Alcohol withdrawal has severe symptoms for many alcoholics and can be life-threatening if it is attempted without medical supervision. Because alcohol produces severe physical and psychological symptoms during detox, it is always recommended for alcoholics to seek medical consultation before any attempt is made to cease alcohol consumption.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin within a few hours after the last drink and last up to several weeks after the completion of detox. Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms during detox generally last 5-14 days. Withdrawal symptoms are a part of alcohol addiction, just as they are inherent to all addictions. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from a mild discomfort to severe and dangerous complications, depending on the individual and the severity of his or her alcoholism.
Chronic alcohol consumption results in an increase in tolerance, which prompts higher and more frequent consumption of alcohol to achieve the same levels of intoxication. This is known as tolerance, and it is one of the main factors of addiction. When an alcoholic stops drinking, the withdrawal symptoms experienced are the exact opposite from the effects of alcohol consumption. Whereas an individual consuming alcohol may feel relaxed, talkative, general well- being, content, and self-confident, when alcohol consumption ceases, the rebound effect produces symptoms such as:
- Excessive sweating
- Mild fever
Some of the moderately severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:
- Mild seizures
- Severe anxiety
- Irregular or racing heartbeat
- High blood pressure
Severe and potentially life-threatening alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually occur between 12-24 hours after the last drink, and are additional to all other symptoms:
- Hallucinations (visual, auditory, an/or tactile)
- Delirium Tremons (DT’s – a combination of high fever, disorientation, and hallucinations)
- Grand mal seizures
- Suicidal thoughts
Prior to beginning alcohol detox, a doctor will examine each individual and review a complete medical history of his or her alcohol use. The doctor may also ask a series of questions regarding the individual’s history with alcohol consumption and if he or she has been through an alcohol withdrawal process before. During an intake physical, the doctor will check for medical conditions that may be a result of alcohol addiction, as well as any other medical conditions that may complicate the detox process. Some of these complications can include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Liver disease
- Nervous system impairments
After the complete medical exam has been completed, the doctor will be able to inform the individual of the severity of his or her alcohol addiction, and begin preparations for detox.
There are three primary goals of alcohol detox, which are:
- Treat the acute withdrawal symptoms
- Monitor and prevent complications
- Begin therapy to prevent further alcohol use
Treating Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
During the detox process, sedatives are often used to help control severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In addition to sedatives, medical staff may administer blood pressure and/or anti-convulsion medications, if needed, to manage moderate symptoms and prevent complications.
Monitoring and Preventing Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal
Various blood tests will also be monitored to ensure the overall health of the patient. Intravenous fluids are generally administered to keep the body hydrated and balanced. While undergoing alcohol detox, individuals are closely monitored to ensure complete safety and avoidance of medical complications.
Transition to Therapy for Relapse Prevention
The final, and most important step in alcohol detox is to begin counseling and therapy to prevent future relapse. Alcohol withdrawal alone does not address the underlying causes of addiction, or provide any insight, knowledge, or skill to prevent a relapse. There are several social support groups, addiction treatment programs, and therapy treatments in which a recovering alcoholic can participate to ensure the development of crucial life and coping skills to maintain sobriety.
Preventing Alcohol Relapse
The unfortunate reality is that relapse is common during the alcohol recovery process. As with most any other addiction, there are several warning signs that may be experienced or exhibited by a recovering alcoholic that may be indicators of an impending relapse:
- Change in attitude about the importance of one’s involvement in a recovery-based support program or group
- Increased stress without resolution
- Feelings of being overwhelmed with stress
- Periods of poor decision making and judgment that can easily lead to more chronic and severe impulse control
- Withdrawal from social events and loved ones in a heightened state of isolation
- Loosening or completely excluding daily sobriety routines and structure
- Anger and agitation can occur easily and frequently
- Misplaced sense of confidence, believing one has enough control to consume just one drink
- Depression and feelings of hopelessness
Any one, or a full progression, of these signs can be dangerous for a recovering alcoholic, and if a single sign is exhibited, especially in early recovery, help should be sought immediately.
Alcoholism Can be Treated
If a relapse does occur, it is important to remember that help is available and sobriety can be achieved and maintained.
At A Forever Recovery, we understand that alcoholism is among the most dangerous addictions through which to live and from which to get sober. If you or your loved one are suffering from alcoholism, do not attempt to stop drinking without medical consultation. Call us immediately at 1-866-282-8730 to speak with a trained counselor about how we can get you or your addicted loved one into a safe, medical detox facility right away, and seamlessly integrate addiction treatment to ensure complete healing and strong empowerment to maintain sobriety in recovery.
Alcoholism gets worse every day, and will continue to do so until help is received. We offer an open-ended program to provide every individual with whatever time he or she needs to be able to safely return home and get on the road to recovery, forever. Call us now, and learn how.