Alcohol withdrawal is a state where your body and mind struggle to go back to normal when you suddenly stop or lessen the volume of alcohol that you drink. There are several symptoms that will tell you that going through such a state, but some symptoms are more difficult to manage than the others.
Cause of Alcohol Withdrawal
To fully understand alcohol withdrawal, you should first understand what long-term heavy alcohol drinking does to your brain. If you are just an occasional drinker, then you don’t have to worry about experiencing withdrawal symptoms as your body will not be accustomed to the effects of alcohol. However, if you drink alcohol regularly and excessively, the effects of alcohol start to be more evident.
Alcohol is known as a depressant. A depressant is a type of substance that slows down the central nervous system making you susceptible to mood swings, anxiety, stress, and slower cognitive ability. In spite of what other people think, alcohol does not make a person happy since it is a depressant.
Regular drinking of alcohol does not guarantee withdrawal symptoms especially when the amount you drink is not excessive. 1-2 glasses of alcohol a few times a week does not cause withdrawal symptoms. However, drinking more than that on a regular basis for a span of a few months to years can make you susceptible to withdrawal symptoms when you reduce your intake.
Withdrawal symptoms result from the inability of your central nervous system to go back to its normal function. Since alcohol is a depressant, regular excessive drinking eventually affects how your brain works. If your brain gets used to such slow activity, it struggles to suddenly go back to its normal state prior to drinking too much alcohol.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
As mentioned a while ago, there are different stages of withdrawal symptoms. There are mild to serious symptoms. Depending on the symptoms, you can experience them six hours or a few weeks after your last alcoholic drink.
Mild symptoms consist of the following:
• Increased heart rate
• High blood pressure
• Frequent headaches
In spite of being called ‘mild’, these symptoms should not be taken lightly. Mild symptoms can persist for a few weeks for some people and during this time, it may already be affecting your daily activities. However, some symptoms don’t show for the rest of the day. Some persist the whole day while some only last for a few hours or during a certain part of the day.
Serious symptoms consist of the following:
• Extreme confusion
• Hallucinations (tactical, visual, or auditory)
These symptoms can be symptoms of delirium tremens (DT) which is the worst withdrawal symptom. When you, a relative, or a friend experiences delirium tremens, you should call for a medical emergency. This symptom needs to have immediate help as it is dangerous for the person experiencing it.
Diagnosing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
There are times when it is difficult to pinpoint alcohol withdrawal as the main cause of some symptoms. To properly diagnose your symptoms, it is best to seek professional help. That way, you are sure that a professional has assessed your medical history and your current situation.
It is possible that your doctor will ask about your alcohol history. They may ask for several tests, one of which would be a toxicology screen. This test will determine how much alcohol is still in your body. Your doctor may also use a scale to determine how serious your symptoms are.
There are times when your doctor will ask basic questions about yourself. Don’t think that these are weird questions; they are done for a reason – to check if your central nervous system is still working properly. These questions include, but are not limited to, basic information, preferences, day today, relatives, etc.
If you have decided to reduce or stop your alcohol intake altogether, it is best to consult a professional before doing so. This will help reduce your withdrawal and your doctor may also craft a medical plan to treat your illness. They can even prepare you for the possible symptoms that may arise during your treatment phase.