If you are thinking of cutting down on your alcohol consumption, or are attempting to quit drinking altogether, then it is essential to familiarise yourself with alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the body’s reaction when someone who has been drinking heavily decides to stop suddenly. They range from mild to severe but can be managed efficiently with the proper help and support.
The extent of the experience of withdrawal symptoms is dependent on a number of factors. This blog will explore what alcohol withdrawal syndrome is, what happens to the body and brain when reducing alcohol consumption, and what to expect from alcohol withdrawal treatment.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is the term used for alcohol withdrawal symptoms felt after a person stops drinking. If you drink heavily, you will likely experience severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms compared to those who only drink every once in a while.
Withdrawal symptoms can also be experienced if a person with an alcohol use disorder significantly reduces their intake.
If a person continues to drink regularly despite withdrawal symptoms, they will likely find that withdrawal symptoms will worsen. Hence the importance of reducing the amount you drink if you begin to experience any symptoms.
What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol is a depressant that suppresses the central nervous system, which induces feelings of relaxation and euphoria. If a person decides to stop drinking, the system becomes overactive, and a person will experience alcohol withdrawal.
Typical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include:
- Tremors or shakes
- Sleep disturbances, e.g. difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- High blood pressure
Factors that influence the intensity of withdrawal symptoms are based on the individual who has stopped drinking. They include:
- Amount of alcohol consumed
- Frequency of drinking
- The use of other drugs
Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline
Research has suggested there are general guidelines that those who experience withdrawal symptoms should follow. Of course, no withdrawal experience is the same, as it is all dependent on personal factors. This includes the level of alcohol abuse or the length of time drinking; either way, the severity of symptoms will differ for each individual.
A typical alcohol withdrawal timeline is as follows:
Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be felt as soon as six hours after a person’s last drink. This includes symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, mild anxiety, and nausea.
12 – 24 hours
Most people experience withdrawal symptoms within eight hours of stopping drinking. More severe symptoms can be felt at this stage. Some people are even reported to experience hallucinations. This is when a person can see, feel or hear things that aren’t actually present.
24 – 72 hours
Mild symptoms can still be felt during this time period. They typically peak at around 18 – 24 hours after a person’s last drink. Some people who drink heavily and then stop drinking will experience more severe withdrawal symptoms at this stage; this is what is known as delirium tremens.
At this point, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are at their worst. If a person is experiencing delirium tremens, they will peak and begin to diminish slowly 72 hours after a person has decided to stop drinking.
With the proper support and help, withdrawal symptoms can be easily managed. Do not hesitate to ask for help!
Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are caused by changes in brain functioning and activity brought on by excessive alcohol use.
If someone partakes in heavy drinking regularly, their brain will eventually develop a chemical dependence on the substance. Thus, when a person decides to suddenly stop drinking, the body cannot function, sending it into a state of shock.
Alcohol is a depressant and works by suppressing the central nervous system. Over time, our central nervous system gets used to this suppression; therefore, if your alcohol level suddenly drops, you will be affected.
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms
Although experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms is rare, it is difficult to say who will experience these compared to mild symptoms.
Some severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are potentially life-threatening and need to be treated immediately. Research has found that one in ten people who experience alcohol withdrawal are affected by withdrawal seizures. If left untreated, then people may experience delirium tremens.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- high body temperature
If you believe you or a loved one are experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it is important to seek professional medical advice to help you manage these symptoms. These symptoms can be extremely dangerous if left untreated.
Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
If you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it may be because you are partaking in binge drinking or alcohol misuse.
It was suggested that, for women, one drink a day, seven days a week, is regarded as alcohol misuse. And for men, it is two drinks per day, seven days a week.
Regularly partaking in alcohol misuse or binge drinking can contribute to the likelihood of developing an alcohol use disorder. This refers to excessive alcohol consumption despite negative consequences to your life, whether this is mentally, physically, or socially.
An alcohol use disorder is a medical condition that encompasses what is also referred to as; alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, or alcoholism. Research has found that 14.1 million adults who are over the age of 18 have experienced an alcohol use disorder in one single year.
If a person has an alcohol addiction, they will likely experience intense withdrawal symptoms if they decide to stop drinking. This is why it is common for many to continue drinking to avoid any discomforting and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Withdrawal
The first stage of treatment for an alcohol use disorder is alcohol detox. This is where you will undergo withdrawal in a safe and comfortable environment with the aid of a medical professional to ease any symptoms of withdrawal.
There are a variety of addiction treatment options that can support you in living and maintaining a sober life after an alcohol detox. These can be offered on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
Inpatient treatment requires patients to live in a medical facility or residential house, with 24-hour medical and emotional support.
Inpatient treatment allows patients to purely focus on their recovery journey without the distractions of everyday life. A typical inpatient programme can last from 28 days to 6 months.
An outpatient treatment option allows patients to live in the comfort of their own homes whilst receiving care and support from a health professional. You would attend therapy sessions when they are scheduled, whether this is group or individual therapy.
Outpatient therapy allows clients to practise coping mechanisms and deal with their alcohol abuse disorder whilst maintaining their regular day-to-day schedules.
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help reduce withdrawal symptoms or to aid with any mental health problems that may have arisen due to alcohol dependence or withdrawal. Some examples of medications that may be prescribed include:
- Benzodiazepines – reduce the likelihood of experiencing seizures
- Neuroleptic medications- help in depressing the nervous system to prevent seizures
- Nutritional support- alcohol use can cause nutrient deficiencies, so nutrients may be administered to make up for lost nutrients.
If you or someone you know is experiencing withdrawal symptoms or is attempting to self-detox, it is always important to seek medical guidance and attention to be safe. It is important to not only deal with the alcohol withdrawal symptoms but to tackle the root of the substance abuse too.
How to Relieve Symptoms
Although it is important to seek medical support when deciding to stop drinking, you may attempt to undergo the initial withdrawal process at home by yourself. It is important to know that doing so could put you at risk.
To help relieve symptoms of alcohol withdrawal it is recommended that:
- Keep hydrated and drink plenty of fluid (nonalcoholic).
- Eat regularly with a balanced diet.
- Take plenty of vitamins and minerals.
- Find ways to unwind and relax; whether this is going for a walk or listening to music, it is important to stay active.
- Seek support from your family and friends.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment at The Revoke Programme
The Revoke Programme offers exceptional outpatient care to support a person recovering from alcohol addiction. Everyone’s experience of alcohol addiction is different, and we recognise this within the treatment and aim to cater to each individual’s needs.
Our outpatient treatment allows clients to undergo treatment whilst still maintaining their everyday lives. We know the importance of staying involved with your work and family life, so wish to support this by providing medical experts that are able to guide you to lifelong recovery.
Our programme consists of:
- Individual therapy
- Cognitive-behavioural therapy
- Family therapy
- Couples therapy
If you have been struggling with alcohol abuse, please contact us today to discuss options to support you in reclaiming your life.