Alcohol use disorder and addiction is a debilitating disease that destroys countless lives. Alcohol abuse and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a wide range of physical and mental health disorders and in extreme cases, long term heavy drinking can be life-threatening or even fatal. Yet many people continue to drink alcohol even when they know that it is destroying their lives, relationships, and health.
One of the reasons that so many people find it hard to stop drinking is because, depending on the length and severity of their addiction, detox and rehab can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable. Because of the severity of the withdrawal symptoms many people will relapse just to alleviate the discomfort of detox. However, if you can get through the detox and rehab process successfully you will be able to regain control of your life and learn the sober living skills that will help you retain your sobriety during the lifelong process of recovery.
What is Alcohol Addiction or Dependence?
To truly understand what the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol are and how they affect your body, it is helpful to understand what it means to be dependent on alcohol and the effects that it has on your life. There are several levels of alcohol use disorder and the condition ranges from mild to life-threatening and everything in between.
Common symptoms of alcohol use disorder include alcohol cravings, a compulsion to drink heavily, anxiety about where your next drink will come from, binge drinking and an inability to limit your alcohol consumption. It is important to realise that not everyone who suffers from alcohol use disorder fits the stereotypical image of a drunk. Some people are high functioning alcoholics who have successful careers and appear to be in control of their lives, but they are in fact concealing a serious drinking problem that could go undetected for years. High functioning alcoholics can function successfully for many years but in the end, the alcohol abuse will take its toll on their lives.
When you become dependent on or addicted to alcohol it affects the chemicals in your brain and alcohol use disorder is characterised by excessive alcohol consumption that eventually leads to the body becoming physically addicted or dependent on alcohol to function in a normal way. If untreated, this eventually leads to numerous physical, psychological and mental health problems.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
If you are wondering what the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol are like and what to expect during detox, you will find the answers here. The first thing to accept is that the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from mildly uncomfortable to severe, and the factors that influence your withdrawal symptoms will include the severity and duration of your alcohol addiction. If you suffer from alcohol addiction or dependence, there are no avoiding withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop drinking and it is important to seek medical advice before you attempt to detox.
Abusing alcohol has a physical effect on the body and the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are due to the changes that your body experiences when you stop drinking. Alcohol is a sedative or depressant and when your brain is exposed to long-term alcohol abuse it will adjust its chemical levels to compensate for the effects of the alcohol. The brain will begin to produce excessive amounts of serotonin or norepinephrine. When the alcohol is no longer available the brain becomes over stimulated.
Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol commonly occur within six to twelve hours of your last drink. The first signs of withdrawal are usually mild and can include a slight headache or nausea. The symptoms will get progressively worse after that and within 12 to 24 hours you could experience vomiting, sweating, confusion, and fever. Severe withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens, may be experienced after48 hours. The entire detox, withdrawal and rehab process, however, can last weeks.
Common psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Irritability and mood swings
Physical symptoms often include:
- Uncontrollable shaking, clammy skin and sweating
- Fever and chills
- Dilated pupils
- Insomnia and disrupted sleep patterns
- Nausea and vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Lack of appetite
- Rapid heart rate or tachycardia
- Seizures and tremors
- Heart palpitations
- Heart arrhythmia
- Kidney dysfunction
- Liver dysfunction
The most dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal occurs in heavy drinkers and is known as delirium tremens. This condition causes fevers, hallucinations, altered mental functions, seizures, agitation and confusion as the brain battles to readjust its chemical levels.
Alcohol affects the central nervous system and in severe cases, alcohol withdrawal and detox can be fatal. For long term alcoholics, the safest way to treat alcoholism is with medically assisted detox in a residential rehab centre. During the detox process, you will be prescribed medication to lessen your withdrawal symptoms and alleviate the discomfort. For some people this is merely done to make it easier to detox and prevent a relapse but for others it will be a necessity as their withdrawal symptoms will be so severe that they may need medical attention if they go cold turkey during the detox process.
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms can vary from one person to the next and this is influenced by several factors including:
- Body weight, metabolism, age and gender
- The severity and duration of the drug or alcohol abuse
- The type of treatment
- A family history of addiction
- Underlying mental health issues
The withdrawal symptoms of alcohol are uncomfortable, but it is worth suffering through them to free yourself from your addiction to alcohol. At the Rehab Clinics Group, we can support your during this process and help you detox in a safe environment, monitoring and managing your withdrawal symptoms and ensuring that you do not experience any life-threatening side effects when you detox.
Call us today on 03301 596 494 to find out how we can help you deal with your alcohol use disorder, detox safely and take your first steps on the road to recovery.