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Alcohol Detox

Alcohol Withdrawal & Detox

Alcohol withdrawal is an extremely serious health condition and can be deadly. Symptoms can begin to occur within two hours and can include headaches, nausea, anxiety, as well as seizures.

Definition of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal, also known as Alcohol withdrawal syndrome, is a set of signs and symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, shakiness, agitation, and anxiety that develop when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking1. Alcohol withdrawal occurs after someone has built a tolerance to alcohol, which usually occurs due to excessive drinking over a long period of time. Once an individual has developed a tolerance to alcohol, they can become dependent on it, and require drinking alcohol to avoid the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal which can be deadly. 

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur after someone has stopped drinking alcohol after an extended period of drinking alcohol excessively. Symptoms can vary as to when they begin, but they can start as early as 2 hours after someone has stopped drinking, or up to four days later. Symptoms of withdrawal can be both physical and psychological in nature. Typically, the greater the amount of alcohol and the longer someone has been drinking consistently will lead to more extreme levels of withdrawal symptoms.

Alcoholism Stats

Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal signs vary based on the individual, how long someone has been drinking, and to what amount. However, the below are signs that are present with signs of alcohol withdrawal:

  • ‍Headaches
  • Shaking
  • Tremors
  • Fast Heart Rate
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Seizures

Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens2. is severe alcohol withdrawal, and can be characterized by an onset of confusion, along with shaking and hallucinations. Delirium Tremens can be life-threatening, and often occurs several days into withdrawal symptoms and can last for two to three days.

Seizures may occur in more than 5% of untreated patients in acute alcohol withdrawal. The mortality rate among patients exhibiting Delirium Tremens symptoms is 5% to 25%3.

Mortality with Alcohol withdrawal is largely due to Delirium Tremens. There are multiple treatment options associated with alcohol withdrawal, and medical care should be sought out immediately.

l View Hide Sources:

  1. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=331&sectionid=40727213
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1407298
  3. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/61-66.pdf
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/alcohol-withdrawal-
  5. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm
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Alcohol Withdrawal Duration

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms will typically begin to appear in the first 5 to 10 hours following consumption of the last alcoholic beverage. This is one of the reasons why alcoholics are sometimes characterized as shaking as this is one of the first signs of withdrawal.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically improve within five days, though a small number of patients have prolonged symptoms, lasting weeks4.

It is often difficult for people who drink alcohol excessively, to be honest about how much they consume. For this reason, it is extremely important for individuals to be aware of the dangers associated with alcohol withdrawal and the potentially devastating consequences.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Factors will vary based on the individual and amount of consumption, but the following may be considered as a general outline5.

8 Hours:  First stage of withdrawal symptoms. Can include headaches, clammy hands, fatigue, anxiety, nausea, and vomiting.

After 24 to 72 Hours: Withdrawal symptoms will begin to peak and stage 2 to stage 3 elements of alcohol withdrawal will begin to occur.

72 hours to 168 Hours: Some of the worst effects of alcohol withdrawal can occur during this time period, including seizures and delirium tremens.  Physical and psychological effects are still ongoing.

168 Hours +: Symptoms have begun to subside but some individuals may still feel lasting effects of withdrawal symptoms. These are more of the psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and mood swings.

Alcoholism Stats

Alcohol Detox Period

Alcohol detoxification is when an individual stops drinking alcohol and is treated with cross tolerant drugs that can safely and effectively mimic the effects of alcohol in order to prevent alcohol withdrawal.

It is important that an individual is under medical supervision when alcohol detox occurs due to the dangerous effects of alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms are typically monitored in order to ensure that the individual’s vital systems are stable. This is accomplished through medical detox in which the medical staff may treat the symptoms of nausea, insomnia, dehydration, and seizures with medicine. Intravenous fluids may be used, in addition to benzodiazepines, as well as anticonvulsants or anti-seizure medicines.

Individuals will also need healthy nutrition and lots of rest and sleep during this period, which is why medical oversight is so important. Although rare some symptoms of severe alcohol detox can include heart arrhythmias, seizures, as well as kidney and liver failure, emphasizing the importance of undergoing alcohol detox in a safe environment

Alcohol Treatment

Treatment for alcohol substance abuse is an important step for those who suffer from alcoholism. Overcoming alcoholism is not an easy process, and the individual should be aware of the road they face in order to live a life free of alcohol addiction. There are a number of factors which will be important to ensure that someone is successful in their battle with alcohol addiction. Going to a treatment center with a staff of medical specialist and staff professionals is a good first start. For those who are seeking treatment with alcohol substance abuse disorder, you can learn more HERE, or call 877-240-0450 to speak with a treatment center specialist now.

l View Hide Sources:

  1. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=331&sectionid=40727213
  2. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1407298
  3. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/61-66.pdf
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/alcohol-withdrawal-
  5. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm