The Signs of Alcohol Withdrawals

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It probably comes as no surprise that alcohol withdrawals get worse as one becomes more dependent. Most everyone knows what a hangover is like, it hits you the next morning and you deal with it the next day, and after 24-hours everything is pretty much back to normal. Of course, once drinking becomes more common or an everyday event most experience mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms that are much more noticeable. The symptoms are a good sign that alcohol dependency is setting in, and the stages only get worse as the drinking continues and time goes on.

Mild alcohol withdrawal irritations usually peak and then go away after 24-hours depending on the severity of the drinking problem. At this level you can think of them as 'extended hangovers' and this is when you know you are headed down the wrong path. The symptoms include unease, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, mild sweating, headaches, and feeling a little bummed out. One might also experience shaking hands, cold sweats, anxiety, and overall depression. Each person experiences alcohol withdrawal differently and could have one or more or even all of these symptoms (cite: 1)

Getting rid of these conditions, symptoms or feelings seems easy to those who are falling prey to dependency, simply having another drink will do the trick, or so their brains are telling them. Once you take a sip, your body and mind are back at ease and the symptoms go away - temporarily.

If you are at this point, you need to know that the chemical and physical withdrawal of alcohol is perhaps 10-days to two-weeks. It's a sense of uneasiness, mild anxiety, tension, irritation, and feeling very uncomfortable. After that, two-weeks it's mostly a psychological issue, as your brain and psyche associates alcohol with having a good time. Can you quit drinking for 30-days without intervention? If not, there is a very good chance you are going to eventually experience the next stage of alcohol withdrawal and alcohol dependency.

This continued circular trap of drinking, then withdrawal, then drinking again leads to the next level of dependency and a higher stage of alcohol withdrawal. Let's call this next level moderate alcohol withdrawal. Generally speaking, it will peak in about 48 hours. You will experience much more of the same, only to a greater degree; increased anxiety, more sweating, more craving for alcohol, mood swings, hypersensitivity, higher blood pressure, and even reflex responses. The more alcohol consumed the greater the intensity of withdrawal (cite: 2). 

Severe alcohol withdrawal

Severe alcohol symptoms start within just a few hours after you stop drinking and withdrawal peaks in about 72-hours. It can be a living hell. The cravings are unbearable. The body and mind are so dependent on alcohol that you cease to function correctly without putting more alcohol into the system. You can experience a high fever and uncontrollable negative thoughts, but that's not all, as it quickly becomes a very dangerous and serious health issue.

You can have hallucinations - hearing sounds that aren't there, feeling things on your skin and even visual apparitions. These delusions can last for weeks in extreme cases and make you feel like you are going crazy, and you are probably right. You can have full-body seizures 24-48 hours after your last alcohol intake. During this entire time you will feel confused, have difficulty processing information, and making decisions. You will have trouble with memory recall, even remembering what you are doing presently or what you did moments ago.

Severe alcohol withdrawal can be fatal, and you may need Benzodiazepine or a similar drug to calm down your hyperactive brain, to prevent seizures, and to lower/stabilize/restore normal blood pressure. Without drastic intervention and continued binge drinking health deteriorates quickly. If you are overdrinking or binge drinking now this is where you are headed. If you can't stop once you start you have a serious dependency problem and you need to get serious about it and get the help you need before it takes everything you have and eventually kills you (cite: 3).

If you have a friend or loved one who has these severe symptoms, it's imperative that you get them some help. If not, there is a very good chance that you won't have them as friends or love one much longer. Alcoholism is serious. Often alcoholics will not seek help on their own. Yes, a few strong-willed individuals with alcohol dependency will, unfortunately, most do not. Alcoholism ruins lives. Not only for the alcoholic, but also for those of us who love them despite their dependency. At LifeSync Malibu, we are here to help and give you your life back.

References:

1.) "Alcohol Hangover Mechanisms and Mediators Robert Swift," M.D., Ph.D.; and Dena Davidson, Ph.D. NIH published research.

2.) "Comparative Effectiveness and Costs of Inpatient and Outpatient Detoxification of Patients with Mild-to-Moderate Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome," Motoi Hayashida, M.D., Sc.D., Arthur I. Alterman, Ph.D., A. Thomas McLellan, Ph.D., et. al. New England Journal of Medicine, Feb. 1989. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM198902093200605.

3.) https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/41350134/Assessment_of_alcohol_withdrawal_The_rev20160120-32134-6118vt.pdf"Assessment of Alcohol Withdrawal: the revised clinical institute withdrawal assessment for alcohol scale (CIWA-Ar)," by  John T. Sullivan, M.B., Ch.B, Kathy Sykora, M.Sc, Joyce Schneiderman, M.D., et. al. British Journal of Addiction (1989) 84, 1353-1357.