Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person is physically addicted to alcohol. A person’s brain and body learn to function with the substance, and its absence can cause unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Repeated and prolonged alcohol abuse can cause alcohol withdrawals due to changes in the brain. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can slow down brain functions, such as thinking and memory. The brain typically starts to excessively produce chemicals, including serotonin and norepinephrine, which act similarly to norepinephrine to “speed” up the body’s functions.
Alcohol withdrawals occur when a person’s brain has the heightened amount of neurotransmitters, yet does not have the central nervous system depressant effect of alcohol.
When a person becomes addicted to alcohol, his or her body craves alcohol and experiences an intoxicated or “high” feeling when drinking.
According to the National Institutes of Health, alcohol withdrawals typically begin about eight hours after an addicted person has had his or her last drink. However, some people may experience these symptoms days later. The symptoms typically worsen or peak after 24 to 72 hours. The symptoms can last for several weeks in some individuals.
Alcohol withdrawals can cause both physical and mental symptoms that range from mild to severe.
Physical symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawals include shaking, headaches, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat, sweating, and tremors.
Mental symptoms associated with withdrawals include mood swings, anxiety, nervousness, fatigue, depression, and difficulty thinking clearly.
Some symptoms of withdrawing from alcohol can be dangerous. A person can experience a set of symptoms known as delirium tremens or DTs. These may be life-threatening and include agitation, fever, seizures, severe confusion and hallucinations.
A person should seek medical detox for alcohol withdrawals to minimize the possibilities that life-threatening symptoms can occur. A medical detox approach involves administering medications that can ease the alcohol detox symptoms while also reducing life-threatening risks.
Examples of medications a detox facility may administer can include anti-seizure, anti-hallucinogens and anti-anxiety medications. Those who suffer from alcohol addiction may also have nutritional deficiencies that can be corrected.
While it’s impossible to predict every symptom a person physically addicted to alcohol will experience, a medical detox facility can assess a person’s overall risks for experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Examples of this assessment may include questions about a person’s drinking habits, other chronic conditions a person may have and how long a person has abused alcohol.
Medical facilities may also regularly draw blood to measure electrolyte levels as well as a person’s blood alcohol level to determine appropriate treatments. Detox specialists can then create an individualized treatment plan to determine what medications can best help a person.
Residential treatment is the preferred method for not only allowing a person to go through alcohol withdrawals but also to address the mental side of addiction. A person may have been addicted to alcohol for a long time period and breaking the addiction does not happen overnight. Through supportive therapies, such as counseling and group therapy, a person can receive more intensive support and learn how to live a life free from drugs and alcohol.
For more information about your treatment options, call Alcohol Rehab Lakewood at (732) 529-2096.
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