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What Are the Most Common Sudden Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

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When you are dependent upon or addicted to alcohol, there are definitely times when you want to stop. When I was drinking, every hangover made me wish I could stop. Every night I blacked out left me reeling for days, confused about who I was and what I was doing. Consciously, I was completely aware that the choices I was making were terrible ones, but I just didn’t know how to change my life.

Beyond my feelings of helplessness was a deep fear of withdrawal symptoms. I wasn’t ready to cope with the cravings, the mental fallout, and the physical discomfort. And, I knew it would get bad because I experienced a little of it every time I tried to take a break from drinking.

On some level, however, my fear of these symptoms was also a way of delaying getting help. It let me prolong my drinking. If I had known more about what to expect, my fear would have been lessened because once I got into detox, I managed pretty well.

If you are interested in learning more about detox and subsequent treatment, call 888-602-1971(Who Answers?). You can ask an expert about every one of your concerns and get a recommendation to a treatment program that matches your situation. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are manageable.

Why Do People Experience Withdrawal Symptoms?

When you start drinking, the alcohol affects chemicals in the reward center of your brain. For example, dopamine is a feel-good chemical released when alcohol attaches to receptors in your brain and along your spinal cord. People keep drinking so they can muffle negative feelings and restore pleasurable ones.

If you begin to drink more often and in larger amounts, your brain and body must learn to cope with the presence of alcohol in your system. As they do so, they cease to be able to function normally without the presence of alcohol because they have been retrained. That means you have to drink to feel ordinary. Without alcohol, you begin to feel terrible; you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. At this point, you are dependent on alcohol.

What Are Common Sudden Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol withdrawal doesn’t begin minutes after your last drink. It generally begins, according to the US National Library of Medicine, about eight hours after you stop drinking (though some people don’t experience it for days). The symptoms typically peak between 24 and 72 hours, though they may continue for weeks.

The most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:

Sudden Alcohol Withdrawal

Fatigue and irritability are common alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Muddled thinking
  • Fatigue
  • Shakiness or jumpiness
  • Irritability

But, withdrawal symptoms may also include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Clammy skin
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating
  • Tremors in the hands or other parts of the body
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pallor

Are Any of the Symptoms Dangerous?

If the withdrawal symptoms are quite severe, there are possible dangers that you will face. For example, an increased heart rate or blood pressure can be hard if you have hypertension. If the depression is particularly acute, it could lead to suicidal thoughts. Other risks include:

  • Generalized impaired brain functioning
  • Infections
  • Liver failure
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Low blood sugar
  • Bleeding in the stomach and intestines
  • Enlargement of the heart and ineffective pumping

Surprising Aspects of Alcohol Withdrawal

This is why people who drink heavily or have a history of alcohol withdrawal are advised to undergo detox in an inpatient, medical facility. They are equipped to treat moderate to severe withdrawal.

However, there is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that can be life threatening, although it is not one of the sudden symptoms. The condition is called delirium tremens, or DTs. Most of these symptoms happen 48 to 96 hours after you have your last drink. But, it can take as much as a week for them to manifest.

Symptoms, which can get worse quickly, include:

  • Deep sleep lasting for a day or more
  • Tremors of the body
  • Fear
  • Excitement
  • Changes in mental function
  • Increased activity
  • Decreased attention span
  • Disorientation, confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Irritability, agitation
  • Quick changes in mood
  • Sensitivity to touch, sound, and light
  • Fatigue, sleepiness, stupor

The worst part of the DTs is the seizures. Between five and 25 percent of patients with delirium tremens die.

But, entering an addiction treatment program places you in the care of experts who are trained and experiences in alleviating the discomfort of withdrawal and in ensuring your safety. Call 888-602-1971(Who Answers?) to learn more.

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