Help for alcohol withdrawal

Seek 24-7 medical supervision during alcohol withdrawal for diagnosis and treatment of possible severe conditions. Treatments then include oral benzodiazepines, anti-seizure or anti-psychotic medications and fluid intake. More here on where to get help for alcohol withdrawal and what to expect during withdrawal.

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Alcohol withdrawal is a serious condition that may rapidly become life threatening. This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to seek medical help during alcohol withdrawal so that you can be assessed and treated for symptoms as necessary.

Here, we review common dangers that can occur during alcohol withdrawal, as well as methods for easing withdrawal symptoms. Then, we invite your questions or comments about alcohol detox, the length of time it takes to complete alcohol withdrawal, or where to find help at the end.

Is alcohol withdrawal dangerous?

Not always.  However, alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous for some.  Call your health care provider or go the emergency room if you think you might be in alcohol withdrawal, especially if you were using alcohol often and recently stopped. Disease processes or events that accompany acute alcohol withdrawal can cause significant illness and death. This is why early alcohol withdrawal signs require minoring. Risks of complications include:

DTs – Another potential complication of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens, characterized by hallucinations, mental confusion, and disorientation. Delirium tremens involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes and can occur when you stop drinking alcohol after a period of heavy drinking, especially if you do not eat enough food. They may also be caused by head injury, infection, or illness in people with a history of heavy alcohol use. Delirium may lead to a chronic memory disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.

Psychiatric problems
– Psychiatric problems associated with withdrawal include anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance. Plus, alterations in physiology, mood, and behavior may persist after acute withdrawal has subsided, motivating relapse to heavy drinking.

– Some patients experience seizures, which may increase in severity with subsequent withdrawal episodes.

Consider here that severe convulsions occur within the first 48 hours of abstinence and occur in about 10% of alcoholics. These symptoms represent a combination of autonomic nervous system hyperactivity. Drenching sweats can cause severe dehydration, and tremor can become sufficiently pronounced to prevent eating. Typically, these more severe symptoms peak in intensity after 3-4 days of abstinence and generally improve by the fifth day.

Is alcohol withdrawal hard?

Yes, alcohol withdrawal can be difficult.

When people who are physically dependent on alcohol stop drinking, it takes time for the brain and central nervous system to adjust to the lack of ethanol in the system. While symptoms of withdrawal generally resolve spontaneously within a week, or so, more severe forms of withdrawal can require a stay in a hospital or additional treatments. And keep in mind that the severity and intensity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms will depend upon the length of time you’ve been drinking, the amount you drink, and your patterns of drinking. This is why it is crucial that you receive both a physical assessment and oral/historical assessment of alcohol dependence before your begin withdrawal.

The initial symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are usually relatively mild and include anxiety,insomnia, and tremors. These symptoms may begin within 3-6 hours after you stop drinking (even before blood alcohol concentration (BAC) has returned to zero) and usually resolve within 1-3 days. However, fatality during alcohol withdrawal is possible, so SEEK MEDICAL HELP anytime you consider quitting drinking after a period of dependence.

Alcohol withdrawal methods: Help for alcohol withdrawal symptoms

The goal of treating alcohol withdrawal is usually threefold:

1. Address, reduce, and minimize the intensity of withdrawal symptoms
2. Prevent possible complications of alcohol withdrawal
3. Help you stop drinking long-term

One of the most important things that you can do during alcohol withdrawal is SEEK MEDICAL SUPERVISION. When you withdraw from alcohol in a medical setting such as a detox clinic, hospital, or addiction treatment center, you will be watched closely for hallucinations and other signs of delirium tremens. Regular monitoring of blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and chemical signals in the body can help prevent these complications.

Additionally, you may benefit from pharmacological intervention(S) during withdrawal. Medical staff may administer fluids or medications through IV.  Sedation using benzodiazepines can be helpful until withdrawal is complete.  Oral benzodiazepines are the most frequently use drugs for preventing cases of severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome, particularly the risk of seizures. When given for a maximum of 7 days, the adverse effects are usually mild.  You can also be tested, diagnosed, and treatment for other possible medical problems related to drinking. Finally, access to individual and family counseling can help as you discuss the long-term issue of alcohol problems and its impact on your life.

Natural help for alcohol withdrawal

Thiamine is a vitamin used for treating alcohol use disorders. It is also called vitamin B1 and is found in many foods including yeast, cereal grains, beans, nuts, and meat. Between 30-80% of alcoholics are believed to have thiamine deficiency. Giving thiamine shots seems to help decrease the risk of developing Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and decreases related symptoms during alcohol withdrawal.

How to ease alcohol withdrawal?

In practice, people  who are attempting to stop drinking alcohol need close personal support and communication, and a reassuring environment, as well as regular monitoring for early signs of a withdrawal syndrome. Some people may require benzodiazepine therapy. Some of the most frequent treatments experts use to ease alcohol withdrawal include:

  1. Full assessment, including an evaluation of the presence of coexisting medical and psychiatric conditions, the severity of the withdrawal symptoms, and the risk of withdrawal complications.
  2. Reassessment of the withdrawal symptoms at regular intervals
  3. Pharmacotherapy (medications are either anti-psychotic, anti-seizure, or benzodiazepines) administered on a fixed schedule or triggered by symptomatic conditions
  4. Psychological reassurance and monitoring

Help with alcohol withdrawal

Who can help you with alcohol withdrawal?  Call your health care provider or go the emergency room if you think you might be in alcohol withdrawal, especially if you were using alcohol often and recently stopped. Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms persist after treatment. Place you can go to seek help include:

  • A detox clinic
  • An addiction specialist (MD)
  • An addiction treatment center
  • Emergency room
  • Hospital
  • Your family doctor

Helping alcohol withdrawal questions

If you still have questions about alcohol withdrawal treatment and helping reduce its symptoms, please write us in the section below. We will give our best to try to answer you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NIAAA: Exploring alcohol withdrawal syndrome
NIAAA: Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal
NIH: Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal
MedlinePlus: Alcohol withdrawal
MedlinePlus: Delirium tremens
PubMed: Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: how to predict, prevent, diagnose and treat it
MedlinePlus: Thiamine (Vitamine B1)
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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