Alcohol Withdrawal Signs, Symptoms and Warnings
Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a body’s natural detoxification process eliminates alcohol from the system. If a person is an extremely heavy drinker, as soon as his or her body begins to sense a lack of alcohol, physical symptoms will begin.
Acute alcohol withdrawal is the first stage in the detoxification process and involves mostly physical symptoms. Common signs and symptoms of acute alcohol detox include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Irritability, anxiety, restlessness and confusion
- Heart palpitations
- Fever and sweating
It is important to note that alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and produce severe symptoms. When going through alcohol withdrawal, it is best to be under some sort of professional addiction recovery support, because it is impossible to tell how severe withdrawal symptoms might become.
When a person’s symptoms become severe, withdrawal is referred to as delirium tremens and can cause:
- Altered mental functions, disorientation
- Deep sleep
- Extreme fear or excitement
- Sudden mood changes
These types of symptoms are much more dangerous than the effects listed previously. If a person goes through withdrawal too quickly, it can be extremely detrimental, which is why it is advisable to be under the care of a licensed physician or rehabilitation facility.
The Physiological Aspects of Withdrawal
Excessive alcohol use interferes with brain function by disrupting neurotransmitters. One neurotransmitter in particular, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), helps produce endorphins. When you drink alcohol in excess, it causes a GABA imbalance.
Dopamine, the “feel good” chemical, stops its production when a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking. These imbalances cause physiological differences in your system, which in turn give you unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol withdrawal can also induce anhedonia, a term for the brain’s lack of production of feel-good chemicals. Once the brain has stopped producing these chemicals, it takes a while for production to begin again. The brain works to fix the imbalance, but in the meantime, anhedonia will cause a severe lack of interest in most aspects of the person’s life. This can cause deeper depression and emotional issues.
In many instances, withdrawal symptoms only last five to seven days. Other times, people experience alcohol withdrawal months after they stop drinking. These long-lasting withdrawal syndromes are known as protracted or post-acute withdrawal.
Discuss Alcohol Recovery
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