol. Because alcohol is a depressant and dependence causes the body to cease generating some chemicals, the detoxification process requires time to give the body time to adjust and return to a state where it is not dependent on alcohol. There are two basic ways to detox: either by doing it at home without medical supervision, or in a facility with medical staff to monitor the patient, provide medication, and help with withdrawal symptoms. The alternative detox approach involves performing the procedure at home with a committed family member watching over the requirements of the individual detoxing. Home detox is often advised for cases of less severe alcoholism and in cases when the person has not previously experienced significant alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Is Alcohol Detox Required?

A detoxification procedure is required before starting treatment for alcohol dependence in order to get the patient ready for any evidence-based therapies. According to research, starting treatment immediately after a successful detox increases the likelihood of success and results in a longer term of abstinence. One of the key elements in the success of an efficient AUD therapy is the patient’s mental state as well as the curbing of yearning. Addiction specialists advise that after alcohol detox, a period of psychological counseling be undertaken in order to identify the causes of alcohol usage.

Medication Used for Alcohol Detox

Several different drugs are used during alcohol detox in a medical setting to deal with the withdrawal symptoms and to maintain the patient’s body’s chemical balance. Medical professionals may keep an eye on the patient and the medication’s effects, and if there are any unwanted side effects, they can recommend alternative treatments. Some of the most popular drugs used in alcohol detox include acamprosate, sold under the brand name Campral, benzodiazepines like chlordiazepoxide (Librium), diazepam (Valium), naltrexone (also known as ReVia, Depade, and the injectable form, Vivitrol), and other drugs like disulfiram.

Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures

There is a chance that cutting back on or ceasing drinking can result in seizures in certain people, especially those who have strong alcohol dependence or high alcohol consumption. In some situations, drinking alcohol by itself can cause seizures if it isn’t stopped or reduced. Seizures related to alcohol withdrawal can happen anywhere between a few hours and a few days following the last drink. Furthermore, someone who has previously experienced seizures is more likely to do so again.

Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures

Since there is no set amount of AUD or time frame that can establish whether a person will be at risk for seizures or not, the science of seizure prediction is inconclusive. But generally speaking, the likelihood of seizures occurring increases with the length of alcohol dependence and level of drinking. If someone has experienced seizures in the past, there is a strong probability that they will do so again.

Helping Someone Struggling with Alcohol Addiction

There are numerous ways to support a loved one who is struggling with alcohol addiction. First, educate yourself as much as you can on AUD. Online resources abound, or you can consult a professional who specialises in addiction. Practice your exact response before talking to a close friend or family member about your circumstances. Make sure the remarks are uplifting and supportive. Additionally important are choosing the appropriate setting and occasion, as well as approaching the AUD sufferer with candour, compassion, and an open ear. Provide love and support, and if required, organise an intervention with the help of others or specialists.

Things That Help With Alcohol Detox

The presence of a loved one to supervise the procedure and a supportive setting are factors that aid in alcohol detoxification. It helps to be in a serene setting with calming lighting, music, and minimal human contact. It is beneficial to lead a healthy lifestyle that includes wholesome foods, enough fluids, and thoughtful pursuits like yoga and meditation. Other techniques for detoxing from alcohol include reading, taking cold baths, writing letters to oneself, and even going on a walk in the woods.

Delirium Tremens Treatment

When delirium treatments (DTs) occur during detox, it is regarded as a medical emergency and requires medical staff observation and pharmaceutical administration. Because severe DTs can be fatal and the symptoms can deteriorate quickly, intensive care may be required in some instances. Benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and barbiturates, such as phenobarbital, are used to treat delirium tremens if the benzodiazepines are ineffective at controlling symptoms. Antipsychotic haloperidol (Haldol), which lessens agitation and hallucinations and enables the patient to think more clearly, may also be administered.

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and depend on several factors, including the period, volume, and severity of the AUD. Casual drinkers hardly ever show any symptoms when they cut back or stop drinking. Seizures, a racing heart, high blood pressure, excessive sweating, fever, confusion, hallucinations, as well as the ability to see, feel, or hear things that are not there, as well as delirium tremens, are some of the severe symptoms that can occur. Mild symptoms may include anxiety, headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, nausea, sweating, and trembling hands. The mild symptoms can be alleviated in a variety of ways, including eating highly nutritious food and drinking liquids. Additionally, medication can be prescribed, especially if the alcohol detox is managed in a medical setting. A medical expert will need to supervise the patient if the symptoms are more severe because they may require medication and counseling. The individual detoxifying from alcohol must be under the care of a medical professional because severe symptoms can be dangerous and even fatal.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

The most recommended method of treating alcoholism is to go through a medically supervised detox process, which is then followed by a thorough psychological evaluation and inpatient treatment that a facility like The Hills offers. Inpatient treatment centres can handle detox, and their skilled and knowledgeable addiction specialists can offer evidence-based treatment methods that guarantee long-term sobriety and success in beating AUD.

The Timeline for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The minor withdrawal symptoms, which might include anxiety, headaches, nausea, vomiting, sleeplessness, and shaky hands, can start as soon as six hours after the last drink. Hallucinations and the ability to see, feel, or hear things that aren’t there can happen between 12 hours and 2 days. A lot of people experience seizures during the first 48 hours. Within 48 to 72 hours, delirium tremens, vivid hallucinations, and delusions can happen, though not necessarily in every person. Other symptoms during this time include a racing heart, high blood pressure, excessive sweating, fever, and even confusion. The majority of alcohol withdrawal symptoms would have vanished within two weeks.

There is a variety of mild to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and the best way to manage them is to go through detox in a facility that can supervise the procedure and has medical experts on hand in case any significant problems arise. The prediction of life-threatening symptoms in severe AUD is not assured, even with the most thorough exams and screenings by medical professionals. Patients who have previously only shown mild symptoms can detox at home, but inpatient detox treatment in a facility under medical supervision is advised for those who have moderate to severe symptoms.

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Dr. Sutthipan Takkapaijit

Dr. Sutthipan Takkapaijit

Clinical Psychiatrist

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