The Dangers Of Alcohol Withdrawal

By on December 4, 2012

When people decide to quit drinking, they often forget to prepare for alcohol withdrawal. While any consumption of alcohol can result in some symptoms, alcohol withdrawal can have serious effects on those that drink in excess for long periods of time. It is possible to die from alcohol withdrawal, so it is very important that alcoholics are aware of what to expect. However, with proper treatment the prognosis for alcohol withdrawal is very good, and abstinence from alcohol can dramatically increase overall health and quality of life.

What to Expect from Alcohol Withdrawal
Symptoms can present themselves in less than two hours after a person’s last drink. Depending on the length of time the person has consumed alcohol, they may feel symptoms that are mild, like anxiousness and tremors, or severe, such as seizures. Symptoms that require immediate medical treatment include confusion, high body temperature and high pulse. These could be signs of a condition called delirium tremens, which can result in death. Delirium tremens is usually seen in extremely heavy drinkers, who have been drinking excessively for long periods of time.

After withdrawal symptoms start, they begin to worsen for anywhere from 48 to 72 hours. Since the level of severity can escalate quickly, it is best to seek medical treatment if symptoms are debilitating. Even if a person who is experiencing alcohol withdrawal thinks they are okay, withdrawal symptoms may escalate rapidly and catch them off guard. At the peak of withdrawal, symptoms experience can range from mild to severe, including: nervousness, cloudy thinking, extreme tiredness, mood swings or anger, night terrors, clammy hands and skin, severe headaches and an abnormal pulse. At this stage of withdrawal, delirium tremens is still a possibility and reason for concern; experiencing hallucinations, fever, confusion or seizure is reason for immediate medical treatment.

After the peak, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may still last for up to a few weeks, but will begin to subside. If there is an increase of severity of symptoms, or if they do not go away, medical treatment should be sought.

How Alcohol Withdrawal is Treated
The treatment of alcohol withdrawal depends largely on the severity of each case. Mild to moderate cases can be handled without admission. Most doctors prefer to do a physical and blood testing prior to the patient abstaining from alcohol. This will ensure the patient’s ability to handle withdrawal symptoms and that symptoms will not be too severe to handle in an outpatient setting. In some cases, doctors may prescribe sedative or anxiety medicine to aid in withdrawal symptoms. Usually, they will also require that at least one friend or loved one is present at all times for the first week of abstinence, who will help care for the patient and is able to call or transport the patient to the hospital in the event of a medical emergency.

Severe cases of alcohol withdrawal are much more serious. Those who experience severe alcohol withdrawal almost always require inpatient treatment. Once abstinence begins, their vitals are constantly monitored and intravenous fluids are usually given to prevent dehydration. Blood tests are taken regularly to look for abnormalities, and patients are usually given benzodiazepines, such as Valium or Ativan, for the duration of the withdrawal. With proper treatment, most cases see a full recovery from symptoms.

Lillian Sanders is a freelance writer from Florida. She enjoys writing article on health and wellness. Aside from writing, Lillian works closely with Treatment Centers helping people struggling with addiction.

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