Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal can be as mild as a hangover or so severe that one needs hospitalization. It all depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and over what period of time. There are also factors of sex and age that enter into this equation. Even the mildest withdrawals, usually referred to as a bad hangover, may cause some physical symptoms, such as trembling of hands and some head shaking, usually accompanied by a headache, perhaps accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
The American Family Physician describes alcohol withdrawal as "The spectrum of alcohol withdrawal symptoms ranging from such symptoms as insomnia and tremulousness to severe complications such as withdrawal seizures and delirium tremens."
The Clinical Criteria for Alcohol Withdrawal
One must first establish that the person has been drinking heavily and for a prolonged period. Sometimes this could be as little as an extremely heavy night of drinking, but for serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms, the drinking has usually been sustained for more than one day.
Once that has been established, you can look for any of the following symptoms to occur:
- Cessation of (or reduction in) alcohol use that has been heavy and prolonged
- Autonomic hyperactivity (e.g. sweating or pulse rate greater than 100 beats per minute
- Increased hand tremor
- Nausea or vomiting
- Transient visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations or illusions
- Psychomotor agitation
These symptoms are accompanied by reported distress or impairment in one's social settings or conversations, problems at work or other reports of dysfunctional behaviors.
In making the diagnosis of alcohol withdrawals, it is important to rule out any other general medical conditions that have similar symptomology. Once a diagnosis is established that meet the above criteria, the only responsible action is to seek medical advice and attention. Severe withdrawals from alcohol are certainly life-threatening and should not be taken lightly as being a "bad hangover". Once the cascade of symptoms begins to appear, one may not have ample time to have the proper medical coverage.
Minor withdrawal symptoms from moderate alcohol intake include insomnia, tremors, mild anxiety, upset stomach, headache, heart palpitations and a loss of appetite. These symptoms will appear in 6 to 12 hours after the cessation of alcohol use.
Alcohol related hallucinations, visual, auditory or tactile, might become present from 12 to 24 hours after cessation of drinking.
Seizures from alcohol withdrawals appear within 24 to 48 hours post cessation.
Delirium tremens, disorientation, rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, sweating, and agitation can also appear in two to four days after the beginnings of alcohol withdrawals.
These symptoms should make it obvious that alcohol is extremely toxic to our bodies and if you were to examine the effects of other organic poisons, you would find that the reaction of the body is very similar to what we are describing as alcohol withdrawals.
Anyone that has had severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms needs to realize that these manifestations are symptoms of organ damage and should be made aware that the old folk remedy of having another drink to relieve the pain of withdrawals is a dangerous action, especially if a person has had severe alcohol intoxication. Withdrawal progresses as the blood alcohol levels drop closer to zero, but adding more of the poison (alcohol) to the body when it is already stressed from having to metabolize the original abuse may lead to further complications and cause further tissue and organ damage.
Binge drinkers notoriously drink until they are severely drunk and then suffer through the withdrawals from their intoxication. Once they have recovered from this painful process, they are prone to repeat the same drinking/withdrawal behaviors. Over time, these episodic drinkers find that they begin to develop a reverse tolerance for alcohol, meaning that instead of the usual pattern of building resistance to alcohol consumed, it begins to take less and less blood alcohol to manifest the same intoxication and withdrawal symptoms.
Narconon is one of the only residential alcohol and drug treatment programs that addresses the severe damage that alcohol poisoning does to the alcoholics body and mind. The Narconon withdrawal program focuses on rebuilding the depleted nutritional bases in the individual and once he is stabilized, their program spend weeks cleansing the body of toxic metabolites from the alcoholic's abuse and rehabilitating the damage that has occurred from these toxins. Many alcoholic patients report that when they finish this complete withdrawals and detox, that they feel has healthy as they did prior to their addiction. This is an experience of sudden revelation or insight that can sustain the problem drinker through the mental therapeutic processes necessary to help in his recovery.
Alcohol is widely marketed as a social lubricant, especially to our youth, but from the above description of these effects of this drug, it can easily been seen that alcohol is poisonous to the body and the youth in our society need to be educated in the truth about alcohol, as well as, all other drugs. Alcoholics always have a history of innocent drinking at a social level before they find themselves "needing" to have a drink to feel normal. It is important to be aware of the incipient nature of alcohol addiction so that one can spot these potential problems long before they are in control of person.
Contact a Narconon alcohol rehab counselor if you know someone who has a drinking problem.