The most basic way to define alcohol withdrawal syndrome
is the set of symptoms that occur when someone who has been drinking too much alcohol on an ongoing basis suddenly stops drinking.The symptoms that result occur because, as with any drug, it’s possible to become addicted to alcohol and your body became accustomed to the changes it caused in body and mind.The chemistry of alcohol affects the central nervous system, and prolonged exposure to alcohol causes the brain to become dependent on it. (University of Maryland Medical Center
) When the body suddenly isn’t getting that alcohol, the person will experience both physical and psychological symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome usually starts within 5 to 10 hours of the last drink, but symptoms tend to get worse after 2 to 3 days and can last for weeks.
Psychological symptoms include:
- unclear thought processing
- mood swings
- inability to sleep
Physical symptoms include:
- very moist skin
- diminishing appetite
- nausea or vomiting
- fast heart rate
- hand shakiness
Sometimes extremely heavy drinkers will experience a worse form of alcohol withdrawal syndrome called delirium tremens. Someone suffering from delirium tremens might experience severe agitation or confusion, hallucinations, fever, and even seizures. Delirium tremens is considered a medical emergency, and someone experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention. (National Institute of Health
) Anyone who checks into a hospital with severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal symptoms will need to have both their medical and alcohol consumption history reviewed, and doctors will give the patient a physical exam to assess if there may be potential medical complications.For those who are experiencing less severe symptoms, it is usually not necessary to check into a hospital or an inpatient rehabilitation center. However, it is recommended to seek help from an outpatient rehabilitation service. Outpatient treatment allows patients to continue living their daily lives, but gives them access to professional medical staff who will perform daily assessments and administer medication to help with the alcohol withdrawal syndrome
symptoms. After completing outpatient treatment, a patient will usually be referred to counseling or a support group to help them overcome their dependency on alcohol.
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