When a person regularly drinks a heavy amount of alcohol and suddenly reduces or stops drinking, he is likely to experience a wide array of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms upon quitting or cessation usually indicate alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are experienced differently by different individuals. If your alcohol consumption is within the prescribed range, you are less likely to experience the withdrawal. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate drinking includes 12 oz. beer, 8 oz. malt liquor, 5 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. distilled liquor like spirit, whiskey, rum, gin, or vodka.
Heavy and prolonged or binge drinking leads to alcohol withdrawal. If you have experienced withdrawal once in a life, your chances of experiencing the symptoms upon quitting increase significantly.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are also known collectively as alcohol withdrawal syndrome. These symptoms vary from mild to severe, and it depends on the duration and amount of consumption, age, BMI, and genetic predisposition. That’s why some people experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms while others go through moderate to severe symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be categorized as autonomic, motor, awareness, and psychiatric symptoms. These symptoms appear along the timeline of alcohol withdrawal.
Following are the commonly experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms that can occur during several hours to several days after reduction of cessation of alcohol drinking.
Mild or minor symptoms usually appear after 6 hours of your last drink and stay till 48 hours. These initial symptoms include autonomic and motor symptoms:
• Increased heart rate
• Increased breathing
• Dilated pupils
• High blood pressure and body temperature
• Increased sweating
• Nausea and vomiting
• Hand tremors
• Body trembling
• Abnormal and uncoordinated movements like slurred speech, stumbling, falling, and disturbed gait.
• Overactive or overresponsive reflexes like twitches and spasms
These symptoms range from mild to severe based on various factors like amount of alcohol consumption, as prolonged alcohol dependence is associated with severe withdrawal symptoms. With time, symptoms increased in severity and intensity.
Moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms
After 12 hours to two days of your last drink, severe symptoms appeared. These symptoms can be psychiatric symptoms and seizures.
• Visual, tactile and auditory Illusions
• Visual, tactile, and Auditory Hallucinations
• Unstable mood
• Increased fight or flight response
• Disinhibited reflexes
• Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (rum fits)
The seizures can be one or can be a series of seizures and can be differentiated from medical conditions like epilepsy based on the person’s history.
These symptoms can be challenging for the person, and he should be supervised by a professional. These symptoms usually subside themselves but, in severe cases in need medical attention.
Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms
Severe withdrawal symptoms last for more than 14 days and can feel unbearable by the person. These include psychiatric signs, awareness symptoms, and delirium tremens.
• Delirium tremens
Delirium tremens are hallucinations, disorientation, increased heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and sweating.
Seizures and delirium are considered severe symptoms of withdrawal. However, not every person experiences these symptoms. The leading indicators of seizures and delirium are the prolonged and heavy use of alcohol and previous withdrawal episodes.
How alcohol induces withdrawal symptoms?
Ethanol is the main component of alcohol, a central nervous system depressant. It temporarily produces a state of euphoria and excitement, but in the long run, it slows brain function and alters the neuronal pathways. Our nervous system got used to alcohol in the blood for the time being. When the alcohol level suddenly drops in the blood, your body can’t understand the new system and thus find it hard to balance the bodily systems.
How to deal with alcohol withdrawal symptoms?
If you are experiencing mild symptoms, you can deal with them at home. However, it is ideal to consult a doctor and have regular medical checkups. Have someone near you in case your symptoms get worse. Mild symptoms usually subside within 48 hours. However, if the symptoms worsen, you need medical attention and treatment.
The immediate symptoms can be managed with medication, but the profound impact of alcoholism on mental health requires time. Counseling and support groups like Alcohol Anonymous groups help keep you motivated and help you recover from mental damage. The best way to treat withdrawal is to quit drinking altogether.
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