Author: James Anderson

Alcohol Withdrawal: Symptoms, Treatment & Timeline

alcohol withdrawal seizure

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. It affects about 50% of people with alcohol use disorder who stop or significantly decrease their alcohol intake. AUD is the most common substance use disorder in the U.S., affecting 28.8 million adults. Alcohol withdrawal causes a range of symptoms when a person with alcohol use disorder stops or significantly decreases their alcohol intake. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, with the most severe being life-threatening.

Symptoms that you may experience in this stage include confusion, anxiety, irritability, and headache. Some people describe a general “funny feeling” that happens in this phase. Depressants like alcohol can cause your muscles to relax, but withdrawal can cause tremors, muscle tightness, and seizures. Alcohol withdrawal seizures are similar to tonic-clonic seizures, which are often seen with issues like epilepsy. The first may involve a loss of consciousness with increased muscle rigidity.

While receiving treatment, healthcare providers will want to monitor you continuously to make sure you don’t develop life-threatening complications. But treatment varies based on the severity of alcohol withdrawal and the likelihood that it could progress to severe or complicated withdrawal. In some cases, seizures may occur after the acute withdrawal phase is over. Inpatient and residential treatment can provide additional medical monitoring to ensure your safety and sobriety.

What is the prognosis for someone with alcohol withdrawal?

What causes alcohol withdrawal seizures, are there any warning signs, and how can alcohol dependence be treated safely. Learn more about alcohol withdrawal seizures and how they can be treated. Alcohol withdrawal is a potentially serious complication of alcohol use disorder.

alcohol withdrawal seizure

Kindling is caused by the chronic use of drugs that cause GABA receptors’ downregulation. Chronic depressant use and withdrawal can cause hypersensitivity in your nervous system. It’s worth noting that opioids share many similarities with depressants, but they don’t work with GABA in the brain as alcohol does.

Even if you are no longer dependent on alcohol, you may have a compulsion to drink that’s hard to control. While you’re in inpatient treatment, you may also be treated with IV fluid, which can help keep you hydrated through the withdrawal process. Medical detox programs may also involve therapies to address alcohol use disorders. Individual and group therapy sessions can help to address some of the underlying causes of your alcohol addiction.

Do Withdrawal Seizures Come with Warning Signs?

This part of your brain works with feel-good chemicals like dopamine, which are responsible for rewarding, pleasurable feelings. Many involve a combination of group psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medications. It’s important to be honest about your alcohol use — and any other substance use — so your provider can give you the best care. Addiction can make it even harder to stop using alcohol, and it often involves or leads to chemical dependence. Alcohol (ethanol) depresses (slows down) your central nervous system (CNS). If you consistently consume significant amounts of alcohol, your CNS gets used to this effect.

  1. This part of your brain works with feel-good chemicals like dopamine, which are responsible for rewarding, pleasurable feelings.
  2. When not properly treated, AWS can progress to delirium tremens (Table 38–10).
  3. Alcohol withdrawal can last for five to 10 days, but alcohol cravings and compulsions to use may continue for a long time.
  4. Alcohol withdrawal (alcohol withdrawal syndrome) is a range of symptoms that can happen if you stop or significantly reduce alcohol intake after long-term use.
  5. It may also increase excitatory effects in an attempt to balance brain chemistry.
  6. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which means that it slows down nervous system activity in the brain.

However, benzodiazepines can also be addictive, so they should be taken with a doctor’s guidance. They should not be taken until alcohol withdrawal has already started. Healthcare providers typically prescribe short-term medications to relieve the symptoms of mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal. The dangerous withdrawal symptoms that are more likely through kindling include seizures, heart problems, and death. If you’ve gone through alcohol or depressant withdrawal in the past, you should seek medical attention before quitting alcohol.

Chemical dependence is one of the most significant factors in your risk of experiencing dangerous withdrawal symptoms when you quit drinking. Alcohol dependence occurs after a period of consistent drinking or frequent binge drinking. Drinking every once in a while and even heavy drinking on the weekends may not lead to chemical dependence on alcohol, although it could lead to other dangerous consequences.

What Causes Alcohol Dependence?

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Prevention of further drinking

As your body adjusts to life without the medication, you may be given medication and therapy options to help you get through the withdrawal phase as safely as possible. Treatment significantly lowers the likelihood that symptoms will become deadly. If you seek medical treatment before quitting alcohol cold turkey, you may be able to taper slowly with a medical professional’s help. Tapering can help avoid serious withdrawal symptoms, including delirium tremens.

Despite its legal status and cultural acceptance, it is a serious psychoactive substance that can profoundly affect your health. Alcohol can be dangerous to abuse, but it can also be dangerous to quit too quickly. If you’ve been drinking heavily for a time and then quit cold turkey, you may experience some of the most dangerous withdrawal symptoms of any substance. Alcohol withdrawal can include dangerous symptoms like seizures, which can come on suddenly and lead to serious consequences.

The second phase involves rapid tightening and relaxing of the muscles, which involve convulsions that can lead to serious injuries. When you stop consuming alcohol after prolonged, heavy use, your CNS can’t respond or regulate itself fast enough. It becomes overexcited because there’s no more alcohol to slow it down. Alcohol withdrawal can range from very mild symptoms to a severe form, known as delirium tremens. The main concern over the development of delirium tremens during alcohol withdrawal is the threat of mortality that comes with it. Delirium tremens is estimated to come with a 35% risk of death if you go through it without treatment.