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The Complete Guide to Alcohol Withdrawal

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When alcohol use gets out of control, quitting drinking can help you regain control of your life. However, alcohol withdrawal isn’t always an easy process, and it can even be potentially deadly for some. Before trying to reduce your dependence on alcohol on your own, you might need to get professional assistance, especially if you experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms when you deprive your body of alcohol for even short periods of time.

While most people don’t experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms after just a few days of heavy drinking, they can crop up in anyone who has actually become physically addicted to alcohol or who drinks frequently. If you suddenly stop drinking after being a heavy drinker for years, you are likely to experience insomnia, anxiety, and tremors once you quit. Most of the symptoms of withdrawal occur in a predictable pattern, and close supervision by a medical professional can help ease the symptoms.

Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal

“Tremors are typically the first step in alcohol withdrawal, and they typically start between five and ten hours after the last drink.”Tremors are typically the first step in alcohol withdrawal, and they typically start between five and ten hours after the last drink. The trembling generally peaks at about 24 to 48 hours after you stop drinking, and they are often accompanied by vivid dreams or nightmares, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, sweating, rapid breathing, and hyper-alertness or anxiety.

Some people develop alcohol hallucinosis within twelve to twenty four hours after the start of sobriety. If you experience this withdrawal symptom, you might see or hear things that aren’t there for up to two days. Often, the visions manifest as small moving objects, such as falling coins or crawling insects, but they can also be full-blown detailed visions. Some people become violent or aggressive as a result of their hallucinations.

Between six and forty eight hours after your last drink, you might experience seizures. The risk peaks at twenty four hours and can occur simultaneously with tremors, hallucinations, and other withdrawal symptoms. A recovering alcoholic who is experiencing withdrawal seizures may need anticonvulsant medication to get through this phase of withdrawal.

About one in every twenty people who are alcohol dependent experience a severe form of withdrawal called delirium tremens. For people with delirium tremens, the circulatory and respiratory systems have trouble handling the brain changes induced by quitting alcohol. This can lead to rapid, dangerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. Some people with delirium tremens end up having a stroke or heart attack during withdrawal. Delirium tremens generally develops about two to three days after the last drink in those who are susceptible to it, and it peaks at about day four or five post-sobriety. Some people feel fine for up to a week before being hit with delirium tremens. If you develop delirium tremens, you’ll need intensive care at a hospital and may need to be put on a respirator or other emergency life-support equipment.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment Options

Most of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal dissipate within five to seven days, although some people continue to feel uncomfortable for weeks. If you are seeking treatment at a rehab facility or hospital, a doctor can prescribe benzodiazepines to help reduce symptoms. Depending on your overall physical condition and how long you’ve been addicted to alcohol, the doctor might also prescribe nutritional supplements to help replenish your body’s supply of vitamins and minerals.

Because alcohol addiction can decrease your life expectancy by 15 years or more, it’s important to get treatment even if you’re afraid of the discomfort associated with withdrawal. Because there is no way to know which withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience or how hard they will hit you, it’s best to put yourself under medical supervision before you quit drinking.