Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a series of symptoms that happen following abstinence or reduction in alcohol intake after a period of excessive drinking. Typically, symptoms include shaking, vomiting, sweating, anxiety, fast heart rate, and a mild fever. Other complicated symptoms include delirium tremens, seizures and seeing and hearing things that others do not( hallucinations)
These symptoms surface six hours after the last drink and at worst, 24 to 72 hours. In essence, if you are a heavy drinker who has been drinking in a large quantity for weeks, months or years, you will face physical and mental problems when you stop or drastically reduce how much you drink.
However, if you drink occasionally, you are not likely to have these mild or serious symptoms when you stop drinking. Typically, alcohol withdrawal syndrome plagues heavy and compulsive drinkers.
Alcohol withdrawal becomes important to people who are alcohol dependent. This happens in the wake of a deliberate or unplanned reduction in alcohol intake. The underlying mechanism entails reduced responsiveness of GABA receptors in the brain. The withdrawal process is accompanied by engaging the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol Scale, revised (CIWA-Ar).
Some drinkers experience weeks or months of withdrawal symptoms, known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). In Western society, about 15% of people develop problems with alcoholism at some stage. About half of people will grapple with withdrawal symptoms when they reduce the heavy use. Four percent develop complicated symptoms.
Those with nasty symptoms up to 15% die. As far back as 400 BC, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have been described by Hippocrates. It hit its widespread dimension in the 1800s. Alcohol reduces function and alters the way one’s nerves send messages back and forth.
Because your body system is accustomed to having alcohol around all the time, your body works hard to keep you in a more conscious state. This is what causes alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
Vomiting or Nausea
Feeling as though you were going to vomit (nausea) is a critical aspect of alcohol withdrawal. When this happens, you won’t feel like going out. Just ensure you have a bathroom wherever you are.
Those grappling with alcohol withdrawal usually feel physically agitated. This situation is worsened by an increase in heart rate and sweating. You might also have your hands shaking. If you are experiencing these symptoms, the alcohol withdrawal syndrome symptoms. They are not symptoms of a cold or flu.
At that point, it is highly advisable to see a doctor before the symptoms morph into hallucinations and seizures.
Hallucinations are among the severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Hallucinations entail seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there. This experience is an unpleasant and frightening one. It makes one think one is going crazy.
In many cases, the hallucinations stop after treatment or after the withdrawal has run its course. It is highly advisable to consult a doctor and obtain medication. Trying to cope with it will lead to seizures, the most dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptoms
The failure to treat mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms attracts seizures. Seizures during alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening and debilitating.
Many people who are withdrawing from alcohol come under a weighty craving to drink more. Intense cravings like these are peculiar to people withdrawing from several addictive substances. One part of them is engulfed by the desire to reduce the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The other part is driven by the desire to re-experience the euphoria of the alcohol intoxication.
In spite of the lingering tiredness faced by many alcohol withdrawal victims, they have also had the problems of getting to sleep quickly or staying sleep. It brings about Insomnia( having difficulty with sleeping)
Withdrawing from alcohol adversely affects your mood. Typically, many people take drinks to be happy and relaxed. Hence, when you withdraw from alcohol, you might become unhappy, stern and miserable. This is because the relaxant and mood-elevating effects are not there.
In the same vein, people drink to take a moment of respite from life’s worries. This may entail having to settle a bill or a huge debt. The mind tends to be free during intense alcohol intake. Many people also drink to cover up negative emotions like anxiety, grief and frustration.
With the numbing effect of alcohol, you can be at ease with those disturbing thoughts and realities. Having to stand aloof from alcohol makes you vulnerable to those harsh situations of life.
More importantly, it is advisable to experience withdrawal in a supportive atmosphere. Here, negative feelings won’t be provoked. Withdrawal can be done at home. However, it is going to be an effective plan if your family or other people around you are willing to be kind, supportive and amiable during the process. Of course, you can talk it over with them beforehand.
Treating Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
The alcohol withdrawal issues discussed much earlier can be effectively addressed by taking the following steps:
- A serene and supportive atmosphere in which everyone around you is deeply involved in the process.
- Soft lighting
- There is also a vital need for limited contact with people
- A positive, supportive atmosphere cannot be overemphasized.
- Healthy food and plenty of fluids
- If your pulse or body temperature rises, or if you have severe symptoms like seizures and hallucinations, you can consult a doctor. He or she would recommend ideal drug treatment and care for you.
- You can also take anti-seizure meds and antipsychotics with other drugs. Benzodiazepines are common drugs to help treat symptoms like hallucinations. and seizures.
- There are three medications approved by the FDA to address alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They include Antabuse, Campral (acamprosate) and ReVia (naltrexone)
- Antabuse: a medication used to deter people from using alcohol. When you take the drug and drink alcohol, it leads to a serious reaction that makes you critically ill.
- ReVia (naltrexone): Research studies revealed that this drug can reduce cravings for alcohol.
Also Read: Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Detox Timeline & Treatment