Kindling in alcohol withdrawal

Here at Addiction Helper we spend a lot of time talking to people about the dangers of alcohol withdrawal and hopefully we are doing our bit to increase awareness of the dangers. I don’t wish to spend too long discussing that here so will provide the most basic of recaps; if someone who has been drinking heavily stops drinking suddenly without the use of detox medication, their body can go into a sort of shock and produce withdrawal symptoms. These can be sweating, shaking, vomiting, cramping, nausea and a variety of other flu-like symptoms. At the more serious end of the scale they can lead to hallucinations, delirium tremens (DTs), and seizures, which have the potential to cause damage or even be fatal.

What is Kindling?

So having covered the basics of alcohol withdrawal, I want to move on to discussing kindling. In many cases, if an alcoholic repeatedly goes through alcohol withdrawal, then over time the symptoms they experience will become more severe. This is caused because of a chemical process known as kindling which is comparable to a fire that starts with only a small amount of wood, but soon becomes an uncontrollable alcohol addiction.

I won’t go into the science of it all (never having been scientifically-minded myself), but what I will say is that kindling is something that people need to be aware of. Numerous times I have spoken with callers who have felt that because their withdrawal symptoms were mild the last time they stopped drinking, they will be again this time. The existence of kindling suggests that even mild withdrawal symptoms should be treated aggressively in order to prevent the likelihood of them increasing rapidly in severity. Doing so would also have implications for relapse prevention; the better the person feels whilst detoxing, the less likelihood there is that they will turn to alcohol to prevent unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. In my opinion this, along with an intensive therapeutic programme, is one of the most valuable first steps towards recovery.

If you or a loved one are thinking of taking that first step, give us a call. We are happy to support you in getting your life back on track.


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