Alcohol Withdrawal

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When a chronic drinker abruptly stops drinking alcohol, he or she usually experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are essentially responses by the brain and by the body to the lack of alcohol to which they have become adapted.

Alcohol Withdrawal, The Brain, and Tolerance

With regular consumption of alcohol, the brain gradually adapts to the alcohol so that normal functioning is possible.

This not only explains how physical tolerance develops but it also explains why increasingly more alcohol is needed to get the same "buzz" or "high" with regular use.

When an individual who has exhibited a pattern of continuous and excessive consumption suddenly stops drinking alcohol, however, he or she typically suffers from alcohol withdrawal symptoms which may take days or weeks before the body returns to "normal."

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Basically, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are responses by the brain and by the body to the lack of alcohol to which they had become adapted.

Alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to moderate to severe and include both behavioral and psychological components.

Mild to Moderate Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following is a list of mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms that typically take place within 6 to 48 hours after the last alcoholic drink has been ingested:

  • Nightmares

  • Loss of appetite

  • Anxiety

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Headaches (especially those that pulsate)

  • Easily excited, irritability

  • Vomiting

  • Feeling nervous or jumpy

  • Abnormal movements

  • Nausea

  • Sweating (especially on the face or the palms of the hands)

  • Depression

  • Tremor of the hands

  • Difficulty thinking clearly

  • Clammy skin

  • Fatigue

  • Looking pale, without color

  • Involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids

  • Rapid emotional changes

  • Eyes or pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils)

  • Insomnia, sleeping difficulties

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following are severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms that usually take place within 48 to 96 hours after the last alcoholic drink has been consumed:

  • Black outs

  • Seizures

  • Extreme anxiety

  • Severe autonomic nervous system overactivity

  • Muscle tremors

  • Increased difficulty thinking clearly

  • Increased depression

  • Convulsions

  • More extreme emotional changes

  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

  • Excessive irritability

  • Fever

  • Visual hallucinations

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Conclusion: Alcohol Withdrawal

The first concern when experiencing alcohol withdrawal should be "who should I contact about the alcohol withdrawal symptoms I am experiencing" rather than "what helps for alcohol withdrawals?"

When experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, always see your doctor or healthcare provider immediately so that he or she can assess the severity of your situation and suggest the best option for treatment.

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