Alcohol withdrawal refers to the body changes that happen when you stop drinking alcohol suddenly after heavy and long-lasting consumption. It occurs because the brain and body become dependent on alcohol, so depriving them causes symptoms and signs of alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal can also cause life-threatening complications, so seeking professional care is vital before sudden quitting.
Alcohol is a sedative, so it suppresses your neurotransmitters, bringing ease after consumption. Alcohol withdrawal varies from one person to the next and can be an uncomfortable process. The severity of effects depends on the timeline and frequency of drinking, whether you consume liquor or beer, age, mental or physical disorders, and earlier withdrawal attempts. For example, if you have been taking alcohol every day for 20 years, the more severe the effects will be as opposed to a short-term drinker.
The function of detoxification is to increase the levels of glutamate and return GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) to normal levels. Alcohol mimics GABA, which is the main anti-anxiety and calming neurotransmitter in the brain. Prolonged alcohol use reduces GABA production since the brain uses alcohol as an alternative. Also, glutamate, the excitatory neurotransmitter, lowers. When glutamate spikes and GABA ends during withdrawal, symptoms, appear in your body. Below you will learn the the symptoms and signs of alcohol withdrawal.
Symptoms and Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal
The signs and symptoms usually happen from two hours to even months after your last alcoholic drink, and they peak between 24 and 48 hours after termination. It is important to note that not every alcohol user experiences withdrawal symptoms once they stop. Detoxification usually occurs in three stages. Stage one occurs in 8 hours after quitting, stage two happens between 24 and 72 hours, and stage 3 happens from 72 hours to months.
The most common symptoms include:
- Clammy skin
- Being jumpy and nervous
- Heightened blood pressure
- Rapid mood swings
- Loss of coordination
- Inability to think clearly
- Increased heart rates
- Skin paleness
- Excessive sweating, especially on the face and palms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Dilated pupils
- Getting excited easily
In severe cases, alcohol withdrawal causes delirium tremens (DTs), also called alcohol withdrawal syndrome, starting from 2 to five days after you quit drinking. Its symptoms peak at five days. Heavy and long-term drinkers are more likely to get delirium tremens, and it is potentially dangerous. Also, if you have experienced DTs before or get seizures, chances of delirium tremens increase. Heavy alcohol consumption means taking more than eight drinks a week for women and more than 15 drinks a week for men. It changes the brain’s functioning, and when you suddenly stop, the brain keeps working as before.
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include:
- Deep sleep
- Muscle contractions and movements
- Chest pain
- Sensitivity to touch, sound and light
- Tactile hallucinations, which cause the sensation of burning, itching, and numbness
- Stomach pain
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
- Extreme confusion and disorientation
- Over excitement
In extreme circumstances, delirium tremens cause changes in your blood pressure, breathing and heart rate, which are likely to cause even death. Other complications of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include liver cirrhosis and failure, coma, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, nerve damage, and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which brings permanent brain damage.
In addition, after the first symptoms end, you may get prolonged effects, known as PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). It is uncommon and happens four weeks after treatment or rehabilitation and lasts up to a year.
Some common symptoms include anxiety, sleep and memory problems, delayed reflexes, chronic nausea, intense alcohol cravings, extreme mood swings, panic attacks, depression, and low energy. The symptoms occur in cyclical waves, which may lead to relapsing.
Finally, if you want to quit alcohol, it can be a scary experience. Hence, you may need guidance. Visiting a detoxification facility allows experts to take care of you and get you back to health. Also, they provide medications and therapies which may be helpful. For more information on the symptoms and signs of alcohol withdrawal, call us today on 833-820-2922 or visit us in Columbus, Ohio. Our professionals will be happy to help with anything you may need.