Author: James Anderson

Alcohol Withdrawal: Symptoms, Treatment, and Support

how to treat alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild but annoying to severe and life-threatening. When someone drinks alcohol for a prolonged period of time and then stops, the body reacts to its absence. This is alcohol withdrawal, and it causes uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms.

Moderate to heavy drinkers can also benefit from medical supervision in the acute withdrawal stage. Healthcare providers typically prescribe short-term medications to relieve the symptoms of mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal. Your health care provider or counselor can suggest a support group. If you have severe symptoms, you may require inpatient or even intensive care level monitoring. In these cases, you’re likely to receive one of the various medications, such as benzodiazepines, the most successful in these cases. This is sometimes referred to as protracted or post-acute alcohol withdrawal (PAW), though it’s not recognized in DSM-5.

Most people with mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal don’t need treatment in a hospital. But severe or complicated alcohol withdrawal can result in lengthy hospital stays and even time in the intensive care unit (ICU). Severe and complicated alcohol withdrawal requires treatment in a hospital — sometimes in the ICU.

Postoperative and Rehabilitation Care

Symptoms of delirium tremens can last up to seven days after alcohol cessation and may last even longer. Treating alcohol withdrawal is a short-term fix that doesn’t help the core problem. When you talk to your doctor about symptom relief, it’s a good idea to discuss treatment for alcohol abuse or dependence. If you begin experiencing severe symptoms of AWS, it’s important to seek immediate medical attention.

  1. Also, consider these risk factors for any patient presenting with seizures of unknown etiology.
  2. Your body works hard to keep your brain in a more awake state and to keep your nerves talking to one another.
  3. Your doctor’s treatment goal is helping you stop drinking as quickly and safely as possible.
  4. Patients with severe withdrawal symptoms may require escalating doses and intensive care level monitoring.
  5. AUD is very common, affecting an estimated 76.3 million people worldwide.

It’s important to get medical help even if you have mild symptoms of withdrawal, as it’s difficult to predict in the beginning how much worse the symptoms could get. Alcohol withdrawal can range from very mild symptoms to a severe form, known as delirium tremens. If you drink alcohol heavily for weeks, months, or years, you may have both mental and physical problems when you stop or seriously cut back on how much you drink.

What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

Medical supervision, behavioral health treatment, and mutual-aid groups can help you through alcohol withdrawal and stay stopped. A rare but very serious syndrome called delirium tremens can occur during alcohol withdrawal. Also known as DTs, an estimated 2% of people with alcohol use disorder and less than 1% of the general population experience them. Still, if you’re experiencing alcohol withdrawal, it’s essential to have your symptoms evaluated by a medical professional. Minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically set in about 6 hours after your last drink and may last 4 to 48 hours.

how to treat alcohol withdrawal

Millions of people join support groups to help stop drinking and stay stopped. Studies show support groups play an instrumental role in helping people develop healthy social networks that result in continued sobriety. If you have alcohol use disorder and want help, a healthcare provider can guide you to resources and rehabilitation programs to help you quit. Know that your provider will be there to support you, not to judge you. The main ways to prevent alcohol withdrawal are to avoid alcohol altogether or to get professional help as soon as possible if you think you’re developing alcohol use disorder.

Alcoholics tend to have nutritional deficiencies and thus should be provided with folic and thiamine supplements. Mild symptoms can be elevated blood pressure, insomnia, tremulousness, hyperreflexia, anxiety, gastrointestinal upset, headache, palpitations. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous center.

Alcohol withdrawal can be managed both as an inpatient or outpatient. In each case, close monitoring is essential as the symptoms can suddenly become severe. Oral chlordiazepoxide and oxazepam are very commonly used for the prevention of withdrawal symptoms. Other drugs often used to manage symptoms include neuroleptics, anticonvulsants like carbamazepine, and valproic acid. If your doctor thinks you might be going through alcohol withdrawal, they’ll ask you questions about your drinking history and how recently you stopped.

Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal

The sooner you begin treatment, the better your chances are of preventing life threatening complications. If your blood pressure, pulse, or body temperature rises, or if you have more serious symptoms like seizures and hallucinations, seek medical care immediately (dial 911). Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS can cause a range of symptoms, from mild anxiety and fatigue to severe hallucinations and seizures. In extreme cases, it can be life threatening. Your health care provider or mental health provider will ask additional questions based on your responses, symptoms and needs. Preparing and anticipating questions will help you make the most of your appointment time.

You might also take anti-seizure meds and antipsychotics, along with other drugs. Over time, your central nervous system adjusts to having alcohol around all the time. Your body works hard to keep your brain in a more awake state and to keep your nerves talking to one another. It can be helpful to make a plan ahead of time for how to handle a relapse. For example, some people choose to write a list of reasons why they want to stop drinking alcohol, and revisit the list to remind themselves after a relapse.

This activity reviews the evaluation and management of alcohol withdrawal and highlights the interprofessional team’s role in the recognition and management of this condition. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually appear when the individual discontinues or reduces alcohol intake after a period of prolonged consumption. However, healthcare workers should be aware that alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe and lead to death. In all cases, the management of alcohol withdrawal is monitored and managed by an interprofessional team to ensure good outcomes.