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Alcohol withdrawal

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Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is condition that develops in people who have drank heavily for weeks, months or even years. When the individual abruptly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol consumption they will begin to experience a wide array of withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be life threatening.

Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Heavy drinking over a long period of time, especially on a daily basis, causes a disruption in the brain’s neurotransmitters (the chemicals that transmit messages throughout the brain). Alcohol initially enhances the effect of GABA, the neurotransmitter which produces feelings of relaxation and calm. However, with chronic alcohol consumption the GABA activity is suppressed so that larger amounts of alcohol is required to produce the desired effects, this is known as a tolerance. Regular alcohol use also affects glutamate, the neurotransmitter which produces feelings of excitability. In return to this damage that alcohol has cause the glutamate system responds by functioning at a far higher level than it normally would.

When a person who is dependent on alcohol suddenly stops drinking or significantly reduces the amount of alcohol they are consuming, the neurotransmitters which alcohol once suppressed are no longer and begin to rebound, resulting in brain hyperexcitability. At this point the body begins to experience a wide array of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, agitation, tremors, seizures, and DTs.

How Soon Alcohol Withdrawal Will Begin

If you have a dependency to alcohol, more than likely you are going to experience withdrawal symptoms. However the severity of the symptoms varies according to your individual situation. The alcohol withdrawal period begins the moment you stop drinking, with withdrawal symptoms starting in as little as two hours after your last drink. The withdrawal period can last for weeks. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person and can range from anxiety and shakiness to severe complications, such as seizures and delirium tremens (also called DTs).

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

The longer you have used alcohol, and the more frequent its use was, will determine the severity of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms you will experience.

The minor, most common, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal will begin within six to twelve hours after stopping alcohol. These symptoms of alcohol withdrawal often include:

  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating
  • Mild anxiety
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Insomnia

In twelve to twenty-four hours after stopping alcohol use, you may begin to experience visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations which last approximately forty-eight hours.

Do Not Withdrawal Alone, Seek Treatment

It is advised that if you are a heavy drinker, you do not attempt to stop its use on your own as there are many risks to your health associated with alcohol withdrawal. The symptoms you experience can rapidly worsen, posing a serious risk. By going through an appropriate alcohol withdrawal treatment program your risk of developing any life-threatening symptoms will be greatly reduced.

It is extremely important to turn to medical professions for treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you have experienced previous alcohol withdrawal episodes or if you have health conditions such as infections, heart disease, lung disease, or a history of seizures.

Sever alcohol withdrawal symptoms are considered an medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment. If you experience seizures, fever, severe confusion, hallucinations, or irregular heartbeats occur, call 911 and seek emergency care.

Get The Support You Need

Even after the withdrawal period has ended your still going to be faced with a long road in recovery. Turning to friends and family for support, as well as joining a self help group, will greatly help you throughout your day to day life in maintaining your sobriety. You have made it through what is thought to be the hardest part of recovery, now you need to keep focused and maintain a strong support system to help you maintain lifelong sobriety.

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