Alcohol Withdrawal: Signs & Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal can be a serious and potentially life-threatening physical state. Many alcoholics not only crave alcohol, but need it in order to keep withdrawal at bay. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for, especially from someone who may be trying to manage or hide their drinking.

How do you become addicted to alcohol?

 

There are more ways to become addicted to alcohol than just physically. There are also cultural and spiritual reasons as to why someone may be an alcoholic. Social pressure, inept feelings of self-worth and depression can lead a person down the road of becoming dependent on alcohol, but ultimately physical dependence is always what lies at the end.

Biologically, when one consumes alcohol on an excessive and regular basis, their bodies become physically dependent upon it and undergo drastic changes, especially concerning their brain chemistry. Alcohol alters the brain, shifting its natural balance, communication, structures and function. Without alcohol, the user is left craving the chemicals released by the brain upon alcohol consumption. Despite this, we are not slaves to our own biology and it also does not completely drive our behavior.

 

What is alcohol withdrawal?

 

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is the potentially life-threatening condition that one becomes subjected to when completely ceasing or significantly reducing the amount of alcohol consumption after a period of days, weeks, or even years. Symptoms can begin within hours after the last drink, range from days to weeks, and the scope of symptoms can vary from mere anxiety to grand maul seizures.

 

What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

 

Here is a list of various signs and symptoms of someone suffering from alcohol withdrawal:

• Anxiety
• Depression
• Sweating
• Seizures
• Insomnia
• Nightmares
• Headaches
• Nausea / Vomiting
• Shaky Hands / Extremities
• Confusion / Disorientation
• Aural / Visual Hallucinations
• Hypertension
• Delirium Tremens*

 

* Delirium tremens, also known as “the DTs”, is also a very common condition associated with alcohol withdrawal. It is the psychotic condition as a result of alcohol withdrawal characterized by tremors, hallucinations, high anxiety, disorientation and seizures.

 

How can alcohol withdrawal be managed?

 

There are various treatment options when it comes to treating alcohol withdrawal and its symptoms. For anyone who has consumed alcohol for any extended period of time, it is important to have a medical professional involved, as the situation can be life threatening.

Common treatment includes the use of benzodiazepines, but this needs to be carefully monitored by a physician as these types of drugs can also become addictive. Sometimes high doses may be required simply to prevent mortality. A patient will typically be sedated with drugs such as Valium, Ativan, Librium or Serax, or in extreme cases an antipsychotic may be involved. Having a supportive and controlled environment is also a key factor, as a detoxing alcoholic will have a strong desire to drink again in order to medicate their symptoms. Because of this, checking into a detoxification facility or hospital is highly suggested.

Remember, physical addiction is merely one aspect of alcoholism. Alcoholics drink to the point of physical dependence for many reasons. For anyone to achieve true recovery from addiction, lifestyle and spiritual factors must be taken into account.

 

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