Alcohol addiction is all too common today as people increasingly face a multitude of challenges. Once a problem is recognized, taking steps towards recovery includes detox.
However, withdrawal may be the biggest of all obstacles a person may face.
Alcohol is usually associated with social occasions where people come together to relax and have fun. It sends depressive signals to the brain. Over time, if a person consumes alcohol frequently and excessively, the brain becomes dependent on these signals, so addiction begins.
The brain’s dependency on these signals is what causes withdrawal symptoms. Relaxation and slowing down become a habit. When the brain stops receiving the signals, it responds by sending other messages to the body to remind it of what it needs, i.e., alcohol.
These messages are symptoms and come in several forms ranging from mild to life-threatening.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
The symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol addiction differ from person to person. Depending on their severity, life-threatening, seeking medical assistance during the detox process is advisable.
Depending on the seriousness of the addiction, symptoms may start within hours following the last drink. Once they start, they may last days, weeks, or, in extreme cases, months. Withdrawal symptoms will vary and range from mild to severe. They might include to following:-
- The shakes or tremors
- Unusual perspiration
- Loss of balance
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Inability to sleep
- High Blood pressure
While some of the symptoms listed are relatively mild and manageable on their own, others, mainly the last three, might be life-threatening.
Delirium Tremens (DTS)
The last three symptoms are collectively known as delirium tremens (DTS) and might start two to five days after a person’s last drink of alcohol. DTS is a severe withdrawal symptom and can be fatal. Tremors, delirium, high blood pressure, fever, and hallucinations are the physical symptoms described as DTS.
Treatment for such withdrawal symptoms should be under the care of a medical professional. Sedatives prescribed can prevent DTS.
In the absence of professional medical treatment, a person’s detoxification process may result in any or all of the following:
- Multiple relapses
- Increasingly severe physical withdrawal symptoms
- Frequent admission to hospital
Psychological and Emotional Withdrawal Symptoms
While people may endure many physical symptoms while withdrawing from alcohol, they also suffer from psychological and emotional symptoms. These are harder to pick up by those supporting the person but are nevertheless equally deserving of treatment.
Failure to do so might have a detrimental impact on relationships with loved ones and friends and the career of the recovering person.
Among the psychological and emotional symptoms, sufferers may experience the following:
- Emotional outbursts
- Loss of memory
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
A person giving up alcohol will experience symptoms relative to their level of dependency on alcohol. The greater their dependence, the more severe the symptoms will be. People will experience withdrawal symptoms differently, and the severity will also differ from person to person.
In general, there are three potential phases a person may go through when withdrawing from alcohol:-
- Phase 1:- (between 2-8 hours from the last drink) The symptoms during this phase are mild and may include headaches, shaky hands, insomnia, diarrhea, anxiety, heart palpitations.
- Phase 2:- (1 – 3 days since the last drink) In addition to the symptoms in phase 1, a person in this phase of withdrawal might experience abnormally rapid breathing, confusion, mild hyperthermia, higher blood pressure, and an increased heart rate.
- Phase 3: (1 week after the last drink) This phase combines symptoms from phases 1 and 2 and includes more severe withdrawal symptoms from alcohol dependence. A person may also have the following symptoms: symptoms of disorientation, hallucinations, seizures, and an inability to focus their attention.
A person withdrawing from alcohol dependency may rapidly pass from phase 2 to 3 without seeking treatment from a medical professional.
The timelines will vary for different people based on the following factors:-
- Duration of heavy drinking behavior
- Quantity of alcohol consumed
- The physical condition of the person
- Mental health issues
The Detox Process
A person who recognizes they are addicted to alcohol is, by admission, already committed to the process of detoxification. After that, the process is as follows:-
- Step 1:- Ask for help. Only with the support of their loved ones is the detox process possible.
- Step 2:- Find a suitable treatment option.
- Step 3:- Stay the course, regardless of how challenging it is, until its completion
- Step 4:- Do not give up and never stop trying
A person who has made the brave decision to quit drinking should never overcome their addiction independently. Not only are they prone to repeated relapses, but they cannot foresee the potentially severe symptoms they might experience.
Professionals with specialist training provide expert support to anyone embarking on their detox journey. They will monitor the process and ensure that a person does not succumb to the frightening and potentially life-threatening symptoms ahead of them through medical intervention.
The following are options available to a person:-
- Inpatient detox facilities
For five to ten days, depending on the severity of the addiction, a person can detox in a safe, controlled, medically supervised environment giving them a strong chance of overcoming their alcohol dependency.
- Outpatient Treatment
A person accessing this treatment facility will continue their day-to-day routines but will check in daily. Outpatient treatment is suitable for a person with less severe symptoms during their withdrawal.
- Individual or Group Counseling
Often, alcohol addiction is a symptom of a deeper problem, usually a mental health issue. Counseling will help a person deal with these issues and, in so doing, help the person on their detox journey.
The reason for and recovery from addiction might involve the loved ones in the person’s life. Family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy with a professional are essential steps in the person’s journey to recovery.
- Mutual support groups
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other similar organizations can offer support and prevent the possibility of relapse through accountability and mentoring.
Time is of the essence in the life of an alcoholic. Addressing the addiction earlier means a better chance of recovery.
Sobriety for a recovered alcoholic will be dealt with daily. With the help and support of caregivers and support groups, moving forward without relapsing is certainly more manageable.