Alcohol Detoxification-2: Dealing with withdrawal symptoms

If alcohol addiction in unsafe and hazardous, so is its withdrawal. The consequences of alcohol addiction, which can also lead to death, are widely known. However, not much is known about the hardships faced during alcohol detox and withdrawal. These withdrawals occur when a heavy drinker, significantly reduces the amount of alcohol he/she consumes.

The symptoms of withdrawal begin to appear as early as two hours after the last drink. These can last for weeks and can range from mild anxiety to severe health complications. Some people also suffer from delirium tremens (DT), which is one of the most severe consequences of alcohol withdrawal. The death rate due to DT is estimated to range from one percent to five percent, as it leads to life-threatening conditions.

The series “Alcohol detoxification,” talks about various aspects of the detox process to help people develop an in-depth understanding of the process and its outcome and to effectively deal with alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Causes of alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when an individual suddenly reduces the amount of his/ her alcohol intake. In case of heavy drinkers, the huge amount of alcohol tends to alter the brain and body chemistry. As a result, the body develops a dependency on the substance to perform its functions. However, when the amount of alcohol intake is reduced, the body finds it difficult to do so.

For instance, alcohol tends to enhance the effects of GABA neurotransmitters in the brain, which produces feelings of calm and relaxation. Excessive drinking suppresses the natural functioning of GABA, thereby making the body dependent on the substance to produce the same effect of the neurotransmitters. Hence, when consumption of alcohol is curtailed, the suppressed neurotransmitters rebound, causing brain hyperexcitability. As a result, the person experiences symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, agitation, tremors, seizures and DTs.

Understanding delirium tremens

Delirium tremens is one of the most severe results of alcohol withdrawal. The risk of experiencing DT is higher for heavy drinkers. It has the capacity to seriously damage the mental process and the nervous system. Even though there has been a reduction in the mortality rate due to DT from 35 percent in the past to 10 percent in the present, the condition is still considered as a medical emergency.

It is characterized by symptoms such as confusion, rapid heartbeat and fever. The symptoms of the withdrawal become apparent within 72 hours after quitting alcohol. People who are able to sail through this period without any complications do not develop DT. Other DT symptoms include:

  • Seizures: During DT seizures, the body tends to shake violently. The risk of experiencing seizures is highest between six and 48 hours of withdrawal.
  • Confusion: Foggy thinking is common with people experiencing withdrawal symptoms. However, in case of DT, this tends to become severe, affecting the thinking ability of the person.
  • Hallucination: As DT tends to impact the functioning of the brain, many people end up hallucinating in case of this condition. The range of hallucination can vary from imagining animals to actually feeling insects crawling all over them.
  • Other symptoms: Apart from experiencing the above symptoms, many people also exhibit aggravated agitation and increased excitement coupled with elevated pulse, blood pressure and temperature.

Help to cope with alcohol withdrawals

Alcohol withdrawals are potentially life-threatening, therefore, it is always recommended to undergo detox under medical supervision. According to an old report, while as many as two million Americans experience alcohol withdrawals every year, only ten to 20 percent of them are treated in hospitals.

If you or a loved one is grappling with addiction and planning to undergo detox, it is time to seek assistance from the best detox and rehab centers in California. You may get in touch with the California Detox Helpline for immediate assistance regarding rapid detox centers in California. You may call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-780-2495 or chat online with our experts to get help in finding drug rehab centers in California.

Read the other articles of the series, “Alcohol detoxification”:

1: Physical symptoms