Signs & Symptoms of Withdrawal From Alcohol

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Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Depending on the degree of dependence on the alcohol, an alcoholic may experience symptoms that are so bad the person feels that he is close to death and may require hospitalization.

What is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism withdrawal symptoms are the gradual symptoms that occur in a person who has been drinking too much and suddenly stops drinking. Alcohol addiction is when a person's body and mind develop a dependence on the excessive use of alcohol, over time. Drinking alcohol alters the balance of some chemicals in the brain. Alcohol actually raises the levels of the chemical dopamine in the brain. When a person drinks, he associates that good feeling that dopamine creates with the alcohol and wants to return to that former happy state. Long-term, excessive drinking will actually increase or even deplete the levels of some of these chemicals and then the body craves the alcohol to restore the good feelings.

How Much is Too Much?

How much is too much alcohol? Excessive drinking is defined in total drinks per week, and total drinks per day. To be considered an alcoholic, a man would have to consume more than 15 drinks in one week. To also be considered an alcoholic, a man would have to consume more than five alcoholic drinks in one day. For women, the definition of drinking alcohol is slightly lower. A woman would have to consume eight drinks per week to be considered an alcoholic. Either that or she would have to drink four alcoholic drinks per day. A person is also considered to be an alcoholic when he drinks an excessive amount that disrupts his life.

Time Frame

The process of withdrawal from alcohol may take several months to occur, and an alcoholic may be feeling the effects for months after stopping drinking alcohol. The detoxification process, or the stopping of drinking and the removal of alcohol from the body, only takes from four to seven days. Although in some cases, this process may take several weeks.

Mild Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are different for each person, depending on the amount and length of time spent drinking. Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are the following: An alcoholic may experience anxiety, irritability and nervousness. The withdrawing alcoholic may have rapid emotional changes where he snaps at a person for no reason. He may also be very shaky and also be very jumpy. The person experiencing withdrawal symptoms may have a headache that is a general pulsating headache.

Moderate Symptoms

Moderate symptoms are when the alcoholic becomes depressed. She may experience general tiredness, have bad dreams and also have problems functioning. He may not be able to think clearly and have problems concentrating. Other moderate withdrawal symptoms including sweating on the hands and the face. A person can experience nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. The alcoholic may have difficulty sleeping, have a rapid heartbeat and have tremors of the hands.

Severe Symptoms

Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may require hospitalization. The patient may be being given tranquilizers or sedatives to help ease her through the harsh symptoms. Severe symptoms may include fever, convulsions and black outs. A person may also experience delirium tremens that are a state of confusion.

Emergency Teatment

Withdrawal symptoms may peak after 48 to 72 hours, and they may last for a week or more. Symptoms such as sleep changes, rapid changes in mood and fatigue, however, may last for three to twelve months. Medical help may become necessary when the symptoms become life threatening. When a fever, seizures delirium or severe confusion sets in, an alcoholic should be taken to an emergency room or another person should call 911 for emergency medical treatment.

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