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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms (AWS) manifest the human body’s natural process of detoxification. AWS usually occur within 8 hours after the last drink they can sometimes happen days later. Symptoms generally peak between 24 to 72 hours. It can last for as long as several weeks. AWS is a signal that a person has a physical and mental dependency on alcohol. Addiction is a complex disease of the brain.

Those who have experienced AWS several times are at a greater risk for a medical emergency when they stop. AWS occurs primarily in alcoholics that have been drinking steadily for weeks, months, or years.

The symptoms typically begin 6 to 24 hours after the last drink and can last from a few days to two weeks. However, chronic heavy drinkers can go into withdrawal as quickly as two hours from their last drink. They might suffer from protracted alcohol withdrawal, where symptoms remain present for up to a year. Those who have experienced AWS several times are at a greater risk for a medical emergency or death when they stop drinking.

The severity of the symptoms depends upon several elements. Age, overall health, history of liquor abuse, and previous detoxifications all play key roles. The most important factors are how heavily an individual has been drinking and for how long a period of time. The signs of AWS include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue and Insomnia
  • Shaking hands
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Moods

More severe forms of AWS may be early indications of delirium tremens, which can be fatal. Some of the characteristics of severe AWS are:

  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Fever
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Hallucinations and extreme anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure and pulse rate
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Disorientation and confusion

Heavy drinking is defined as five or more drinks on the same occasion, five days or more in the past 30 days. This kind of prolonged consumption disrupts chemicals in the brain, known as neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout the brain’s network. Heavy drinking regularly suppresses neurotransmitters, which is why more and more liquor is needed to produce the same results over time. It is known as building up a tolerance.

Because of the physical effects of AWS, the best, safest approach is to seek proper medical attention. There are effective medical treatments available and professionals help while an individual goes through the detox process.

Severe AWS may require an inpatient stay in the hospital or treatment center. According to MedlinePlus, the goals of treating AWS are primarily:

  • Reducing symptoms
  • Preventing complications
  • Therapy for quitting drinking

The primary objective is to carefully and safely manage the manifestations medically and look for possible hallucinations or other signs of delirium tremens. Here are some of the methods of proper medical management:

  • Monitoring levels of the body’s chemicals
  • IV Fluids
  • Medicines
  • Blood pressure
  • Temperature
  • Heart rate

If the AWS is less severe, outpatient care is an option. Outpatient care is often:

  • Sedatives
  • Urine Test
  • Blood tests
  • Therapy