What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms?
Alcohol can be physically and psychologically addictive. In fact, alcohol addictive qualities make it difficult to use alcohol daily. So what happens when you stop drinking after long or heavy periods? You go through withdrawal. Here, we review why this happens, what to expect, and treatment for alcohol abuse withdrawal. Then, we invite your questions about alcohol withdrawal symptoms at the end.
Why do alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when your body builds up a tolerance to and dependence on alcohol. Typically, drinkers experience withdrawal symptoms after extended use of alcohol or a binge. People who use alcohol on a consistent basis for years will face withdrawal symptoms that are a lot more severe than a recent drinker. However, binge drinkers also experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms after bouts of drinking. Why?
Chronic alcohol use causes your brain chemistry to change. Does alcoholism cause mental illness? Experts are still investigating. However, we do know that after time, your brain begins to function normally under the altered state that alcohol provides, causing dependence. After you are dependent on alcohol, your body will then need alcohol in the system to function. So when you stop drinking, the brain needs time to re-adjust to its previous non-alcoholic state. The “rebound” symptoms which occur as the body seeks homeostasis characterize dependence and cause withdrawal symptoms to occur when you stop using alcohol.
What are symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have both physical and psychological affects. Physically, you may feel like you have the flu, or another illness. Psychologically, you more subtle symptoms can surface. These are the symptoms that have the most affects on long-term sobriety. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- anxiety or nervousness
- difficulty thinking
- jumpiness or shakiness
- mood swings
Dealing with the psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be the most difficult in the recovery process. We discuss how to treat all these symptoms of alcohol withdrawal below.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms: How long?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from days to weeks, and even months depending on the severity of use. Physical symptoms tend to subside before psychological symptoms. Physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms will typically last for a few days but can persist for a week or two if alcohol use was heavy. Psychological symptoms, however, can last months. It is important to treat both physical and psychological symptoms when seeking treatment for alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms treatment
The most common treatments for alcohol withdrawal symptoms are medically-based outpatient or inpatient programs. The goal of these programs is to reduce withdrawal symptoms, prevent complications and provide therapy to obtain abstinence from drinking. While both outpatient and inpatient programs can provide sedatives or benzodiazepine medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, inpatient facilities monitor you more closely to ensure there are no complications with alcohol withdrawal symptoms (24 hours, 7 days a week).
Still, keep in mind that the most important alcohol withdrawal symptoms to treat are psychological. These symptoms are the most common cause for relapse. Another option for alcohol withdrawal symptoms treatment is attending support groups. Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery. These groups do not treat physical withdrawal symptoms, however they can be useful for psychological withdrawal symptoms. They provide long-term treatment for addiction and provide a means for abstinence from alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms questions
Still have questions about withdrawing from alcohol and accompanying symptoms? Please write us in the comments section below. We try to respond to all questions personally and promptly.