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How To Deal With Alcohol Withdrawal

Like any substance addiction, alcoholism carries many health and mental challenges when a person suddenly decides to quit. Alcohol withdrawal is one of them. And while people may dismiss it as just a side effect of quitting, alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. In fact, it can be as dangerous as the addiction itself.

If you or a loved one is about to do an alcohol detox, it’s essential to know about alcohol withdrawal. This article will discuss the condition and the warning signs for when your detox is entering dangerous territory. 

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is a set of psychological and physiological changes in your body when you suddenly stop drinking alcohol. Withdrawal happens because, after prolonged exposure to alcohol, your brain gets dependent on its effects. When unexpectedly deprived of alcohol, your body will have a hard time adjusting. The resulting side effects are known as withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary by person, depending on how heavily they drink. Common side effects include shakiness, anxiousness, and a general feeling of irritability. Mood swings, insomnia, and depression are also tell-tale signs of withdrawal; hence, someone experiencing these symptoms often finds it hard to concentrate on everyday tasks.

The effects of withdrawal also vary from person to person depending on other factors, such as any other health or mental issues the person might have. Some might not even feel any symptoms at all.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

One typical question drinkers ask when deciding to quit is, “how long does it take to detox from alcohol?” 

This question can be challenging to address because different people experience different lengths of withdrawal. Just like the related question, “how long does alcohol last in your system?” the answer here is: “it depends.” However, this process takes around five days on average.

Alcohol withdrawal happens when alcohol levels in your body drop, which can occur anywhere from two to eight hours after your last drink. These symptoms might last for weeks, depending on how long (and how much) you have been drinking. However, the good news is that, for most people, the worst symptoms usually subside after about a week.

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

To understand why withdrawal happens, you need to know how addiction occurs in your body. 

When a person drinks alcohol, it does two things to the brain. 

  1. It increases a neurotransmitter, known as Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), in your brain. GABA has a sedative effect, producing a calm and relaxed feeling that is the trademark of alcohol. 
  2. Another neurotransmitter, glutamate, is decreased. Glutamate is responsible for feelings of excitement.

When you regularly expose your body to alcohol, your brain tries to compensate for the imbalance of neurotransmitters. It decreases the production of GABA and kicks up the production of glutamate. As a result, you’ll need more and more alcohol to achieve the same “high” compared to a casual drinker.

If you abruptly stop drinking, the lack of alcohol will cause a sudden chemical imbalance with your neurotransmitters. Your body will continue to produce high levels of glutamate and low amounts of GABA. This imbalance results in the nasty side effects which a person feels as alcohol withdrawal. 

The Severity of Alcohol Detox Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal generally comes in three stages, with each stage’s symptoms becoming more severe than the last.

  • Stage 1: This stage happens as soon as two hours after a person’s last drink. The symptoms in this stage are the least severe. They include anxiety, depression, and shakiness. In more severe cases, vomiting and palpitations might occur.
  • Stage 2: This is when the symptoms start to get more severe. Some people might experience relatively minor issues like excessive sweating or mood swings. However, more severe signs, like an abnormal heart rate or increased blood pressure, can manifest in this stage.
  • Stage 3: This final level of alcohol withdrawal is the most dangerous. Not everyone experiences this stage, but you will most likely need immediate medical attention if you do. Symptoms of Stage 3 withdrawal include high fever, seizures, and hallucinations.

It’s important to note that not everyone goes through these same withdrawal stages. Nevertheless, it’s still prudent to prepare; it’s nearly impossible to predict with absolute certainty what withdrawal symptoms a person will experience. 

Alcohol Withdrawal is a Serious Issue

For heavy drinkers who want to quit, the possibility of withdrawal symptoms can pose a severe health risk. At the same time, living with the addiction will harm that person’s long-term wellbeing. So what can be done? It’s best to detox at a medically-supervised alcohol detox program. 

With the professional help of West Coast Recovery Center, you can maintain a sober lifestyle. The integrated approach at our alcohol rehabilitation center will help you overcome this disease, leading to a better, alcohol-free life. 

Contact us today at West Coast Recovery Centers to help you start your journey on the road to sobriety.