Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically occur when a person who uses alcohol excessively suddenly stops drinking. These symptoms can start within five to 10 hours after the person's last drink and can last days. Heavy alcohol users are more likely to experience withdrawal, and the symptoms may be more severe. Treatment for alcohol withdrawal symptoms reduces the immediate effects and prevents complications, while promoting abstinence from alcohol.
A headache, the most common of withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, can begin immediately following consumption. This type of headache is usually pulsating and originates near the temples. It may be accompanied by sensitivity to light and sounds. Proper hydration is the best form of treatment for a headache in this case. People should be cautious of taking painkillers if they still have alcohol in their blood. Painkillers such as acetaminophen can have dangerous effects if combined with alcohol in the system.
Alcohol disrupts the body's ability to achieve REM sleep. REM sleep is important for the body to achieve a fully rested state. Habitual alcoholics interrupt the body's natural ability to achieve REM sleep, and thus over time the body's sleep cycles become irregular. If a person is used to consuming alcohol to sleep at night and then suddenly stops drinking, he can have hard time falling asleep. Doctors may prescribe sedatives to help induce sleep, but there are also natural remedies to treat insomnia such as regular exercise, avoiding caffeine, developing sleep habits and drinking warm decaffeinated tea before bedtime.
Nausea and Vomiting
Consumption of alcohol increases dehydration and can irritate the stomach lining. Alcohol causes an electrolyte imbalance in the body by increasing the body's urinary output. Without adequate hydration, this can result in weakness of the body, dizziness and nausea. It is important to consume adequate amounts of water if a person is suffering from nausea or vomiting. If a person is unable to keep water and food down, then she should seek medical help right away. She may need proper fluids and a balance of electrolytes delivered intravenously.
People suffering from alcohol withdrawal will have signs of agitation or irritability. In severe cases, the person shows signs of delirium and may experience hallucinations. Individuals who experience these symptoms should seek medical care promptly. Doctors often prescribe benzodiazepines to treat anxiety and reduce severe delirium. This drug can also help the patient in the long term to completely detoxify from alcohol.
- PubMed Health; Alcohol Withdrawal; March 2010
- Headache Expert: Alcohol and Headaches
- PubMed Health; Insomnia; August 2009
- Alcohol Health & Research World; Alcohol Hangover: Mechanisms and Mediators; Robert Swift, et al.; 1998
- American Family Physician; Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome; Max Bayard M.D., Jonah Mcintyre, M.D., Keith R. Hill, M.D., and Jack Woodside, Jr., M.D.; March 2004
- Photo Credit John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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