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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol, a potent Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant, when taken in large quantity for a long period of time, re-conditions the brain, in such a way that, the brain works very hard to keep the centres responsible for being awake active. However, a sudden drop in the level of alcohol present in the body fluids, probably due to a decision to stop taking alcohol, could precipitate mild to serious withdrawal symptoms.  The withdrawal symptoms could be life-threatening in some cases.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be self-diagnosed, that is, you could easily know when these symptoms are in action. The symptoms include:

  • Shaky hands
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations (about 12 to 24 hours after the last drink)
  • Seizures ( 2 days after the last drink)
  • Delirium tremens (48 to 72 hours after the last drink)

While the withdrawal symptoms experienced by alcoholics vary depending on the quantity and length of time of previous drinking episodes, it is to be noted that, some withdrawal symptoms could be severe, such symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Vivid hallucinations and delusions ( a condition in which an alcoholic experiencing withdrawal symptoms sees things that are not physically present)
  • Tachycardia (Racing heart)
  • Hypertension (or High Blood pressure)
  • Heavy sweating
  • Fever

How can it be diagnosed?

It is advised in the best interest of alcoholics experiencing withdrawal symptoms, to consult a doctor or therapist as soon as possible. Once at the Doctor’s or Therapist’s office, the symptoms would be observed and a drinking history would be taken, to ascertain the display  of alcohol withdraw symptoms. The history  taking and consequent diagnosis would go a long way in helping the clinician advice adequately and proffer appropriate solutions  to the problem

How can it be treated?

You may not need more than a supportive environment to overcome the withdrawal symptoms. This could be otherwise, if you have had a previous experience of withdrawal symptoms, in which you would need a thorough supervision by Occupational therapists and nutritionists. However, if you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms for the first time, the supportive environment you need includes:

  • Soft lighting
  • A positive and supportive atmosphere
  • Healthy food and lots of fluid intake
  • A quiet place
  • A strong will to stop alcohol use ( as it can make your symptom worse in future withdraw al episodes)

It should also be noted that, if you experience a racing heart (tachycardia), high blood pressure, seizures and vivid hallucinations, your doctor might suggest an in-patient care for you, to monitor your symptoms closely and put fatal indications in check.

Benzodiazepines e.g (Diazepam, Nitrazepam)  alongside anti-seizure and anti-psychotics (e.g Chlorpromazine) are prescribed in treatment.

In conclusion, heavy drinkers of alcohol, should seek adequate medical before embarking on reducing the amount of alcohol they take, to avoid fatal consequences associated with alcohol withdrawal symptoms in heavy drinkers.

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