Yes. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous.
Alcohol withdrawal can trigger serious conditions like seizure or psychotic episodes, or can even be fatal, especially in long-time or heavy drinkers. So, when should you seek medical treatment for alcohol withdrawal? Basically, EVERY TIME…so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated. More here on the possible dangers or alcohol withdrawal, with a section at the end for your questions about how to treat alcohol withdrawal.
Why alcohol withdrawal requires professional treatment
Alcohol addiction is a very serious disease. Most people know it can cause serious problems and may even kill the sufferer. What many people do not know is how dangerous alcohol addiction withdrawal is. Many cases of substance dependence have a withdrawal period but alcohol withdrawal is one of the few that can actually be deadly.
Alcohol withdrawal is so dangerous because of how alcohol affects the body. When someone uses alcohol regularly and for long periods of time, their brain chemistry changes. Some signals and chemical reactions in the brain actually become dependent on alcohol and if someone suddenly stops drinking, the brain is left unprepared for the lack of alcohol. This can cause a number problems that grow worse over time.
High levels of alcohol dependence trigger dangerous symptoms
Withdrawal from alcohol symptoms can range from mild to extreme. Within 6 to 24 hours from an alcoholics last drink, withdrawal starts. The first symptoms are usually shaking, headache, sweating, anxiety, nausea, or vomiting. Many alcoholics describe this as flu like and this initial phase of withdrawal can quickly ruin any attempt at recovery. However, after 12 to 24 hours, another set of more serious symptoms can surface. People may become confused, start to hallucinate, experience tremors and become agitated.
After one to two days, alcoholics may next experience seizures. They may also become delirious have high blood pressure and a fever. This is the most dangerous time for people detoxing from alcohol. In serious cases people have been known to die. These are the main reason it is crucial that you get help for alcohol withdrawal. Once someone has made it past the 48 hour mark, their symptoms often begin to fade and by the end of a week they are usually over the period of acute withdrawal.
Risk of returning to drinking
This can be a very frightening time for anyone, because they are scared and stressed. Many people may deal with their negative emotions by drinking. So, someone going through withdrawal is facing serious illness without their chosen coping mechanism.
Medical assisted detox can help
All of these issues highlight the importance of having a planned and medically assisted detox. Doctors can prescribe medications which can ease the symptoms of withdrawal and provide the care necessary should a patient have a serious problem. So, what kind of planning is required?
1. Go to a certified clinic
The best way to go through an alcohol detox is to plan ahead and detox at a hospital or residential treatment center. Hospitals have the training and equipment to provide a safe environment for anyone going through a particularly serious detox. For those who may not quite need a hospital, residential treatment centers usually have nursing facilities and are able to provide medical help and advice.
2. Talk to a doctor
To understand what type of treatment is needed for an alcohol detox the first step is talking to a doctor. They can help decide what type of care is needed and help plan out the detox, including a step down drinking program, if helpful in your particular case.
3. Seek follow up psychotherapy
It is also important to remember that an alcohol detox is on the first step in treatment for someone with an alcohol addiction. People diagnosed with drinking problems cannot expect to walk out of a detox program “cured” of their addiction. Counseling, residential treatment or other therapy is often needed to help people understand why they drink and identify new and healthy coping mechanisms.