Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal: Things To Know

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol abuse is the most common issue in society today. Excess dependence on or consumption of alcohol can result in personal problems. Long-term alcohol abuse has detrimental effects on the body and mind.

Alcohol abusers face several issues chief among them being the inability to quit alcohol. For such individuals, quitting alcohol is not as easy as kicking a bad habit. It entails putting their body system through alcohol withdrawal.

Definition Of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is the changes the body undergoes when an abuser quits drinking. Although alcohol consumption seems to have temporary effects, its impact on the body can last years.

So, it can potentially alter the way the body behaves and functions. Alcohol affects the central nervous system where it acts as a depressant suppressing some important neurotransmitters in the brain.

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As such, the user feels more at ease and relaxed. However, excessive consumption of alcohol makes the brain used to the depressant effects. Dependency on alcohol is its damaging aspect that happens with all narcotic substances.

A sudden stop in alcohol consumption for alcohol abusers sends the neurotransmitters into overdrive. In this state, the body struggles to adapt to the change. So, the abusers will feel mental and physical effects.

This readjustment is what is known as alcohol withdrawal. It can be physically uncomfortable and bears the risk of seizures or worst case scenario stroke. However, alcohol withdrawal affects different people differently.

Low awareness about alcohol withdrawal results in people either not quitting or randomly going cold turkey leading to adverse effects. The adverse effects of alcohol withdrawal often prompt people to resume drinking.

So, alcohol abusers need to educate themselves before embarking on the journey.

Symptoms Associated With Alcohol Withdrawal

Although alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person, there are a few pointers. These act as guidelines giving you an idea of what to expect. Withdrawal symptoms can vary from minor hand tremors to life-threatening symptoms like delirium tremens.

During the first 48 hours after quitting alcohol are the most crucial to monitor for anyone experiencing withdrawal effects. Below is a break down of the common symptoms.

First 24 hours:

  • Feelings of agitation
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors

24 to 48 hours:

During this phase the withdrawal symptoms are severe. Alcohol cravings are at the highest as the body struggles to deal with the changes. In this period most heavy alcohol drinkers face what is called acute alcohol withdrawal.

Here are the common withdrawal symptoms that manifest in this stage:

  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens
  • High body temperature
  • Perspiration
  • Spikes in blood pressure

However, acute withdrawal can appear weeks after the heavy drinker quits alcohol. Severe symptoms like delirium tremens require immediate attention. These require medical treatment, which is why heavy drinkers are recommended to go for medically-supported withdrawal.

Treatment Of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is a complicated and serious issue. It requires one to cope with symptoms that can be life-threatening while ensuring they don’t go back to drinking. There is always the risk of acute withdrawal kicking in which why WHO has specific guidelines in place.

Supported withdrawal

Besides altering brain functions, alcohol withdrawal can result in other deficiencies that lead to more complications. This is why doctors recommend medication to support a heavy drinker during the withdrawal process.

Alcohol withdrawal interferes with vital body functions like blood pressure, base temperature, and pulse rate. So, doctors seek to stabilize the fluctuating physical aspects during alcohol.

Treatment options

There are 2 main treatment options for alcohol withdrawal i.e. outpatient or inpatient care.

Outpatient treatment

Today, outpatient care is popular in alcohol withdrawal since the condition is a disease as opposed to being a behavioral issue. Traditionally, people had to book themselves into rehab because addiction was considered a behavioral problem.

Outpatient care is remarkably effective since the person experiencing alcohol withdrawal gets support at home. Family members help monitor the individual’s physical symptoms.

Inpatient care

For most people, inpatient treatment is not necessary. Individuals experiencing seizures or delirium tremens are good candidates for this type of care. Temporary isolation is necessary for monitoring the individual.

Living With Alcohol Withdrawal

Coping and living with alcohol withdrawal demands several lifestyle changes. After getting medical advice, the following pointers help you cope with withdrawal symptoms and alcohol cravings.

  • Stay hydrated
  • Prepare for the cravings
  • Identify someone you can rely on
  • Avoid triggers
  • Seek group therapy
  • Exercise and meditate


Alcohol withdrawal may be a painful and long process, but is a step in the right direction. If you want to quit alcohol, prepare for the worst, and don’t shy away from seeking help.

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