A common problem with alcohol abuse is facing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. In short withdrawal symptoms are one of the main reasons alcohol addiction continues.
They make quitting alcohol unpleasant and uncomfortable and are difficult, but not impossible to manage.
What should you expect from alcohol withdrawal symptoms?
When you stop drinking alcohol, your body will respond and display a range of symptoms. Everybody will experience different symptoms when in withdrawal, but you may want to look out for:
- hand tremors
- visual disturbances and hallucinations
- depression or anxiety
In serious cases, people can also have seizures, but this is less common.
Why do people get withdrawal symptoms?
When a person drinks alcohol it affects the brain. We have an instinct known as ‘fight or flight’ that allows the brain to decide how to respond to situations.
We will either face a situation or we will retreat from it. When we drink alcohol it suppresses this instinct. When alcohol is drunk over long periods of time in large quantities it leads to longer-lasting symptoms in this part of the brain.
If a person stops their alcohol intake suddenly, all of a sudden the fight or flight response can kick back in and the body thinks it is under attack and will try to prepare you for imminent danger.
This often feels similar to a panic or anxiety attack.
This is why the physical symptoms then present themselves as withdrawal symptoms.
When are withdrawal symptoms likely to happen?
People usually experience the signs in the first 48 hours after stopping alcohol intake.
This period is recognised as the most difficult time. You may experience craving and symptoms after this time, but they should be less intense and easier to manage.
Why you shouldn’t ignore withdrawal symptoms
It is very important to acknowledge the withdrawal symptoms and not ignore them, particularly if they are significant ones. The symptoms can lead to other serious health issues and need medical treatment ideally.
Significant withdrawal symptoms include
- repeated vomiting
- extreme shaking
If withdrawal symptoms are left untreated, in some cases it can lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome which is due to a nutritional deficiency. This is a serious illness causing cognitive problems, delirium and paralysis of some eye muscles.
Seeking help for withdrawal symptoms
This is why it’s a good idea to speak with a profession before quitting alcohol completely as they can guide you through the withdrawal process and support you. They can prepare you for what to expect and ensure your health is considered.
If you are already experiencing withdrawal symptoms you should consider seeking medical advice. If the symptoms appear mild, your first step may be a visit to your GP.
When the symptoms are presenting more severely, it is recommended to seek help from a walk-in centre or emergency room.
There are medications available to help you manage your symptoms.
It’s important to remember the withdrawal symptoms will lessen over time and by speaking to a professional you can get help to get through it easier and quicker and with a greater chance of success. Recovery is very possible with the right help.