There are many components of alcoholism: the person, the disease, the emotion, the withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is common for people who drink heavily for periods of weeks or even years and then stop their consumption or decrease it abruptly. This can turn into a life-threatening condition. If you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol withdrawal, it is important that you are able to recognize the symptoms and seek support.
First Stage of Alcohol Withdrawal
Physical symptoms are usually more prevalent during the first two weeks of alcohol withdrawal. The side effects could happen right away and persist, or they could manifest a couple days into the withdrawal. The main component of when and how intense the symptoms may be are dependent on how much the addict usually consumes. The symptoms one may experience during the first stage of alcohol withdrawal include:
Clammy skin and heavy sweating
Anxiety or nervousness
Second Stage of Alcohol Withdrawal
What typically happens after these first two weeks is almost a replacement of symptoms. The original physical ailments begin to subside and become less severe; however, the addict will now suffer from emotional side effects. These can include:
These symptoms will last much longer than the physical ones. Enrolling in treatment can help ease most symptoms of alcohol withdrawal; without it, the addict should expect to continue this process for six months or up to two years.
Quick Breakdown of the Timeline
Up to two days after the last drink, the addict may still crave more alcohol — but not necessarily accompanied by withdrawal symptoms. It is also possible for the side effects to set in right away.
Within the first two weeks, the addict will continue to crave more alcohol and will experience the worst physical withdrawal symptoms.
The emotional withdrawal symptoms will begin after the first two weeks and may endure for up to two years. Cravings will begin to subside, but may still persist.
If an individual is suffering from alcohol withdrawal, enrolling in treatment is an avenue that they can explore. While attending treatment, the patient will attend therapy and reduce the symptoms of their withdrawal while under medical supervision.
People with moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms may consider inpatient treatment as their best option. It is important for people to at least receive medical attention if they are experiencing delirium tremens (a state of confusion and hallucinations). While attending inpatient treatment, rehab staff will likely monitor blood pressure and do a toxicology screening to better gauge the individual therapy. The patient might also receive medication and fluids intravenously. One of the most appreciated things that a patient might receive is benzodiazepines, an anxiety-reducing medication that the staff will use to sedate the patient throughout the duration of their withdrawal.
For those with mild to moderate signs of withdrawal, outpatient treatment might be the route taken. It is paramount that there is someone present to monitor the patient’s health; be it a family member or a nurse, a watchful eye is always beneficial. Routine visits to the doctor and therapist will become a regular occurrence. The doctor will likely prescribe drugs to help ease the symptoms of the withdrawal, and regular blood tests will be administered. Halfway houses are often recommended for a next step, as it is better to have a support group when dealing with newfound sobriety from addiction.
Some treatment centers may not prescribe any medications at all. If a patient is interested in a more holistic approach to their recovery, there are plenty of options for them as well. In rehabs that encourage this path, they will usually focus on a change in diet and an increase in exercise for the patient to “sweat it out” faster.
The good news on the matter is that the vast majority of people survive alcohol withdrawal. Proper medical attention greatly influences the success of treatment. If an addict is suffering from even minor symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, take that as a warning sign to analyze the addiction and find help before the matter becomes life-threatening.