What Are The Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Do You Know These Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal?

It doesn’t take long for the signs of alcohol withdrawal to appear. As soon as two hours after taking the last drink, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin. The signs of alcohol withdrawal can worsen rapidly and continue for weeks.

The Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be life-threatening and occurs when heavy drinkers reduce their drinking significantly or completely stop. Withdrawal from alcohol should be done in a controlled environment where medical care is available. The withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous for heavy drinkers and can escalate to the dangerous range quickly. Seizures and delirium tremens (DTs) are severe complications from alcohol withdrawal and can cause death. DTs are characterized by confusion, fever, and rapid heartbeat.

The risk can be significantly reduced with alcohol withdrawal medication and treatments. If an alcoholic has other health issues such as heart disease, lung disease, infections, or a history of seizures, it is extremely important they do not attempt to go through withdrawal at home. A medical emergency occurs when the person going through withdrawal experiences fever, severe confusion, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, and seizures happen. These signs of alcohol withdrawal require medical attention immediately. Inpatient alcohol rehab is the safest and most successful means of withdrawal and recovery.

Alcohol Withdrawal Medication

When an alcoholic decides to stop drinking, he or she must go through detoxification. Inpatient addiction treatment centers will often provide doctor prescribed alcohol withdrawal medication that will manage some of the moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, light sensitivity, insomnia, rapid heartbeat, hallucinations, anxiety, convulsions, and paranoia. Commonly used alcohol withdrawal medication can include the following:

  • Benzodiazepines – Chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and diazepam (Valium) are two benzodiazepines commonly prescribed to calm anxiety and an overactive mind. Chlordiazepoxide has strong anticonvulsant capabilities. Diazepam is preferred for providing safety from alcohol overdose.
  • Antidepressants – Statistics show approximately thirty-percent of alcoholics experienced serious depression during detox. Antidepressants help correct chemical imbalances in the brain and help the individual to be more hopeful and optimistic.
  • Anti-Nausea Medications – One of the unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptoms is nausea. Anti-nausea medications, such as ondansetron (Zofran) sooth the stomach discomfort and reduce nausea.

During the detox process, professional staff will monitor blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature to be sure all vitals stay at safe levels.

Alcohol Withdrawal Death

We hear about celebrity deaths from alcohol withdrawal, but five- to twenty-five percent exhibiting the DT symptoms do not survive. Alcohol withdrawal death is far more common than people realize. It’s a matter of life and death when an alcoholic decides to try and detox from alcohol without professional help. The symptoms can come on quickly and include shaky hands, anxiety, sweating, vomiting, and seizures followed by death. Once the individual has started into these symptoms, there is not much time to get them medical help. If you discover a loved one or friend is attempting this type of detox, call 911 immediately. There may be a blood infection, swollen liver, racing heartbeat, drop in blood pressure, and a shutdown of the kidneys. When these things begin happening to the body, it may already be too late for a life-saving intervention.

If you or a family member are a heavy drinker, get help right away. A medically monitored withdrawal in an addiction treatment center offers the safest way for alcohol withdrawal. Don’t wait another day before seeking help. Talk to someone who can connect you to the right treatment center in the area where you live.