Withdrawal from alcohol abuse can be a very serious disorder. If a person has become very dependent on alcohol and drinks every day, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal could be uncomfortable, painful, terrifying, and even life threatening. Understanding the alcohol withdrawal syndrome is very important, especially if you are attempting to quit drinking.
The Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
For some people, deciding to stop drinking is enough. They may have an alcohol use disorder and feel that they binge drink, which can cause problems. But those who are dependent on alcohol are the ones who will experience the truly dangerous effects of alcohol withdrawal.
According to the NLM, “alcohol withdrawal refers to symptoms that may occur when a person who has been drinking too much alcohol every day stops drinking alcohol.” The more a person drinks every day, the more likely that person is to develop alcohol withdrawal symptoms. “Symptoms usually occur within 8 hours after the last drink…. [and] peak by 24 -72 hours, but may persist for weeks.”
Some of the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Inability to think clearly
- Mood swings
- Pale, clammy skin
- Dilated pupils
- Tremor in hands
- Loss of appetite
- Quickened heart rate
Any of these symptoms can become very uncomfortable, especially when they are paired all together. A person who is dealing with alcohol withdrawal will likely be miserable, and therefore, become irritable with those caring for them. It is important to remember that this will be a difficult time for everyone.
Delirium tremens is, according to the NLM, “a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes.’It can also occur in someone who has been drinking a lot in a small period of time and stops, especially if that person has not eaten very much.
Delirium tremens is most common “in those who drink 4 – 5 pints of wine or 7 – 8 pints of beer or 1 pint of ‘hard’ alcohol every day for several months.” It is one of the strongest signs of alcoholism.
The symptoms of delirium tremens are:
- Sensitivity to light, touch, and sound
- Decreased attention span
- Chest and stomach pain
According to the NLM, “delirium tremens is a medical emergency” (NLM 2). It can be very dangerous for someone to have this condition, and someone who exhibits these signs should get medical help immediately.
Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal
As stated by the NIAAA, “Appropriate treatment of alcohol withdrawal… can relieve the patient’s discomfort, prevent the development of more serious symptoms, and forestall cumulative effects that might worsen future withdrawals.” Patients who are admitted to hospitals and inpatient treatment facilities will be watched for signs of delirium tremens and given fluids or medications as needed. Sometimes, “sedation using medication called benzodiazepines until withdrawal is complete” is also necessary (NLM 1).
Even for those with mild symptoms who attend outpatient facilities, there is still a risk of worse alcohol withdrawal symptoms developing. The individual going through alcohol withdrawal should always have someone staying with them if they are not at a 24-hour facility and should be watched for the developing of worse effects.