Severe vs. Mild Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
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It is widely understood that people with an alcohol dependency who want to enter recovery should undergo a supervised detox. There is good reason for this guidance, as alcohol detox and withdrawal can produce highly unpredictable, even dangerous, symptoms. A detox is monitored by trained detox specialists who are prepared to intervene should such symptoms arise and cause an emergency. At the very least, a detox program is able to help reduce unpleasant symptoms and safely guide the individual to the other side and into treatment.
Not all withdrawal symptoms, however, are so severe. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms is correlated to the acuity of the alcohol dependency. Someone with a fairly recent alcohol use disorder or who hasn’t consistently consumed large amounts of alcohol will likely experience mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms. A detox is still the best route to starting the recovery journey, but expectations of horrendous withdrawals would be overblown in the case of a mild alcohol use disorder.
What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Withdrawing from alcohol can result in physical discomfort and pain, as the body tries to adjust to the cessation of alcohol consumption. This is caused by the impact of consistent alcohol consumption on the central nervous system and how that impacts neuropathways. When the alcohol intake suddenly stops, the decreased responsiveness of GABA receptors in the brain will incite symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Only so much alcohol can be metabolized by the body, and broken down by enzymes in the liver. The brain or other bodily tissues will absorb any excess alcohol. Over time, the increasing levels of toxins stored in the brain, as a result of excessive alcohol consumption, can cause the brain to suppress certain neurotransmitters, so when alcohol intake ceases, the hyperexcitability of these brain chemicals results.
Factors that Influence the Severity of Alcohol Withdrawals
Certain factors dictate the level of the withdrawal symptoms, which can range from mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms to severe. These factors include:
- How long the individual has had the alcohol use disorder
- The level of alcohol consumed
- History of alcohol withdrawal syndrome
- Age of individual
- General health status of individual
Co-occurring mental health disorders can also exacerbate some of the psychological symptoms experienced during withdrawal, such as anxiety and depression.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)?
The above factors are taken into consideration during the intake process to help gauge the level of alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) that might occur. Acute AWS features severe withdrawal symptoms when alcohol use is abruptly stopped. Approximately 10% of individuals withdrawing from alcohol will experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome featuring acute symptoms. These acute withdrawal symptoms emerge approximately 2 to 4 days into the detox process and might include:
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- High fever
- Excessive sweating
- Delirium Tremens
What is Considered Mild Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Not everyone who stops drinking will experience acute withdrawal symptoms. Some individuals might only experience sweating, hand tremors, nausea, sleep disturbance, and anxiety. Someone with a mild or recent alcohol use disorder should not avoid detox for fear of withdrawal symptoms, as these mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms are easily managed by the detox team. A sedative, such as Ativan, can help with both insomnia and anxiety, and simple over-the-counter interventions can help with fever, stomach distress, or headache.
Withdrawal symptoms begin to emerge about six hours after the last alcoholic drink. Symptoms peak on days 2 and 3 and then begin to subside. In most instances, alcohol detox and withdrawal are completed in less than one week, again, depending on the factors that determine the severity of the detox process.
Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
When deciding to enter treatment for an alcohol use disorder, it is common to feel apprehensive about the detox process. Unfortunately, too many people who are in need of treatment shy away from it due to the fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It is important to overcome this concern, knowing that a quality detox program will have in place all necessary interventions to make the detox as comfortable as possible. In addition to providing physical comfort and relief from symptoms, the detox professionals also provide psychological support to help each client successfully complete the detox stage of recovery.
After detox is behind them, the client will then begin the actual addiction treatment program. Alcohol use disorders are best treated using a variety of interventions that work in tandem together. These treatment elements often include:
- Psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and contingency management are evidence-based therapies that have demonstrated success in treating addiction
- Group therapy. Participating in small group counseling sessions can be a source of peer support and encouragement, as fellow clients in recovery share their own experiences and struggles
- Medication-assisted treatment. Naltrexone has been shown to help someone in the early months of alcohol addiction recovery by reducing alcohol cravings
- Addiction education and relapse prevention planning. Gaining an understanding of how alcohol impacts the brain and leads to chemical dependency is essential in helping to deter relapse. Making a thorough relapse prevention plan is critical in identifying potential triggers and making a plan to manage them
- 12-step or other recovery meetings. Social support is an intrinsic component in recovery, so active participation in a recovery community is a useful element in the treatment
- Other therapies that complement psychotherapy. These might include experiential activities such as yoga classes, meditation, journaling, art therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture.
Golf Drug Rehab Will Guide You Through Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal
Golf Drug Rehab is an elite alcohol and drug rehabilitation program in Southern California. Situated in a spectacular coastal community, this luxury rehab offers the highest caliber detox team and treatment specialists for individuals with an alcohol use disorder. The rehab program begins with detox and is followed by multi-layered therapeutic interventions featuring the most up-to-date addiction treatment methods. As part of the rehab programming, our clients will enjoy some recreational therapy with access to three outstanding local golf courses. For more information about this premier treatment program, please contact Golf Drug Rehab today at (877) 958-5320
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