What Helps for Alcohol Withdrawals?

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Approximately 95% of the alcoholics who quit drinking alcohol suffer from mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms (also known as alcoholic withdrawal symptoms by some people) that can normally be treated on an out-patient basis by a healthcare professional.

Since so many alcoholics experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they quit drinking alcohol, however, a number of them ask the following question: "what helps for alcohol withdrawals"?

Mild to Moderate Psychological Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a group of symptoms exhibited by alcoholics who stop drinking alcohol after a pattern of continuous and excessive alcohol consumption.

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These withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to moderate to severe and include both behavioral and psychological components.

The following represents mild to moderate psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms that typically occur within 6 to 48 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Feeling nervous or jumpy

  • Fatigue

  • Nightmares

  • Rapid emotional changes

  • Depression

  • Difficulty with thinking clearly

  • Anxiety

  • Easily excited, irritability

Mild to Moderate Physical Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The following represents mild to moderate physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms that typically occur within 6 to 48 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Abnormal movements

  • Sweating (especially on the face or the palms of the hands)

  • Tremor of the hands

  • Clammy skin

  • Insomnia, sleeping difficulties

  • Looking pale, without color

  • Rapid pulse rate

  • Eyes or pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils)

  • headache (especially those that pulsate)

  • Involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids

  • Loss of appetite

Severe Alcoholic Withdrawal Symptoms

The following represents severe alcoholic withdrawal symptoms that typically occur within 48 to 96 hours after the last alcoholic drink:

  • Fever

  • Seizures

  • Extreme irritability and nervousness

  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

  • Visual hallucinations

  • Severe autonomic nervous system overactivity

  • Agitation

  • Extreme depression

  • More extreme emotional changes

  • Muscle tremors

  • Profound confusion

  • Convulsions

  • Black outs

Most Withdrawal Cases Rarely Require Hospitalization

Recent evidence shows that it may be important to treat every person who is experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Having said this, it can be noted that approximately 95% of the people who quit drinking alcohol suffer from mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms and can normally be treated on an out-patient basis by a healthcare professional.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are usually treated by oral or IV hydration and in more critical instances, withdrawal symptoms are commonly treated with medications, such as the benzodiazepines, that reverse the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

To recap: whereas 95% of the alcoholics experience mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms when they quit drinking, the remaining 5% of alcoholics who suffer alcohol withdrawals experience symptoms so severe that they must be treated in a hospital or in an alcohol rehab facility that specializes in detoxification.

So the first question that should be asked when experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms is probably not "what helps for alcohol withdrawals?" but rather "who should I contact about the alcohol withdrawal symptoms I am experiencing"?

And the best answer to this latter question is this: "seek medical assistance immediately so that your doctor, urgent care center personnel, healthcare provider, or emergency room doctor can assess the severity of your withdrawal symptoms and suggest the best option for treatment."

Non-Drug Detoxification

A number of different techniques exist for managing alcohol withdrawal. While some of these treatments use medications, many do not.

In fact, according to the current research literature, it appears that the safest way to treat mild withdrawal symptoms is without medications.

Such forms of non-drug detoxification use screening and extensive social support during the withdrawal process. Other non-drug detox programs use vitamin therapy (especially thiamin) and proper nutrition in treating mild withdrawal symptoms.

Detoxification with Drugs

On the other hand, numerous researchers now advocate that chronic alcoholics who cannot maintain sobriety should receive drug therapy to control withdrawal symptoms.

By using the medication route, these alcohol-dependent individuals are less likely to experience possible seizures and/or brain damage.

Recent research suggests that the drugs most likely to produce effective results when treating alcohol withdrawal are the benzodiazepines, for instance, the longer-acting benzodiazepines like Librium and Valium or the shorter-acting benzodiazepines such as Serax and Ativan.

Historically, when administering benzodiazepines, doctors have employed a progressive decrease in doses over the time-span of the withdrawal.

Moreover, due to the fact that these drugs do not linger in the person's system and they allow for measurable dose reductions some researchers have suggested that intermediate to short half-life benzodiazepines should be used for treating withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient versus Outpatient Detox Programs

One more point needs to be discussed: studies have shown that inpatient detoxification is more effective and long-lasting than outpatient detoxification.

The upshot of this seems to be the following: the more severe the alcohol-related withdrawal symptoms, the more likely that inpatient detox programs should be considered.

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Conclusion: What Helps For Alcohol Withdrawals?

Perhaps the most important lesson learned from the above discussion is this: the first concern when experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms should be "who should I contact about the alcohol withdrawal symptoms I am experiencing" rather than "what helps for alcohol withdrawals?"

When experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, always see your doctor or healthcare provider immediately so that he or she can assess the severity of your situation and suggest the best option for treatment.

In other words, alcoholic withdrawal symptoms should not be treated at home and need to be treated by your physician or healthcare professional.

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