Are you a full-blown alcoholic? Or a casual consumer of alcohol?
Are you experiencing headache, tremors, sleeplessness, anxiety, bodily weakness, and other forms of abnormalities in your body?
Welcome to the team!
You’re experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and you can overcome it with proper guidance.
Whether you’re an alcoholics or a casual drinker, you must have experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
What Are Alcohol withdrawal symptoms ??
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are a series of biological reactions you experience when you stop drinking alcohol.
These symptoms vary from one person to another as it’s dependent on the volume and frequency of alcohol you consume.
For instance, a casual drinker who consumes a reasonable amount of alcohol every Saturday may experience minor symptoms like headache, nausea, and the not-too-good-feeling.
However, an alcoholic who show up to every party and consume a massive volume of alcohol would experience severe withdrawal symptoms like sweating, tremors, sleeplessness, bodily weakness, anxiety, and lots of other biological abnormalities.
Here’s the thing — when you start drinking alcohol, your body adjusts to the foreign chemicals introduced into your system. Also, your bodily system becomes dependent on alcohol, the frequency, and your drinking pattern.
Reversing your bodily dependency on alcohol would take an enormous amount of effort — most times the process is not easy, and you’d need the services of professionals to help you go through the alcohol withdrawal phase.
Also Read: Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse: Signs, Risks and Side Effects
The severity of your symptoms is dependent on the frequency and amount of alcohol you consume. If you’re a heavy drinker, your symptoms would be severe. But casual drinkers would be affected mildly by their withdrawal from alcohol.
Also, if you’ve been through alcohol withdrawal once, and you’re quitting alcohol for the second time, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Causes of alcohol withdrawal symptoms
When you start consuming alcohol, it would slow down your brain and also changes the way messages are sent and received by your nerves — this is the depressive effect.
Furthermore, the nervous system adjusts and become reliant on alcohol to keep it in a relaxed state. And if you cut down (or stop) your consumption of alcohol, you’d trigger a different set of feeling which is evident with the withdrawal symptoms.
Being one of the addictive substance that’s legal in society, alcohol is consumed by almost every adult.
In the United States, 87% of the adult population consumes alcohol. And the number seems to be on the rise.
Alcohol consumption is not a bad idea. There are health benefits of consuming a little volume of alcohol. But when you exceed the average threshold, then you’ve got a problem.
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What’s more, the biological reactions you experience six to twelve hours after consuming alcohol make up phase 1 of the detox timeline.
The detox timeline is the time taken for your body to get rid of all alcohol from its system. This timeline varies from a few hours to weeks, and the time taken for your body to complete the detox process would be dependent on whether you’re a casual drinker or a chronic drinker.
The withdrawal symptoms accompany the alcohol detoxification (or detox) process. You’d experience some level of discomfort as you go through the detox process.
Here’s the thing — the detox period comes with lots of health risk. And you’d need the services of a professional to go through this phase.
It’s completely normal to experience withdrawal symptoms during the detox period. After all, if you want to stop consuming alcohol, your body would need to get rid of the remaining alcohol from your system.
Alcohol Withdrawal Phases
For a heavy drinker, you’d pass through four different phases namely;
- Phase 1 occurs within six to twelve hours after you stop taking alcohol
- Phase 2 occurs twelve to twenty-four hours after withdrawal from alcohol
- Phase 3 which happens twenty-four to forty-eight hours after you stop consuming alcohol
- Phase 4 which occurs two days to seven days after you stop taking alcohol
All these phases come with different symptoms, and you’d experience different biological feelings and reactions in each phase.
For chronic drinkers, during these seven days, you’d pass through severe symptom which may pose a high risk to your health.
However, the seven days suffering is worth it as you’d be able to live an alcohol-free life and boost your overall health and well being.
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Enough said. Here’s a detailed report of each phase with a comprehensive explanation that shows you why you feel the way you do.
Phase 1 — Occurs six to twelve hours after withdrawal.
In the first six to twelve hours of withdrawing from alcohol, you’d face symptoms like
There are chemicals in alcohol that could lead to dehydration. When you consume alcohol and these chemicals gain access into your system, your body will lose fluid.
Furthermore, the dehydration would lead to a decreased flow of fluid into your brain. When this happens, and your brain gets low fluid, you’d experience an unpleasant feeling (or head throb).
2. Insomnia (sleeping issues)
Unlike popular belief, alcohol does not offer quality sleep. It reduces the quality of your sleep.
What alcohol does is to help you to fall asleep quickly. This, on itself, is detrimental to your health as you’d only experience a low quality sleep.
Here’s how it works — there are three stages of sleep — the first stage, the middle stage (known as rapid eye movement or REM), and the final stage.
The first stage is when you’re still conscious of your environment or barely asleep. Dreams take place in the REM stage, and there are some muscular movements also.
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The final stage is the deep state. In the deep state, there are no eye and muscular movements — it’s the stage where you get complete restoration and replenishment of the body.
Naturally, the human body enters the deep state from the middle stage. And the transition is seamless.
However, alcohol makes you enter into the final sleep stage (deep state) without experiencing the first two stages — this goes against the natural design, and it’s unhealthy.
That’s why a person who consumes alcohol zooms off into a deep sleep (passes out quickly). And as the alcohol wane off, they recover from their state of unconsciousness.
Here’s something you may not know — the type of alcohol you drink is ethanol. And ethanol is not just an adult beverage; it’s also used to make antiseptics, soaps, and rocket fuels.
Therefore, too much intake of ethanol could lead to increased production of stomach acid.
You’d experience some level of stomach disturbance which could lead to nausea and vomiting.
Sweating is good for your body, but if you sweat excessively, then you’ve got a problem.
Contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn’t warm-up the body — alcoholic beverages doesn’t raise your temperature.
When you take a shot of rum or whiskey, the chemicals present in the alcohol will raise your heartbeat, making you experience a warm-up feeling.
When your heart rate is increased, there would be dilation of the blood vessels which results in sweating.
Everyone has some level of anxiety — it’s normal.
What’s not normal is severe anxiety which is particularly familiar with chronic drinkers.
Furthermore, when an alcoholic tries to quit drinking, the anxiety becomes more pronounced.
There are millions of neurotransmitters that send and receives messages from the brain. When alcohol is introduced into the mix, these neurotransmitters will be distorted, leading to a severe form of anxiety.
Studies show that 20% of people who abuse alcohol also suffer from a severe form of social anxiety.
6. Body Tremors
Long use of alcohol makes the brain to slow down — the activity level of the brain get reduced when it becomes used to the intake of alcohol.
Therefore, when you quit alcohol, your brain would be forced to perform at the normal level — and it does that at a fast pace.
The increased activity of the brain usually causes body shakes (or tremors). It may be as little as a handshake or irregular shakes in most body parts.
7. Increased crave for more alcohol
Just like every addictive substance, quitting is not easy, and you’d want more of the substance.
However, alcohol is unique. When you get addicted to drinking, you’re not just addicted to the wine or liquor, instead, you get addicted to the changes the ethanol causes to the brains — that’s why it’s pretty hard to quit alcohol abuse.
After six to twelve hours of withdrawal from alcohol, you’d be lured to take another drink — a sip. But if you fall into the desire, you’d be back to square one and pretty much start all over again.
The detox phase is an important step you’d have to take if you want to live an alcohol-free life.
The first phase may seem to be the worst — but the symptoms you see here are not fatal. Fatal symptoms are usually experienced during the third phase.
This makes it necessary for you to get prepared for the fatal symptoms with phase 1 and 2.
Phase 2 — Occurs twelve to twenty-four hours after withdrawal.
During phase 2, you’d experience some symptoms of phase 1, and a combination of other symptoms like loss of appetite, hallucination, and dehydration.
1. Loss of appetite
Loss of appetite seems to be prevalent among alcoholics who quit drinking. This is due to their unhealthy eating habits.
Generally, alcoholics tend to eat little food, while those that eat usually have a poor eating habit.
Therefore, the eating pattern develops into a habit which would be hard to break when they quit drinking.
During the detox phase, you’d experience alcoholic hallucinosis. This condition is as a result of an excess release of dopamine, low blood sugar, and the deficiency of vitamins.
What’s more, alcoholic hallucinosis is not always fatal, but it’s an unpleasant experience.
Dehydration is a common withdrawal symptom. The effects of dehydration are felt a few hours after withdrawal, but it’s heightened between twelve to twenty-four hours after withdrawal. And you’d get to feel the worse form dehydration.
However, the fight is worth it, and you’ll appreciate it even more when you’re free from alcohol.
Phase 3 — Occurs twenty-four to forty-eight hours after withdrawal.
So far, phases 1 and 2 are not fatal, and you’ve got nothing to fear. Phase 3, however, is lethal and dangerous. Alcoholics have to take proper care of themselves if they’re to survive phase 3 of the withdrawal symptoms.
It’s worthy to note that renowned artists like Nelsan Ellis and Amy Winehouse died from alcohol withdrawal symptoms — You see, it’s quite severe and fatal if properly managed.
By getting professional help, you can smoothly go through phase 3 without any fuss or misdirection.
Some symptoms you’d experience during phase 3 include low blood sugar, delirium tremens, mood swings, and grand mal seizures.
1. Low blood sugar
Alcoholic drinks are known to contain lots of sugars. And the presence of alcohol in your body would cause your liver to malfunction, leading to a reduced release of glucose into your bloodstream.
The decreased level of glucose in your bloodstream coupled with the absence of alcohol would make you develop hypoglycemia (or low blood sugar).
2. Delirium Tremens
In simple terms, delirium tremens is a state of deep confusion. It’s characterized by intense sweating, shivering, overheating, increased heart rate, hallucination, and sometimes death.
When you quit alcohol, your brain reacts and responds to several biochemical conditions in a haphazard manner, leading to a rapid dose of biochemical activities and uncomfortable symptoms.
3. Mood Swings
Let’s face it, recovery from any addiction is accompanied by mood swings. You’d experience several emotional ups and down which may also hurt your relationships.
During the detox period, your brain is trying to readjust and regain its normal balance and functions. Therefore, you should expect some form of mood swings (which is part of the emotional readjustment of your body).
4. Grand mal Seizures
Aside from the delirium tremens, the grand mal seizure is arguably one of the fatal symptoms you’d experience as you try to quit alcohol.
It is associated with a lack of natural nutrients, water, and inadequate rest. Within the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours, you’d experience grand mal seizures which are as a result of sleep deprivation, caffeine overload, or exhaustion.
Phase 3 is associated with the worst alcohol withdrawal symptoms, but if you get through with it, you’re pretty much done. Phase 4 is comprised of several psychological tricks your body is playing on you. You can conquer the fourth phase with proper guidance.
Phase 4 — Occurs forty-eight hours to seven days after withdrawal.
Phase 4 is associated with psychological symptoms like
- General discomfort
These symptoms are normal. After all, you’re undergoing a significant change, and you’d be confused at some point, angry at yourself for some worthless reasons, depressed for diverse reasons, restless because you don’t have enough sleep/rest, and also develop a heightened feeling of discomfort.
No need to fret. You’re experiencing a dramatic change, and with time, you’d be alcohol-free without the awful effects of alcohol addiction.
Treatment and safety routines for alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may range from severe conditions to mild symptoms. And every symptom has to be treated in a particular way. There are specialized rehab facilities that handle various cases of withdrawal symptom. If you’re confused or you feel lost and alone, you should register into any of these programs and get professional help.
Furthermore, your level of treatment would be dependent on the volume of alcohol you consume and the frequency by which you drink alcohol.
Simply put, a casual alcohol drinker would receive different treatment from a chronic alcoholic.
There is no fixed set of treatment for alcoholics. However, you get professional care in therapy sessions like Inpatient treatment, Outpatient treatment, medication-assisted detox, personal counseling session, and support groups.
Inpatient treatment offers 24 hours of care and support for patients who want to break loose from alcohol addiction.
Ideally, it’s recommended for patients who
- Are experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms like seizures and delirium tremens
- Have done through alcohol withdrawal in the past
- Are living with any form of mental conditions
- Usually, most centers offer thirty to ninety programs for inpatient therapy sessions.
For outpatient treatment, patients are allowed to continue with their daily work routine.
It’s recommended for patients who are experiencing mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms. And they can pretty much take care of themselves outside the rehab center.
Patients who are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms are kept under proper medications to help them overcome any health threatening issues that may arise during their withdrawal period.
Haloperidol is administered to help patients who are going through hallucination, while barbiturates are given to patients who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms like seizures.
Personal counseling session
Counselors provide support for patients who are recovering from alcohol addiction.
What’s more, they also look out for other factors which may be influencing alcoholics and offer professional help to help the patient get through any challenge.
Humans are social creatures. Throughout history, we’ve survived harsh conditions as a group. And you can leverage this evolutionary structure to help you overcome your alcohol addiction.
Support groups like Al-Anon family groups and the Alcoholics Anonymous can offer tremendous help during the withdrawal periods.
By registering into a support group, you’d be able to connect with others and get adequate help in time of need.
Living a healthy life and having an alcohol-free life is possible. And one way of doing that is by seeking help when necessary and avoiding triggers in your daily routine.
If you’re unsure of the next step to take, get professional help from counselors and let them take it from there.