What are the Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal?

When you suddenly stop drinking alcohol after using it heavily, you may experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These symptoms can range from relatively mild to serious depending on how heavily you were drinking and for how long. In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can even be life-threatening. The complications associated with alcohol withdrawal are why an alcohol treatment program is recommended for anyone who wants to become sober. The staff at these centers will be able to help you deal with the worst of these symptoms, but it’s still good to know what the more serious complications might be.

The Cause of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows down your brain function and changes the way your nerves communicate with each other. When you drink heavily for an extended period of time, your body adapts to the constant presence of alcohol and the effect that it has on your central nervous system. It works harder to keep your brain and your nerves functioning. When you stop drinking after your body has made these adjustments, your central nervous system stays in that keyed-up state, which is what causes alcohol withdrawal.

If you only drink alcohol occasionally, you probably won’t experience any serious withdrawal symptoms when you stop. At the most, you’ll likely experience hangover symptoms such as headache, nausea, fatigue, sensitivity to light and sound, vertigo, and irritability. These symptoms are uncomfortable to be sure, but they usually go away on their own after one or two days depending on how much you were drinking.

Timeline of Withdrawal Symptoms

Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal begin about six hours after you’ve stopped drinking and resemble those of a hangover. Anxiety, nausea, headaches, insomnia, and shaking hands are all common at this stage. After 12 to 48 hours of not drinking, you might begin to experience hallucinations and seizures, especially if you’ve been drinking heavily for a relatively long period of time. After two or three days of not drinking, you might experience delirium tremens, or DTs.

These are serious side effects that can be very dangerous, although they only affect about five percent of people going through alcohol withdrawal. Some of the symptoms of delirium tremens include vivid hallucinations, delusions, tremors, confusion, a racing heart, and heavy sweating. Delirium tremens can be bad enough to require hospitalization. In some extreme cases, the effects can even be fatal.

When to Seek Treatment

Alcohol dependency can be very difficult to overcome on your own, partly because the effects of withdrawal are so severe. If you have underlying health problems along with your alcohol dependency, you might need hospitalization and medical care to overcome the more severe complications. However, if you are reasonably healthy, you might not need more than a supportive environment that includes a quiet place with soft lighting, limited contact with people, and access to healthy food and fluids. Your home environment might be able to provide this. If not, you can always look into an alcohol treatment center.

Most centers have a program that allows you to detox safely while you cope with your withdrawal. They also include programs that address the underlying reasons for your alcohol dependency and help you transition to a more sober lifestyle. Overcoming alcohol dependency is never easy, but there is always help available. If you are struggling with alcoholism or you have a loved one who is, don’t hesitate to contact us at any time. Our staff will always be on hand to answer your questions and help you find the treatment that you need. Call us at 954-523-1167.