A person who has heavily addicted to alcohol experiences physical and mental problems when he or she tries to quit. An alcoholic goes through drastic changes once the person decides to quit alcohol consumption. As a result of this, the person experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms, the causes of it. We discuss the process of diagnosis and treatment below, so if you know someone suffering from this problem, you can help him out.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
When a person starts consuming alcohol on a daily basis, which later on turns out to be a habit, it causes certain changes when the person quits alcohol consumption. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is a condition when a person quits or reduces daily alcohol intake. As a result of it, the body goes through certain changes in terms of physical health and mental health. This is very common among heavy drinkers and the symptoms vary from mild to serious. If you’re not a heavy drinker, then you might not experience any such symptoms when you call it a quit. In the case of heavy drinkers, every time they call it a quit will result in AWS or Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.
Alcohol has a sedating effect on the human body which affects the brain too. In addition to this, the body gets used to the effect as well as the brain. This, in turn, enhances the production of norepinephrine which is stimulated naturally in the brain. Now, when the person stops the consumption of alcohol suddenly, the brain adjusts to this sudden change. As it is by now habituated with the change and performs accordingly. The brain is now an accelerated car with no brakes. As the stimulation of norepinephrine is at the same level, the brain functions are overstimulated. Every one person among 20 people experiences the worst symptoms of AWS. This condition is also known as DT or Delirium Tremens.
Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
As alcohol is sedative in nature, it has a depressing effect on your body. Further, it slows down the process of brain functioning and disrupts the message sending procedure of the nerves. With time, the central nervous system becomes used to the alcohol consumption. Now, your body needs to keep the brain functioning actively so that the nerves can continue the process of sending and receiving messages. This, in turn, increases the production of norepinephrine in the brain. Now, when you restrict alcohol consumption, the entire process gets disrupted which causes the AWS or Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Now, that we have understood quite a bit about the syndrome lets discuss the symptoms of the condition. The symptoms start to show up when you quit drinking. As the body is habituated to alcohol consumption, it will keep on ticking like a clock if you don’t drink. There is a said pattern of the symptoms. Although it isn’t necessary that all patients will experience the same symptoms, it may vary with every individual.
1. Tremors or Shakes
The very first among alcohol withdrawal symptoms are tremors. Generally, an alcohol addict will experience tremors when he or she hasn’t drunk a drop of alcohol in the past 8 to 12 hours. This condition can aggravate when the span increases to a day or two. Tremors are accompanied by nightmares, high blood pressure, heavy breathing, rapid pulse rate, abnormal sweating, irritability, etc.
2. Alcoholic Hallucinosis
When you have restricted yourself from consuming alcohol for more than 16 to 24 hours, you are susceptible to experience alcoholic Hallucinosis. The moment you start experiencing this symptom of AWS, you might find yourself being affected by it for almost 2 to 3 days continuously. During this time you will hallucinate various things which can be small objects moving continuously in front of your eyes. Further, you might experience a detailed vision of some incident that is completely in your mind and not real at all.
3. AWS Seizures
Seizures can occur anytime in between 8 to 48 hours of quitting alcohol. You might experience multiple seizures as well for a particular span of time. The riskiest time is the first 24 hours of alcohol restriction. If you can successfully tackle the first 24 hours since the last drink, then you can cope up with the rest of the symptoms as well.
4. Delirium tremens
There has been a briefing made about delirium tremens or DT above. This condition often occurs after 48 to 72 hours of quitting alcohol consumption. In some cases, it has occurred after a week as well. It is not necessary that DT will occur at the said time for every individual. The symptoms vary at different levels with every individual. DT leads to breathing problems, a drastic increase in blood pressure, rise in body temperature and blood circulation. Further, it also causes severe dehydration, increases in heart rate, etc. On the contrary, this condition also reduces the blood flow to the brain which disrupts the overall functioning of your body.
5. Other Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Apart from the above-mentioned four symptoms, there are some other symptoms as well which you might experience. It is better to be well informed about these conditions so that you can act on it if you experience these symptoms. If you see these symptoms are aggravating beyond your control then it is recommended to consult a doctor immediately. Here is a list of the other symptoms of AWS.
- Heavy sweating
- High blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
- Shaky hands
- Sleep disturbance
- Uncontrolled anger
- A rapid increase in heartbeat
- Irrational beliefs
These are some of the common symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. On the other hand, only a few numbers of AWS patients experience all of these symptoms. You might experience some of these and depending on these symptoms you must opt for the best way to deal with AWS.
Who are at risk for AWS?
The risk of suffering from AWS is higher for those who have been drinking for a long time. For instance, you are highly addicted to alcohol consumption and you are drinking for the past 5 years on a regular basis. Now, you are trying to quit alcohol consumption, this is the time when you are most vulnerable to suffer from AWS. An addict is bound to suffer from AWS whenever he or she plans to call it a quit. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are common among adults and teenagers in the US.
You are at a riskier situation if you’ve gone through the detox procedure and have again become an alcohol addict. In the case of women, consuming more than 8 drinks is called a heavy drinker, while for men, consuming more than 15 drinks per week is a heavy drinker. There is something called binge drinking which means 4 or more drinks in one sitting for both men and women. This theory has been prepared and published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDCP. The theory suggests that one drink is equal to:
- Beer – 12 ounces
- Wine – 5 ounces
- Liquor such as rum, gin, whiskey and vodka – 2 ounces
- Malt liquor – 8 ounces
Expected Duration of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
If you are experiencing symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, don’t worry as the conditions will eventually improve within a span of 5 to 7 days. There are some cases where patients have experienced symptoms for more than 7 to 10 days. The duration varies with every individual patient and you cannot ascertain how long it will last.
Diagnosis of AWS
The diagnosis procedure is pretty easy. You can do it by yourself up to a certain extent. This is so because the typical symptoms of AWS are listed above in this article. Further, if you are a heavy drinker and you are currently experiencing these symptoms then yes, you diagnosed yourself with AWS. Besides, there are no tests that will certainly predict that you are suffering from AWS. If you are facing alcohol withdrawal symptoms without quitting alcohol consumption then you have done enough damage to yourself.
Experiencing symptoms of AWS without quitting alcohol consumption is a sign of severe health damage. Consult a doctor and opt for a thorough checkup. A complete checkup refers to a full-body test which includes organ testing, nervous system performance testing, blood test, etc. It is possible that you might be suffering from nutrition deficiency. This is common for alcohol addicts as excess alcohol consumption cuts down the appetite to half. As a result, you tend to feel less hungry every time which includes when you are under the influence of alcohol. It is very important for your own good to disclose your complete drinking history in front of your doctor. Hiding any valuable information might lead to life-threatening conditions.
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Treatment
Treating AWS is tough because it entirely depends on how severe the symptoms are. There is a handful of treating procedures which can be implemented on the basis of the patient’s health condition. Firstly, there is home treatment where you can look after the patient by yourself. Secondly, you can hospitalize the patient so that there is complete supervision of the doctor over the patient. Thirdly, you can consult a doctor and ask for medications to cure the condition. All these options are subject to change as the entire treatment procedure depends on how severe the patient’s condition is.
1. Home care
If you are experiencing mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms then it can be easily treated at home. You just need someone to monitor you throughout the day for a couple of days or weeks. There isn’t much to worry about. The job of your friend or relative is to look after you and keep a check on your condition. If the condition improves then you’ll be fine soon. On the contrary, if things aggravate in a bad way, your friend or relative must rush you to the hospital.
Further, you might need to visit the doctor at regular intervals for a checkup so you need someone to accompany you. Even there will be blood tests and other tests conducted on you to determine the status of your health. If at all you feel that things are not working out, you can always opt for a rehab center.
When the symptoms are extremely severe and you can treat the patient at home, it is recommended that you must admit the patient to a hospital. There will be doctors and nurses to look after the patient. He or she will be monitored 24×7 for improvement or worsening of situations. The doctor will keep you updated about the patient’s health condition. Also, you can rely on them completely as any emergency situation will be best handled by them.
Medication is an important part of the treatment procedure and you can rely on the prescribed medications completely. The doctor will verify the intensity of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms and then prescribe suitable medications. Further, if things are severe then the doctor will take necessary steps. Generally, to cure symptoms of AWS, doctors often recommend benzodiazepines. This is a sedative and here are some of the commonly prescribed benzodiazepines.
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
Apart from these, the patient must consume vitamin supplements to recover quickly. As alcohol cuts down the appetite in a person, the patient must consume vitamin supplements and other nutritious food to improve health conditions in a short time. The nutritious supplements also help in addressing complications that may arise during the treatment.
Prevention from AWS
There are many factors that can make you an alcohol addict. Similarly, there are also some factors that can help you from becoming an alcohol addict. It is completely your call whether you want to become an addict and suffer or you wish to live a healthy life. In some cases, it has been noted that a person is addicted to alcohol because it is in the family. For instance, if your parents are alcoholic, then there are high chances that you will develop this addiction that too in a tender age. You must restrain from becoming an alcohol addict. You can consume a couple of drinks once every 15 days but not on a daily basis.