While the “war on drugs” rages on, alcohol remains perfectly legal, as it has been for most of America’s history. Not surprisingly, we do a great deal of drinking in this country. A little over 50 percent of people of drinking age are regular drinkers. That equates to about 98.5 million people. Of these, more than 15 million suffer from an alcohol use disorder, and would benefit from learning about the dangers of alcohol withdrawal.
Yet despite how common alcohol use—and misuse—may be in the United States, it may surprise you to know that it is one of the few substances, along with benzodiazepines, whose withdrawal symptoms can be deadly. Quitting alcohol is a wise choice for your health, but it’s serious business, and best done with the help of a professional.
If you’re thinking about giving up the bottle, let’s take a look at some of the dangers of alcohol withdrawal.
What we mean when we’re discussing the dangers of “alcohol withdrawal” are the problems posed by removing alcohol from the body suddenly. It should be noted that most of the real risk associated with this process—known as detoxification or detox for short—can be eliminated by undergoing detox under medical supervision at a hospital or rehab clinic. Supervised detox will be far better and easier than the alternative of going “cold turkey.”
What happens when you stop drinking altogether? It all depends on the duration and severity of your habit. Those who drink the most and for the longest will have the most severe reaction to detox. It’s a result of the brain becoming dependent on alcohol.
Over time, the brain adjusts its chemistry to function as best it can with a steady influx of alcohol. Since alcohol works mainly as a sedative, the body slowly increases the production of chemicals like norepinephrine to balance itself. When the alcohol is removed from the equation, there’s an overabundance of natural stimulants. The brain will readjust, but it takes time. And the transition can be bumpy.
Symptoms and Dangers of Alcohol Withdrawal
The dangers of alcohol withdrawal are numerous and will vary from patient to patient. They include both psychological and physical symptoms.
Psychological symptoms include:
- Intense cravings
Physical symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
The most feared of all the dangers of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens, also known as the DTs. Delirium tremens is relatively rare, presenting in only 3-5 % of cases of alcohol withdrawal. Full-blown delirium tremens usually sets in about three days after the start of detox and can last for several days itself. At its peak, patients may suffer from any or all of the following:
- Severe tremors
- Racing heart
- High blood pressure
- Excessive sweating
- Severe anxiety
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
While the most intense dangers of alcohol withdrawal occur in the two weeks following the cessation of drinking, alcoholics may continue to suffer from post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) for up to a year. PAWS includes:
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Memory issues
These symptoms aren’t nearly as powerful as the ones previously experienced, but they can try a person’s patience. The greatest danger here, however, is that PAWS can potentially cause a relapse.
Contact New Bridge Foundation Today
If you’re concerned about the dangers of alcohol withdrawal, don’t go it alone. The New Bridge Foundation can give you the expert care you need with the compassion you deserve. For more than 50 years, New Bridge Foundation has been providing the Berkeley, CA, area with the most effective addiction treatment available anywhere in the country. And with the addition of our virtual outpatient programs, you can continue your recovery from the privacy and comfort of your own home. Your life is waiting for you. Take it back with our help. To learn more, we invite you to contact us at 866.772.8491.