Symptoms and Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal

Dr. Bhavani A

Keep in mind that alcohol withdrawal symptoms may be life-threatening and definitely require a doctor’s guidance.

If you have been binge drinking for years or months–you could suffer from serious physical and mental consequences, especially when you decide to quit. This is known as ‘alcohol withdrawal’, a condition whose symptoms may vary from person to person.

If you generally drink in moderation but have gone overboard for just a little bit, your chances of having withdrawal symptoms are minimal. However, if you have suffered from alcohol withdrawal once, you are more likely to go through the same condition once you quit again. 

Causes of alcohol withdrawal 

Most of us enjoy an occasional drink or two. Downing some celebratory shots may be ok on occasion, but if you do it regularly, it tends to have a depressing effect on your system and eventually slows down the brain function. With time, your nervous system becomes tolerant and used to having alcohol around all the time, making the bodywork harder to keep the brain in an alert state.

When the levels of alcohol reduced in your body when you quit, your brain stays in this keyed-up state, leading to alcohol withdrawal.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal 

The symptoms of this condition may vary from person to person. However, here are some mild symptoms one may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating

Alcohol withdrawal could also have some serious consequences, including hallucinations for a good 12 to 24 hours after the last drink and even seizures in the first two days after quitting. Another serious symptom is delirium tremens, wherein you experience delusions and hallucinations.

Besides these, you may also suffer from high blood pressure, confusion, fever, sweating, and a racing heart.

Risk factors

Those who are severely addicted to alcohol and do not exercise any control are at a high risk of contracting alcohol withdrawal. While this condition is common in adults, it could also be seen in children and teenagers on rare occasions.

Diagnosis and treatment

If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above and have quit alcohol recently, you may be going through withdrawal and require a doctor’s visit.  The doctor may question your drinking habits and about the time you called it quits. You will also be checked for other medical condition or medicines that might trigger alcohol withdrawal or mimic the symptoms.

Some of the things that may help while going through withdrawal include:

  • A quiet place
  • Soft lighting
  • Limited contact with people
  • A positive, supportive atmosphere
  • Healthy food and lots of fluids

Keep in mind that alcohol withdrawal symptoms may be life-threatening and definitely require a doctor’s guidance. While quitting alcohol is, of course, a great practice to maintain health, it might be better to do so gradually as opposed to cold turkey.

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