Alcohol Misuse and Abuse
Alcohol withdrawal is extremely common throughout different age groups. In 2017, a survey was done which concluded over 19 million Americans, age twelve and older, suffered from substance abuse disorder. Out of the 19 million effected by this disease, roughly 74% suffered with alcohol use disorder. Alcohol is legal, readily available, and used socially, it may be hard to spot when drinking is normal or has become a problem. Whether used regularly throughout the day or binged, alcohol can have serious, negative effects on the mind and body. Someone that may have a drinking problem may have trouble with their personal relationships, job, finances, mental health, and overall quality of life. When someone is dependent on alcohol when they suddenly stop, they may experience uncomfortable, and potentially life-threatening, withdrawals.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal is the change that happens to the body when prolonged, heavy drinking stops. When someone consumes alcohol constantly or drinks in large amounts the brain and body become dependent on it to function. When drinking stops, the brain and body need to readjust to functioning without it, which causes withdrawals to happen. Regardless of if someone has been drinking for weeks, months, or years, they may experience withdrawals when they quit drinking. Withdrawals can not only be extremely uncomfortable, but they can also be life-threatening, making it important to quit in the right way, with the help of a medical professional.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Some people may be hesitant to quit because they fear going through withdrawals, but with the right help they can be managed. A medical professional may give benzodiazepines to reduce the body’s reaction to the change. Withdrawals can begin just a couple of hours after the last drink, and usually last about 5 days, give or take. It’s important to remember that alcohol withdrawal is not one size fits all, not everyone will experience the same withdrawal symptoms or at the same severity. It depends on the person, how much they drink, how long they have been drinking if they have other health problems, and their physiological makeup. Here are some of the withdrawal symptoms one may experience:
- High blood pressure
- Hand tremors
- Excessive sweating
- Delirium Tremens
Delirium Tremens (DTs)
Delirium Tremens is the most dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal. DTs happen when the brain is unable to adjust to the stop of alcohol use. If not properly treated, it can become life-threatening. When this happens to the brain, there can be quick and dangerous changes to breathing, temperature control, circulation, heart rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms of Delirium Tremens include:
- Extreme confusion
- Angry or nervous behavior
- Loss of consciousness
- High Blood Pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sleep disturbances
- Excessive sweating
If you or someone you know has stopped drinking and has started to experience these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.
Symptoms may quickly shift from minor to life-threatening, making it important to detox safely and with the help of a medical professional. Depending on the person and the severity of their alcohol use, one may be given benzodiazepines to help ease withdrawal symptoms while the body adjusts to functioning without alcohol. To reduce the risk of relapse, it’s crucial to seek treatment for the addiction itself. There are many treatment options, including:
- Inpatient Treatment
Inpatient treatment is usually a 30, 60, or 90 day treatment program. It provides a safe environment for healing, learning new ways to cope, identify triggers, and making a relapse prevention plan without outside distractions or temptations, giving you the time and resources you need to focus on yourself and your recovery.
- Outpatient Treatment
Outpatient treatment is best for people with less severe alcohol abuse. The treatment is similar to inpatient treatment, but you are able to continue to work, tend to family, and go about your regular life, while still treating the substance abuse and learning new ways to cope and live.
- Individual Counseling
Through individual addiction counseling, you can identify the motivation for recovery, develop relapse prevention skills, work on rewiring the brain to replace negative destructive behavior with healthy and productive ones, and learn how to better and build healthy relationships. A counselor can help identify and talk through triggers; they may also help navigate through all the feelings that may arise in early recovery. During inpatient or outpatient treatment you may receive individual counseling, but it is beneficial to continue even after the initial treatment program.
- Support Groups
Recovery from alcohol abuse is an ongoing process. Support Groups like AA and other 12-step programs can be beneficial for long-term recovery. It provides a safe place to discuss treatment goals and challenges, as well as connecting you to other recovering alcoholics, providing you with support and motivation to continue sobriety for long-term recovery.