Alcohol withdrawal symptoms refer to the unpleasant effects that take place once someone has suddenly stopped taking the substance to which they have been addicted. The symptoms occur when the level of the drugs or alcohol that they have been abusing drops below a certain point. As their body has been so used to having these deadly toxins within, it begins to almost ‘miss’ them when they are not there, manifesting this by producing withdrawal symptoms.
These symptoms can occur as early as two hours after the last drink and can potentially last for several weeks. The severity of the alcohol withdrawal can vary depending on the volume of alcohol consumed and the overall health and wellbeing of the individual concerned.
Fear Around Alcohol Withdrawal
Many excuses are bandied about when it comes to committing to recovery. One of the main ones is the fear of alcohol withdrawal. The initial and probably most crucial step into recovery can be uncomfortable for a couple of days, but the individual should focus on the result – a sober life. This can help allay any negative feelings that are being experienced in the initial stages.
Typically, the symptoms experienced will not be that uncomfortable, and some people will suffer very little discomfort and unpleasantness. Others will find it more challenging, but this does depend on the individuals’ state of mind as well as his or her expectations.
Possible Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal
Those who excessively abuse alcohol will develop a tolerance to the substance. Tolerance means that the individual’s body will require more of the substance that they have been abusing to feel the same effects as they did when they first started taking it.
As the body has adapted to functioning with the excessive amounts of alcohol, if this is suddenly removed, the body reacts by producing these withdrawal symptoms as it struggles to return to the normality of functioning without alcohol.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol addiction withdrawal symptoms generally begin around five to ten hours after the last drink; however, they have been known to occur in as little as two hours. They usually peak anytime between 48 and 72 hours and then can continue in varying degrees of severity for a number of weeks as the recovery journey begins. Some of these symptoms can include:
- anxiety or nervousness
- nausea and vomiting
- shaking or trembling
- mood swings
- increased heart rate.
Many side effects can be experienced as a result of alcohol withdrawal, and while the intensity of these symptoms will vary, most will be quite mild. There can be some quite severe symptoms, however, which are known as delirium tremens (DTs).
Those who are considered to be more at risk of developing delirium tremens when they try to quit are typically individuals that have been heavily alcohol-dependent for many years. The DTs are extremely dangerous symptoms, and anyone who is likely to experience them should have a medical professional with them at all times during the withdrawal process.
It is essential for anyone intending to quit alcohol to get an assessment from a physician, who can judge the likelihood of the individual possibly suffering from these DTs. Some symptoms of DTs include:
- becoming highly irritated and anxious
- experiencing intense hallucinations that can often be very disturbing
- becoming very confused
- suffering convulsions with loss of consciousness and violent shaking.
It is common for the symptoms of DTs to take place any time up to 72 hours after the last drink. If the individual has exceeded the 72 hours with no signs of DTs, then it is less likely that he or she will experience them at all.
Distraction While Dealing with Alcohol Withdrawal
Many people find that being distracted while they are trying to make it through the crucial first days of withdrawal symptoms is a massive help. This is beneficial to the individual as he or she can focus on something else rather than constantly thinking about the cravings.
While people are distracted, they can escape the stimulus that was the cause of their discomfort, even if it is just for a little while. Some of the distractions people use in early recovery include exercising, listening to music, watching television, playing computer games, going for a stroll, reading a book, or even spending time with loved ones.
Advice for Seeing Your Withdrawal Symptoms Through
In most cases, and as mentioned above, the alcohol withdrawal symptoms will only be mild, meaning that getting through these withdrawals is entirely achievable. It should be noted that these uncomfortable symptoms are only temporary and once the affected person has made it through these, the rewards of sobriety are endless.
Many professionals are of the opinion that if the affected individual has the right mental attitude towards potential withdrawal symptoms, then he or she may experience less discomfort than someone who is expecting the worst.
Another point that can make it easier for some individuals to cope is to remember that millions of people all over the world have successfully completed the withdrawal process and then gone on to treatment and recovery, so there should be nothing stopping them doing it either. With the correct help and support, alcohol withdrawal is something that can be conquered.