Alcohol acts as a social lubricant, a self-medication for many, who use it to deal with their emotions and block pain. But what the media and society don’t tell you, is that this “acceptable” way of dealing with life has a variety of drawbacks. For one, alcohol addiction is a spiritual, physical, and mental disease that can arise after an unhealthy relationship with alcohol is established. Alcoholism can wreak havoc on the body and later, if you decide to get sober and heal from this disease, you may face another battle. After being addicted to alcohol for some time, it’s possible you may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms after quitting. Alcohol withdrawal is the body’s response to getting riding of the toxic substance of alcohol. What can you expect from alcohol withdrawal and how can you cope? Read on to find out.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
The more you drink and the frequency will determine how and when your alcohol withdrawal will begin. The severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from slightly uncomfortable to medically unsafe. If other medical problems are present, alcohol withdrawal could be more severe. The National Institutes of Health says that withdrawal symptoms can begin to occur within 8 hours of the last drink, but also can occur several days later. Symptoms peak by a day to 3 days after the last drink, but may go on for weeks.
Below is a list of common withdrawal symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Clammy skin
- Delirium tremens
How to cope with alcohol withdrawal
If you’re thinking about quitting drinking, it’s always best to ask for help. Addiction can be an isolating disease with a lot of insecurities and bumps in the road all the way. If I could change one thing about my own experience, it would be asking for help. I wish I didn’t do it alone. Additionally, detoxing from alcohol can be dangerous and you should be monitored by a professional.
Treatment may include a physical exam, monitoring of blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, blood levels, hydration levels, and sedation if withdrawal is severe. Fluids or medications may be given through a vein by IV. The goal of treatment is to ease the symptoms of withdrawal and make you more comfortable.
Once your body stops taking alcohol, it may go into shock. When alcohol is reduced or stopped, what was previously contained in the glutamate system quickly rebounds in a natural way, causing an adverse effect on the brain and body. This is when the withdrawal symptoms may start to occur. Some of the withdrawal symptoms are actually the opposite effects alcohol has on a person when they consume it. There is no one size fits all answer to how long alcohol withdrawal could last or how severe it will be.
A typical timeline for alcohol withdrawal is as follows:
Six to 12 hours after last drink:
- Hand tremors
- Sleep disturbances
- Low-level stress or anxiety
Twelve to 48 hours after last drink:
- Visual, audio, or physical hallucinations
Forty-eight to 72 hours after last drink:
- Delirium tremens (depending on severity of alcohol use)
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature
Alcohol withdrawal is mentally, physically, and spiritually exhausting. That’s why it’s your best option to go to a certified addiction treatment center or another medical facility like a hospital or clinic. Facing alcohol withdrawal can be a difficult first step to sobriety and your health and safety are of utmost importance.
There are some practical steps you can take to cope with alcohol withdrawal:
- Remember the pain is temporary and you will get through it.
- Eat healthy meals.
- Reach out to your support system for advice and kind words.
- Drinks lots of fluids.
- Find a hobby.
- Take a cold shower.
Remember alcohol withdrawal is just one, short step on the pathway to recovery. Complete recovery is possible, but returning to alcohol use may result in a higher risk for liver, heart, nervous system damage. You can get through withdrawal and it will lead you to the best days of your life. Getting sober isn’t easy, it’s new, different, and on some days, very uncomfortable. Battling through your addiction to sobriety is brave and courageous. Remember that and fight through alcohol withdrawals to get out on the other side. Thousands have already done it and you can too.
Insights, Pathophysiological. “Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal.” Harvard.
Written by: Kelly Fitzgerald
Kelly is a sober writer based in Cape Coral, Florida, best known for her personal blog The Adventures Of A Sober Señorita. Follow her on Twitter.