What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal takes place when a person reduces the amount or abruptly stops drinking alcohol after drinking for a long period of time (months or years).
Tolerance and physical dependence develop when someone drinks alcohol on a regular basis over a long-term period. Tolerance is the result that occurs when more and more alcohol is needed to gain the previous effects.
Physical dependence occurs when a person progressively drinks over an extended period of time resulting in brain chemistry changes. These brain chemistry changes result in the body and brain needing alcohol on a regular basis just to feel “normal” and to keep away “feeling sick”. When alcohol intake is reduced or suddenly stopped, neurochemical reactions triggered by malfunctioning brain receptors cause withdrawal symptoms to start. 2
What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?
- 2 to 12 hours: tremors, profuse sweating, headache, nausea, anxiety, vomiting
- 12 to 24 hours: hallucinations, confusion, the shakes, agitation
- 24 to 48 hours: seizures, all prior withdrawal symptoms continuing
- After 48 hours: Most symptoms start to ease considerably.
- Severe disorientation
- High blood pressure
What Are the Types of Alcohol Detox?
Medical Detox:A medical detox is essential for health and safety reasons when withdrawing from alcohol. Medical detox controls the situation, allowing seriously uncomfortable and possibly lethal symptoms to be maanged by trained medical staff. Any emergency situation can be handled by the medical team already on hand in a supervised alcohol detox.
A Note on Home Detox:A home detox is not recommended as medical complications could be severe or become fatal. Detox should be done with supervision to address complications throughout the process.
What Is Medical Detox and How Does it Work?
MedicationsA medical detox manages alcohol withdrawal symptoms and prevents the DTs through medications dispensed under medical supervision. 4
- Benzodiazepines: reduce and/or eliminate symptoms and safely prevent seizures.
- Anticonvulsants: prevent seizures and convulsions
- Antipsychotics: control agitation or psychosis