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What is alcohol withdrawal
One of the most clear signs of alcohol dependence is experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal is the changes the body goes through after a person suddenly stops drinking after prolonged and heavy alcohol use. Over time, both the body and the brain becomes dependent on drinking frequency and patterns. When you abruptly stop drinking, your body is deprived of the effects of alcohol and requires time to adjust to functioning without it. This adjustment period causes the painful side effects of alcohol withdrawal.
What Are the Symptoms?
They can range from mild to serious. What yours are depends on how much you drink and for how long. Mild symptoms usually show up as early as 6 hours after you put down your glass. They can include:
More serious problems range from hallucinations about 12 to 24 hours after that last drink to seizures within the first 2 days after you stop. You can see, feel, or hear things that aren't there.
That isn’t the same as delirium tremens, or DTs as you’re likely to hear them called. DTs usually start 48 to 72 hours after you put down the glass. These are severe symptoms that include vivid hallucinations and delusions. Only about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal have them. Those that do may also have:
•High blood pressure
How is alcohol withdrawal syndrome treated
Treatment for AWS depends on how severe your symptoms are. Some people can be treated at home, but others may need supervised care in a hospital setting to avoid potentially dangerous complications such as seizures. The first goal of treatment is to keep you comfortable by managing your symptoms. Alcohol counseling is another important treatment goal. Your doctor will want you to stop drinking as quickly and safely as possible.
Mild symptoms of AWS can often be treated at home. A relative or friend must stay with you to monitor your condition. Their job is to make sure that if you develop any worsening of symptoms, they get you to a hospital or call 911 immediately. They should also help you to get to your counseling appointments and visit the doctor regularly for any routine blood tests that may be ordered. You may also need tests for alcohol-related medical problems. If your home environment isn’t helpful for staying sober, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to connect you with shelter programs for people recovering from alcohol addiction.
If your symptoms are more severe, you may need to stay in the hospital. This is so your doctor can monitor your condition and manage any complications. You may need to get fluids through your veins to prevent dehydration and medications to help ease your symptoms.
Symptoms of AWS are often treated with sedatives called benzodiazepines. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include:
In addition, vitamin supplements may be given to replace essential vitamins that are depleted by alcohol use. Once withdrawal is complete, additional medications and supplements may be needed to address complications and nutritional deficiencies that occur as a result of chronic alcohol use.
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