Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment: All You Need To Know

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Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment: All You Need To Know

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment: All You Need To Know

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Not only does alcohol addiction withdrawal treatment help you get your life back on track, it can be life-saving for those suffering from underlying conditions and severe addiction. While this journey might seem daunting at first, seeking the right support and guidance helps make this process easier and helps you overcome your addiction for good.

To effectively deal with alcohol withdrawal, we need to understand the complexities of alcohol addiction. This acts as your first step in a journey that is certainly less than a thousand miles.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal describes the range of symptoms experienced when someone who regularly consumes large amounts of alcohol suddenly decreases or stops their alcohol intake. These symptoms can vary widely, from mild issues such as anxiety and shakes, to more serious conditions like seizures and delirium tremens. The intensity of these symptoms often correlates with how long and how heavily the person has been drinking. This withdrawal process is the body's way of adapting to the lack of alcohol, and in some cases, medical oversight is needed to ensure these symptoms are managed safely. Treatments can include medications, participation in support groups, and therapy sessions aimed at tackling the underlying causes of addiction and helping individuals achieve sustained sobriety.

Major Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can vary in severity from mild to life-threatening and may include:

  1. Mild Symptoms: These usually appear within 6 to 12 hours after the last drink and can include anxiety, shaky hands, headache, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and sweating.
  2. Moderate Symptoms: In addition to the mild symptoms, individuals may experience increased heart rate, mental confusion, irritability, and heightened mood disturbances.
  3. Severe Symptoms (Delirium Tremens): This is the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal, occurring in about 5% of people. Symptoms can include severe agitation, fever, seizures, severe confusion, hallucinations, and high blood pressure. Delirium tremens (DTs) usually start 48 to 72 hours after the last drink and can be life-threatening.

What causes alcohol withdrawal syndrome?

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs in individuals who have been drinking heavily for weeks, months, or years and then suddenly stop or significantly reduce their alcohol consumption. The syndrome can also occur in individuals who have not been drinking for a long time but suddenly increase their alcohol intake and then abruptly stop. The primary causes and mechanisms behind alcohol withdrawal syndrome include

  • Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Chronic alcohol consumption affects the brain's neurotransmitters, particularly gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate. Alcohol enhances the inhibitory effects of GABA and suppresses the excitatory effects of glutamate. When alcohol is suddenly removed, the brain experiences a relative deficiency in GABA's inhibitory effects and an excess of glutamate's excitatory effects. This imbalance leads to the symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Neuroadaptation: The brain adapts to the depressant effects of alcohol by increasing its activity. When alcohol is no longer present, the brain remains in a hyperactive state, leading to withdrawal symptoms.
  • Dysregulation of the Stress Response: Chronic alcohol use can dysregulate the body's stress response system, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. When alcohol use is stopped, this dysregulation can contribute to withdrawal symptoms.
  • Physical Dependence: Over time, the body becomes dependent on alcohol to function normally. When alcohol is removed, the body struggles to adjust, leading to physical withdrawal symptoms.
  • Genetic Factors: Some individuals may be genetically predisposed to experience more severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Psychological Dependence: Psychological or emotional dependence on alcohol can also contribute to withdrawal symptoms, as individuals may experience anxiety, depression, or other emotional disturbances when they stop drinking.

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Do I Have an Alcohol Addiction?

Before embarking on this path towards sobriety, one must first come to terms with their addiction. If you are finding it hard to control and regulate your daily alcohol intake, it is very likely that you have become addicted to alcohol.

While it is not easy to accept that you have a problem that might need medical intervention, it’s necessary to accept and confront your problem before going through with your alcohol withdrawal treatment.

If you are overcoming alcohol addiction, please don't be disheartened reading this. Alcohol tricks our brains into believing we need it to function optimally. This is why alcohol addiction is the most widespread addiction across the world. 

However, you don't need to fret, as with every dark cloud comes a silver lining. Rehabilitation centers like Anunitha are well-equipped to deal with every step of this process effectively and effortlessly. They further help you deal with both alcohol addiction and Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.

What are the Risks Associated with Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

While quitting alcohol is a positive step towards better health, based on the severity of your addiction, doing this the right way becomes crucial in mitigating the sometimes fatal effects of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. 

Common symptoms from Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome begin to surface anywhere between 6 hours to a few days after your last drink and continue to affect you for weeks. 

This is more likely to affect binge drinkers when they significantly reduce their alcohol consumption. People overcoming AWS often exhibit some of these symptoms in the initial stages.

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  •  High blood pressure

The symptoms may worsen over 2 to 3 days, and some milder symptoms may persist for weeks in some people. 

The most severe type of withdrawal symptoms is known as delirium tremens. People who've reached this stage exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Extreme agitation
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Tactile hallucinations, such as having a false sense of itching, burning, or numbness.
  • Auditory hallucinations or hearing sounds that don’t exist
  • Visual hallucinations, or seeing images that don’t exist
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast respirations

We know this can be a lot to process and even unnerving for anyone looking to quit drinking. However, most of you may not experience some or most of these symptoms. We've listed them down for you anyway to ensure that you have all the information needed to identify the different stages of AWS and act accordingly. 

It might help to know that while you may not experience all of these symptoms, medical professionals have alcohol withdrawal treatment options for all of them.

How Can You Prevent Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Certainly, here are the top five headings with explanations for strategies to prevent alcohol withdrawal syndrome:

  • Moderate Alcohol Consumption: This involves adhering to guidelines for moderate drinking, which generally means limiting intake to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Avoiding heavy or binge drinking is crucial in preventing the development of alcohol dependence and subsequent withdrawal symptoms.
  • Professional Help for Alcohol Dependence: For individuals who struggle with controlling their alcohol intake, seeking assistance from healthcare professionals is essential. This can include therapy, counseling, and possibly alcohol withdrawal medication-assisted alcohol withdrawal treatment.

Professional help is vital in addressing the underlying issues of alcohol dependence and can guide a safe reduction in alcohol use.

  • Gradual Reduction and Medical Detoxification: Abrupt cessation of alcohol can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, gradually reducing alcohol intake, ideally under medical supervision, is recommended. In cases of severe dependence, a medically supervised detoxification program may be necessary to safely manage the withdrawal process.
  • Support Systems: Groups and Counseling: Engaging in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or seeking individual counseling can provide emotional and psychological support. These resources help in dealing with the challenges of reducing alcohol intake and maintaining sobriety, offering a community of individuals who share similar experiences and challenges.
  • Lifestyle Changes and Avoiding Triggers: Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep, can improve overall well-being and reduce the temptation to use alcohol. Identifying and avoiding situations, environments, or emotional states that trigger excessive drinking is also crucial in preventing relapse and managing alcohol dependence effectively.

Diagnosing Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is a difficult period in the recovery from alcohol addiction. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and mental in nature. Physical symptoms can include headaches, nausea, tremors, anxiety, hallucinations, and seizures. Mental symptoms include anxiety, depression, and more.

What is the Alcohol Withdrawl Treatment?

Alcohol withdrawal treatment refers to the corrective measures taken against withdrawal symptoms caused by alcohol. Treatment includes medication to reduce the physical symptoms of withdrawal and therapy to help individuals build coping mechanisms against craving for alcohol. 

Options Available for Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Treatment

Unless you have a serious health condition or you’ve had severe withdrawals in the past, you probably won’t need more than a supportive environment to help you through. That includes:

  1. A quiet place
  2. Limited contact with people
  3. A positive, supportive atmosphere
  4. Healthy food and lots of fluids

Alcohol withdrawal Treatment is often advised for patients suffering from Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.

If your blood pressure, pulse, or body temperature rises, or if you have more serious symptoms like seizures and hallucinations, seek medical care immediately. Your doctor could suggest inpatient care and drug treatment.

When To Seek Help for Alcohol Addiction?

Seeking help for alcohol addiction is a crucial step, and it's important to recognize when it's time to reach out for assistance. Here are key indicators that suggest it might be time to seek help for alcohol addiction:

  • Loss of Control: Finding it difficult to limit how much alcohol you consume once you start drinking.
  • Unsuccessful Attempts to Quit: Repeatedly trying and failing to stop or reduce alcohol consumption.
  • Spending a Lot of Time Drinking or Recovering: A significant portion of time is spent drinking, or you're often sick from drinking too much.
  • Cravings: Experiencing strong urges or cravings to drink alcohol.
  • Neglecting Responsibilities: Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home due to drinking.
  • Continued Use Despite Problems: Continuing to drink even though it's causing social, interpersonal, or health problems.

Recovery Goals with Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

Alcohol Addiction, like all other addictions, hacks into our brains and creates a dependency loop that gets reinforced every time we drink. The body, over time, begins to crave or expect alcohol to function normally. 

Motivation is one of the most influential and essential tools to have in your arsenal while breaking out of this loop. Like a really hard boss battle in a video game, to win this fight, we need to first learn and understand all the moves our enemy (alcohol) uses to keep us from progressing. The second stage would be to set up checkpoints along the journey to show that we are winning this fight and not running around in circles. In our first battle against alcohol addiction, withdrawal symptoms are its first line of defense. 

These symptoms, as explained earlier, arrive in waves. Initial symptoms range from anxiety and nausea to irritability and confusion. Overcoming this will be our first checkpoint and a clear indication that we are on the right track.

Based on the severity of the addiction, the difficulty of this game increases or decreases when you win the first battle. At this stage, you can assess your skill set and make a decision accordingly. If there are no further symptoms and those that have appeared also start to fade away, this would act as a major checkpoint for most of you.

For others, you might need to acquire new skills and better tools to face the next battle in order to win. Rehabilitation centers like Cadabam’s Anunitha can help equip you with everything you need to face the next set of symptoms. These range from extreme confusion and agitation to excessive sweating and increased heart rate. Medical intervention at this stage is advised for most people overcoming alcohol withdrawal syndrome. With the help of trained and experienced medical staff, you can overcome this with ease and mark the second major checkpoint in your fight against Alcohol Addiction.

‍Help Your Loved One Recover from Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

If someone you care about is taking steps towards de-addiction and is going through alcohol withdrawal, offering them a shoulder to lean on goes a long way. Having a strong support system is important as it boosts their morale and increases their drive to beat addiction.

However, there are a few things you should keep in mind before being said shoulder to lean on. Understanding what your loved one is going through helps bridge the gap between them and you.

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome enables you to helps walk a mile in their shoes and, hence, find more empathetic ways to reach out and provide help.

Another effective way to help someone experiencing Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is to ensure that they are following a routine and eating adequately. The discomfort they are feeling often leads them towards unhealthy eating habits or leading a disorganized life. Nudging them towards the right path once in a while goes a long way in helping them overcome these symptoms sooner. 

However, If these symptoms seem to be worsening or the person overcoming AWS is not able to cope with them, it is advisable to seek medical help. Rehabilitation or De-addiction centers are well-equipped to handle all the symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome in a safe controlled environment. 

Experience Compassionate Care at Cadabam's Anunitha: Why Trust Cadabam's Anunitha?

For over 30 years, we've been working in the field of mental healthcare. During this time, we have helped countless individuals recover from addiction while constantly evolving with the times. At Anunitha, you have complete access to our specialized team of psychiatrists and psychologists who are trained experts in the field of De-addiction. You can also schedule a visit to our campus to get a better understanding of our approach to De-addiction. We encourage you to reach out to us on any platform with your doubts or queries about Alcohol Withdrawal at any time.


Book screening with our director of triage,  Kamlesh Verma

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  1. How long does alcohol withdrawal last?

Alcohol withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The first few days are the most difficult since the cravings are most intense then. As time progresses and along with treatment, the withdrawal symptoms begin decreasing

  1. What treatments are available for alcohol withdrawal?

Medication and therapy are seen to be extremely effective against withdrawal symptoms that come about after stopping alcohol consumption. Medication helps in reducing the symptoms while therapy helps a person build healthy coping mechanisms.

  1. Can alcohol withdrawal treatment help with long-term recovery?

Alcohol withdrawal treatment is the most important part of sustainable and long-term recovery from alcohol addiction. The withdrawal period is a crucial time when most people return to consuming the substance, unable to cope with the withdrawal symptoms. Treatment at this juncture can positively influence recovery. 

  1. Are there any risks associated with alcohol withdrawal treatment?

The risks associated with alcohol withdrawal treatment are lesser when compared to not seeking treatment. Your mental health provider will weigh the benefits and costs before prescribing any treatment. 

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