Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when someone reduces or stops alcohol consumption after prolonged periods of excessive drinking.
Not everyone who stops drinking experiences withdrawal symptoms, but most people who have been drinking frequently will experience some form of withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking suddenly.
Understanding the alcohol withdrawal symptoms that may follow the short term or long term stopping of drinking is critical for avoiding unnecessary complications. (For more on the treatment of alcohol withdrawals read Diazepam and alcohol withdrawals)
When a drinker consumes large quantities of alcohol over weeks, months or years - his body attempts to safeguard its internal stability.
The body, particularly the brain, adapts to the presence of alcohol by compensating for alcohol’s effect on the central nervous system (CNS).
Alcohol has an overall suppressing effect on CNS activity. Most of the clinical effects can be explained by the interaction of alcohol with various neurotransmitters and neuroreceptors in the brain. If you are interested in learning more about this process, here is a good source.
...depends on various factors including age, genetics, and, most importantly, degree of alcohol intake, length of time the individual has been misusing alcohol and number of previous alcohol detoxifications.
The period of time in which the symptoms occur and peak range from 5 - 10 hours after the last drink (drinkers in the early stage alcoholism) up to 48 - 72 hours (for alcoholics in the advanced stages) and may persist for weeks and even months.
Prolonged alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs in many alcoholics where alcohol withdrawal symptoms continue beyond the acute withdrawal stage (the first 72 hours) but usually at a sub acute level of intensity and gradually decreasing with severity over time.
Some withdrawal symptoms can linger for at least a year after discontinuation of alcohol. Symptoms can include:
In addition to the amount of alcohol consumed and the duration of the alcohol intake just before cessation of drinking - a history of withdrawal episodes appears to be a critical factor in the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
Many alcoholics experience numerous withdrawal episodes during the course of their illness (Hillbom 1990). Kindling is the phenomenon where repeated alcohol detoxifications lead to an increased severity of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
For example, binge drinkers may initially experience no withdrawal symptoms but with each period of resumption of drinking followed by abstinence, their withdrawal symptoms intensify in severity and may eventually result in full blown delirium tremens with convulsive alcohol withdrawal seizures.
Given the high rate of regressions among alcoholics, each withdrawal episode may perhaps best be viewed not as an isolated event but as part of a potentially long-term process that can lead to dangerous exacerbation of withdrawal symptoms with each subsequent episode.
If alcohol withdrawal symptoms are not treated correctly or in time - they may rapidly become life threatening.
Call your health care provider or go the emergency room if you think you might be in alcohol withdrawal, especially if you were using alcohol often and recently stopped.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms persist after treatment.
Go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if seizures, fever, severe confusion, hallucinations, or irregular heartbeats occur.
It is essential that you only attempt to withdraw from alcohol under medical supervision.
This which will help you relax ensuring that you do not have alcohol withdrawal anxiety and, more importantly, you don't suffer from alcohol withdrawal seizures which can be fatal.
Do you want to stop drinking without having to attend 12 step meetings? I highly recommend Rahul Nag's E-book, in which he outlines the steps you need to take to moderate your drinking or give up entirely. A great alternative to the way of AA and the expense of a treatment center. Take a risk-free look at his method and return to social drinking.
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