Detoxing from alcohol can be a challenging and potentially dangerous process, especially for those with severe dependence. Seeking professional help and support is strongly recommended to ensure a safe and effective detox and to lay the foundation for lasting recovery.
Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol vary depending on the user’s history. A chronic abuser of alcohol can have more severe detox than someone who may not have been drinking as long or as much. To understand what to expect, let’s examine the effects of alcohol on the body.
The brain is affected by the presence of alcohol in the body.
Prolonged or heavy alcohol use exacerbates these effects. Alcohol gives a sense of calm and relaxation. The normal sense of calmness in the body is the result of GABA, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Continued alcohol in the body suppresses this natural process in the brain. The alcohol is now what the body craves and needs to feel this natural sensation. This issue now becomes a level of tolerance of alcohol. The body needs more alcohol to achieve this sense of calm and relaxation. When alcohol is no longer present, the body starts to rid itself of these toxins. Within hours of alcohol not being present, the body will start to show signs of withdrawal. Nausea and vomiting are very common. Sweating, headaches, and shaking hands will occur.
As the detoxification process continues, symptoms can become more severe.
Symptoms: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, and they may include:
- Mild Symptoms: Anxiety, sweating, shaky hands, headache, nausea, vomiting, and sleep disturbances.
- Moderate Symptoms: Increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, disorientation, confusion, and more severe anxiety and agitation.
- Severe Symptoms: Hallucinations, seizures, severe confusion, and delirium tremens (DTs), which can be life-threatening.
Not everyone who is coming off of alcohol addiction will experience these effects, but it is important to recognize what effects alcohol withdrawal can have.
Be prepared for the need of medical attention for someone who is detoxing. This can be a life-threatening process and needs to be taken seriously.
Alcohol Withdrawal: Symptoms, Treatments, Duration, and More. (n.d.). Retrieved January, 2017.