For the alcoholic who wants to quit drinking, the thought of going through alcohol withdrawal can be horrific. Maybe they’ve tried to detox before and it was very hard for them to get through those first couple of days, so they started drinking again. Or maybe they just aren’t sure they want to give up alcohol completely.
If you’re struggling with an addiction to alcohol and you want to quit, it can help you to understand a little bit about alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the timeline associated with such.
Alcohol Withdrawal Stages
There are predominantly three stages associated with alcohol withdrawal.
Stage 1 (mild) – Usually starts about 8-10 hours after the person’s last drink. You may experience the jitters or anxiety, trouble sleeping, and perhaps a stomach ache.
Stage 2 (moderate) – Usually starts about one to three days after your last drink. This stage is largely characterized by a bit of confusion, increase in blood pressure, feeling super-hot, and perhaps your heart skipping beats or just being irregular.
Stage 3 (severe) – Usually starts about five to six days after your last drink. You may feel feverish, sluggish, agitated, and could experience seizures or hallucinations if you were a heavy drinker.
Alcohol Use Is Common
In America, drinking has become a favorite pastime of many people. You can’t watch the television for long before seeing a commercial that portrays drinking as a great way to have fun. A study published in the JAMA Journal indicates that there is an alarming increase in high risk drinking and alcohol use disorder, especially among minorities, women, the older generation, and those in poverty.
It’s not just more people drinking; it’s the consequences of the increase that are alarming. More people are dying each year directly due to their drinking patterns. In fact, the NIAAA asserts that as many as 88,000 people die each year because of an alcohol-related cause.
What About Dopamine?
When someone takes a drink of alcohol, they’re going to get a bit of a dopamine surge in the brain. This is what makes them feel that “buzz” or euphoric feeling. This is actually why most people have a drink – to feel that dopamine hit. After all, it does feel pleasant and oftentimes helps people to feel less anxiety.
However, when that person stops drinking, their level of dopamine takes a hit. They’re left feeling tired and the brain kicks in and says, “Hey, I want more of that alcohol so I can feel good!” And, since the brain is used to creating dopamine in its own innate way and the alcohol messes with its ability to do so, a person can be left feeling depressed over and over again after drinking alcohol. Sure, the buzz is great for a few hours, but then they have to deal with an emotional crash and their left with the decision to drink again to feel better, or stop and go through withdrawal symptoms.
What Is Alcohol Tolerance?
When a person starts drinking alcohol, it may take them one or two drinks to feel that euphoric feeling that they like. But the more often they drink, the more the body gets used to the alcohol and the more alcohol it will take for the body to feel that same euphoric feeling. This is called tolerance. The more often and the more quantity someone drinks, the more they will develop a tolerance.
This means the guy who is drinking a 12 pack or more of beer per night or the woman who drinks a bottle of wine four or five nights per week means they’ve built up a pretty good tolerance. The problem with this is that when they want to quit drinking, or even cut down, they run into having to face some daunting alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
If you’re struggling with alcohol and you want to stop, you might wonder about what alcohol withdrawal symptoms you will encounter. To stop drinking cold turkey it is expected that you will certainly experience some symptoms that may not be so pleasant. Depending on how long you’ve been drinking and how much you drink, the symptoms will vary, as well as the intensity.
If you’ve come to drink every day, your body has become quite dependent on alcohol and when it does not get anymore alcohol, you will experience some physical discomfort. In fact, if you have been drinking for a while, it is advised that you seek professional help as you stop drinking, such as a detox or alcohol rehab center. There you will be supervised by professionals who can help you get through the alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Those who drink heavily can experience withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening, so it is important to reach out for help.
I Will Never Drink Again
Have you ever drank too much, felt terrible, and then vowed to never drink again? Chances are you have, but you ended up drinking again because you forget about the bad experience and your body craves that alcohol. Once you are dependent upon alcohol, withdrawal symptoms will begin to occur and cause you some pain and anxiety until you pick up another drink. This is a classic sign of alcoholism.
Here are some common alcohol withdrawal symptoms:
· The Shakes
It is common to experience “the shakes” once you have stopped drinking. This is simply your body craving more of the booze, so it shakes. Your heart may race, you will feel anxious, your hands will shake, your blood pressure may rise, and you may feel nauseous. This is not necessarily a dangerous alcohol withdrawal symptom. It simply takes time getting through the shakes.
You may be a bit confused coming off alcohol, usually within the first few days of detoxing.
· Trouble Sleeping
You may not be able to fall asleep when you’re going through alcohol withdrawal. Or, you may feel like you want to sleep much more than normal.
· Delirium Tremens (DTs)
If you’re a heavy drinker and you’ve been dependent on alcohol for a while, you may experience delirium tremens (DT’s) as soon as a couple days after you’ve stopped drinking. Not everyone experiences DT’s, but know that it is possible. DT’s involve visual hallucinations, confusion, anxiousness, and cardiovascular problems. Substance abuse professionals advise alcoholics to seek professional help getting off of alcohol because once DT’s start, they can become life threatening, as seizures, strokes, and heart attacks can occur. Once again, this is why heading to an alcohol detox center or treatment facility is recommended.
Never Stop Drinking Cold Turkey
If you’ve become dependent on alcohol, medical experts advise not to stop drinking cold turkey, especially if you’re a heavy drinker. Consulting a medical doctor or substance abuse professional is recommended, so you can be monitored while your body detoxes from alcohol. Stopping abruptly can cause your brain to “freak out” so-to-speak, and it can be dangerous to your well-being. Therefore, consult a professional before you stop drinking.
If you are extremely alcohol dependent, know that the alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be eased with the proper treatment. This oftentimes includes medication prescribed by a doctor. At alcohol detox centers, the professionals there can monitor and guide you through the withdrawal symptoms, giving medication as necessary to make the process as painless as possible. You will feel safe and secure at a detox center, as going through alcohol withdrawal symptoms on your own can be quite scary.
If you’re struggling with an alcohol addiction, it’s time to break that addiction. Do some research into treatment centers and give them a call. Set up an appointment to discuss the situation and decide when you can go in for detox. Most of the time, the detox process lasts from 7 to 14 days. The staff will also be able to recommend suggestions for treatment after detox.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline
Though the time frame for withdrawal symptoms may vary from person to person based on various factors, there are some common timelines out there.
What is a Detox Center?
A detox center is a treatment facility where you can go to get help with managing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Usually detox centers have people come for between five to seven days to help them get through the worst of the physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. They will also be able to speak with a counselor and may be prescribed medications that can help ease symptoms. From there, they have the choice to attend a rehab or they can return home to continue their recovery path there.
Are you struggling with an addiction to alcohol? If so, please reach out for help. There is treatment available, so you don’t have to continue to struggle. Seek help today and take that step toward getting your life back.
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