Alcohol withdrawal is a condition that occurs when an individual stops drinking or reduces the amount they drink significantly after several years, months or weeks of alcohol consumption. Alcohol stimulates your nervous system and when you consume it frequently over an extended period, your body develops alcohol dependence all through.
It is possible to suffer from this condition a couple of hours after your last drink. Its symptoms may continue for several weeks and they can either be mild or severe. The symptoms can for sure be fatal. Research evidence reveals that death rate from delirium tremens; one of the severe symptoms of this condition ranges between 1% and 5%.
It is advisable to consult an experienced medical professional as soon as you suffer from any symptoms related to this condition because they tend to aggravate rapidly. Consult a doctor even if you consider the symptoms to be mild. This is because treatment can help lower the risk of suffering from severe symptoms. Treatment is particularly important for individuals who have had this condition before. People who suffer from lung disease, heart disease, infections and seizures also need to get in touch with a healthcare professional immediately after the symptoms start.
It is important to note that there are certain symptoms that should be considered a medical emergency. Some of the signs you need to look out for include:
- Irregular heartbeats
- Severe confusion
Alcohol withdrawal can happen if you engage in heavy drinking for a long period. This condition is common among those who drink excessively on a daily basis. When you drink excessively, the alcohol disrupts the transmitters in your brain. Transmitters are chemicals in your brain that are used to transmit messages.
When you take alcohol, the first reaction that you experience is a feeling of calm and relaxation. This is because of its effect on GABA, a neurotransmitter in your brain that is related to these feelings. If you continue to consume alcohol, you will require larger amounts to experience these feelings because it restrains GABA function. Excessive alcohol consumption also interferes with glutamate, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making you feel excited. When you stop drinking alcohol suddenly, these neurotransmitters are not restrained anymore and this causes the withdrawal symptoms.
The symptoms that you can suffer from tend to vary depending on the amount of alcohol and how long you have consumed it. You may get some minor ones between 6 and 12 hours after you stop drinking. They can appear even when there is a lot of alcohol in your system. Some of the symptoms that you can get include:
- Mild anxiety
- Shaky hands
It is also possible to develop tactile, auditory or visual hallucinations about 12 to 24 hours after you suddenly stop drinking. These symptoms can last for up to 48 hours but this will vary depending on the individual.
When you consult a medical professional, they will carry out various tests to diagnose the withdrawal of alcohol. A physical exam is conducted to look for fever, dehydration, irregular heart rate, and hand tremors.
It may also be necessary to have a toxicology exam to determine exactly how much alcohol is present in your system. Your doctor will also ask several questions to offer an accurate diagnosis. The questions will be based on the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal can be treated, but it is advisable to see your doctor as soon as possible to avoid complications. During treatment, your doctor will try to reduce the symptoms, prevent complications, and offer therapy to help you quit drinking for good. There are various treatment options available, including several alcohol detox remedies you can try at home, but it depends on the extent of your condition. The option you use will depend on the diagnosis. Some of the options available include inpatient and outpatient treatment.
If your symptoms are mild or severe, your doctor will recommend inpatient treatment for your condition. This treatment can be offered at any medical facility that specializes in this condition. During your stay at the facility, the medical personnel will monitor you closely to look for delirium tremens and hallucinations. These are serious symptoms that can lead to death if they are not addressed promptly.
The healthcare professionals will also monitor your blood levels, heart rate, body temperature, and blood pressure. This kind of monitoring is necessary to detect any complications before they get out of hand. You will get fluids because most patients who are diagnosed with this condition tend to be dehydrated. It may also be necessary to sedate you until the symptoms disappear.
For patients who have mild or moderate symptoms, outpatient treatment is usually adequate. But you will need a caregiver to stay with you at home during the treatment process. Your doctor may also recommend that you visit the medical facility every day for monitoring.
Outpatient treatment can include the use of sedative drugs that help to reduce the symptoms. Counseling is another important part of this treatment. The counseling is offered to seek long term ways to deal with your alcohol problems. Your doctor may also test you for medical conditions that are related to alcohol consumption. Once you have gone through the withdrawal, you need to find a way to abstain from alcohol.
The treatment can be effective if there is minimal organ damage as a result of alcohol consumption. Its effectiveness also depends on whether you will be able to stay away from alcohol once you have gone through treatment. Some of the symptoms associated with this condition can go on for several months. You may suffer from fatigue, sudden mood changes, and altered sleep patterns after the treatment. It is advisable to stop drinking to prevent certain health conditions such as neurological, heart, and liver diseases.
Most of the people who receive alcohol detox treatment recover fully. But this condition can be fatal if you suffer from delirium tremens. The good news is that working with a qualified medical professional can help to prevent fatalities.