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What to expect when you quit alcohol? Management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome

What to expect when you quit alcohol? Management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome



What to expect when you quit alcohol

You went out last night. You had a lot to drink. Now, you feel like you’ve been drinking too much and you want to stop so you stop drinking for a little bit.

Most people feel like that after a night of occasional excessive drinking. However, when the social or occasional infrequent drinking becomes something you have no control over, you may have a problem on your hands.

If your glass of wine of beer has turned into several pints, or you have noticed that your drinking has negatively affected your work, home, or family life, then you may be suffering from alcohol addiction

Once you have identified and accepted the problem, you will want to know how to quit it for good. However, if you’re a long time alcoholic, each time you quit you may face severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome where you experience tremors, nausea, anxiety, and delirium. 

So, what happens when you stop drinking?   

If you quit alcohol cold-turkey, especially after being a chronic alcohol abuser for some time, you will begin to experience mental and physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

The symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on how much alcohol you have consumed and the period of consumption.  

Suddenly stopping drinking can be a bad idea if you drink heavily on a regular basis or have been a heavy drinker for many years. Suddenly stopping drinking can cause alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) which can be really difficult and painful to go through.

For you to have AWS, you will most likely have exhibited the following harmful behaviours related to alcohol abuse

  • Drinking a significant amount of months or years
  • Been drinking heavily (4-7 standard drinks per day)
  • Have had withdrawal symptoms previously
  • Have an alcohol addiction 
  • Have a binge drinking problem

What is a standard drink?

To know what heavy drinking is, it is important to know what a standard drink is. A standard drink is measured by:

  • 44 ml of liquor (like whiskey, rum, or tequila)
  • 147 ml of wine
  • 355 ml of beer

Causes of alcohol withdrawal syndrome:

Alcohol has depressing effects on your body, and it can slow down your brain’s functions. When you consume too much alcohol, frequently, and for a long time.

The brain compensates the depression effects by releasing more chemicals in the body than it normally would when without alcohol.

So, what happens if you stop drinking alcohol suddenly is that the brain still produces the extra chemicals and it results in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that are linked with overstimulation. Eventually, the brain will adjust, but until you get to normal you may feel uncomfortable and sick.

Withdrawal symptoms are not standard to everyone who stops drinking, but people who have been drinking for a long time or drink large amounts of alcohol frequently will experience withdrawal symptoms if the alcohol consumption is stopped suddenly.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome:

Here are some of the major symptoms you may incur during withdrawal, the intensity will range from minor to severe:

Mental symptoms:

  • Feeling skittish or nervous
  • Trembling
  • Frequent anxiety episodes
  • Irritability
  • Get excited easily
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Foggy thoughts
  • Nightmares

Physical symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Sweating profusely, especially your face and palms
  • Clammy skin
  • Paleness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Hand tremors

Delirium Tremens:

When it comes to the management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, you need to be aware of a severe type of alcohol withdrawal syndrome called delirium tremens (DTs) because they can happen anywhere between two to four days or a week after your last drink.

DTs happens mostly when you’re malnourished. The symptoms include-

  • Severe confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggressiveness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dangerous changes in blood pressure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors
  • Mood swings
  • Sensitivity to light, touch, or sound

A person going through DT will need hospitalization because they need to get the symptoms under control, it can be life-threatening if not treated on time.

Withdrawal Duration:

Those who are going through rehab and detoxification usually want to know how long the symptoms will last, so they can brace themselves for that period.

Usually, the withdrawal symptoms will last from a few hours to a week, after your last drink. You will likely feel better after one week of not drinking. It’s always helpful to be aware of the symptoms so that you have a daily track of them.

How do you deal with AWS?

If you think that suddenly stop drinking would be a bad idea for you, it is highly important to reach out to a doctor and seek the necessary medication to help prevent withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol addiction is difficult to control without the right guidance and treatment. Alcohol addiction can get difficult to control.

Alcohol addiction is difficult to control without the right guidance and treatment. It is important to consult doctors so that they can guide you through a recovery process with the necessary medication to keep your body in good health

Alcoholism cannot stop in one day, it needs to be weaned off so it is important to take necessary care to not relapse.

Your body and brain would have heavily adapted to the use of alcohol and require alcohol to perform functions at this point. Quitting cold turkey without any treatment or medication can lead to serious side effects. 

So it is okay to suddenly stop social/occasional drinking or other infrequent uses of alcohol. But if there is a possibility of addiction, it is recommended that you consult a doctor instead of suddenly stop the alcohol intake. It is okay to ask for help.

Rather it is necessary to ask for help. Sometimes you may have to accept that people around you may not understand alcoholism entirely and hence it is necessary to get professional help.

You can also ask family or friends who are educated about the problem and compassionate to accompany you for your doctor’s appointment.

For more details on Alcohol Withdrawal treatment reach us on our 24X7 helpline @96111 94949.