About Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol detox can cause something referred to as alcohol withdrawal syndrome in individuals with longstanding addictions to alcohol. There are several stages to alcohol withdrawal syndrome that an alcoholic will experience when going through alcohol detox. Many alcoholics and their families have the misconception that alcohol addiction is less dangerous to detox from that other substances simply based on the fact that alcohol is a legal substance sold in almost every grocery and convenience store across the nation.
Alcohol detox or alcohol withdrawal syndrome can begin as quickly as a few hours following the last drink and the extreme side effects can be a serious issue for weeks. Anyone attempting to stop drinking and deal with their alcohol addiction is advised to seek professional help to avoid potentially life threatening results of alcohol detox. Alcohol detox can quickly progress from mild symptoms to dangerous withdrawal symptoms in a matter of hours and days. It is also important to note that even the presence of delirium tremens, or DTs, can cause a marked increase in the likelihood of death.
Understanding Alcohol Detox and Addiction
Alcoholism is the dependence on alcohol to maintain semi-normal lives and routines such as work, social engagements, or school. The specific trigger for alcohol addiction that requires alcohol detox is not fully understood. What is known is that excessive, regular drinking will cause changes in the chemical production of the brain which over time can become impossible to regain control over. Alcoholism is not like heroin addiction. The time it takes for an individual to become fully dependent on alcohol is usually months and years, not hours and days. Alcohol detox becomes necessary when an individual cannot control or limit their drinking anymore.
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Risk Factors for Alcohol Addiction
The exact reason some individuals become addicted to alcohol is not completely understood. There have been certain risk factors associated with alcoholism that are shown to greatly increase an individuals chances of becoming an addict. Teenagers looking to fit into peer groups are putting themselves at risk as they are drinking underage, likely binge drinking, and are probably dealing with self esteem issues. Some of these risk factors include:
- Having more than 12 drinks in a week
- Binge drinking weekly
- Close relatative with alcoholism
- Mental health issues (bipolar or depression)
- Struggle with stress or grief
- Drinking while underage
There are three stages to alcohol detox or alcohol withdrawal that clients experience when stopping the consumption of all alcohol. Alcohol detox without supervision of medical personnel and outside the safety of a drug detox center will likely be unsuccessful and could be dangerous. Coastline has treatment options for clients seeking sobriety from alcoholism. Contact us today using our contact form on the the top of this page, or call us now.
Early Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Within about eight hours of their last drink, people with alcoholism will begin to experience the first stages of alcohol withdrawal. These first symptoms often begin with tremors or shaking that can become increasingly noticeable and bothersome during the first 12 hours, but usually start to decrease after the first day of abstinence. If an individual is struggling in other areas of their lives, or experiences any sort of trauma or emotional upset, these tremors can become much more noticeable. There are symptoms associated with this first stage of alcohol detox and usually last for the first three days of detox. Some of these withdrawal symptoms include:
- Depression or a feeling of hopelessness
- Agitation and irritation
- Uncontrollable mood swings
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Depletion of energy or drive
- Increase in perspiration
- Decrease in appetite
- Nausea, Vomiting and dry heaves
- Clammy, sweaty skin
- Nightmares and Insomnia
Increased Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Many individuals going through alcohol detox will experience a second stage of withdrawal symptoms which are usually more severe. The likelihood of an individual experiencing these symptoms is always directly linked to their history of alcohol consumption. For drinkers that have been alcoholics for a long period of time, or have attempted alcohol detox before, the symptoms may be much greater. The most common indicator of this second stage of detox is the development of spikes in blood pressure and the onset of hallucinations.
Individuals are often still experiencing the early withdrawal symptoms when these secondary symptoms begin. There are dangers to attempting to detox through these symptoms without medical intervention. As the hallucinations begin, patients can become extremely agitated and confused, putting them in a position where their actions are dangerous for themselves and for others. There is a more dangerous symptom of this stage of withdrawal; seizures. Seizures can cause patients lose control of all bodily functions, bite their tongue, alter breathing and be dangerous if not addressed medicinally.
Late Stage Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
This late stage alcohol detox symptoms usually begin three days after the individual stops drinking, and can last as long as 18 days or more. There are several more dangerous symptoms, one of which is delirium tremens, or DTs. These tremens are different from the tremors experienced during the first stage of alcohol withdrawal as they have are an indicator of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, a dangerous condition. Nearly 30% of alcoholics in alcohol withdrawal will develop the DTs. There are some symptoms of delirium tremens that clients must be closely monitored for as the greatest risk is death.
- Grand mal seizures
- Continued mental confusion
- Sensitivity to sounds and light
- Full body muscle tremors
- Deep sleep lasting 24 hours or more
- Fatal heart rhythm changes
Medicines for Alcohol Detox
Treatment for alcohol detox includes the administration of medications that function as substitutes for alcohol within the body, allowing clients to experience more success when seeking sobriety. These medications work different ways by either reducing the symptoms of withdrawal, or helping the body rid itself of disruptive chemicals. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines are the most common types of medications given to clients in alcohol detox. To find out more about medications used for detox and treatment options for alcohol addiction.