Alcohol withdrawal is a serious consequence of long-term excessive use of ethanol. In its most severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizure and even death. Treating the symptoms of withdrawal is the first step in the successful treatment of alcoholism and alcohol addiction.
Alcohol withdrawal or Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) is the name given to the symptoms that occur when a heavy drinker stops or significantly reduces alcohol intake. It is characterized by a combination of physical and psychological symptoms that can range from mild to life threatening. AWS is a serious medical condition that must be treated with benzodiazepine drugs and anti-seizure medications. To receive the most comprehensive care, treatment from a medically-equipped rehab facility is required. To find out more about treatment and service options, Alcohol Treatment Centers New York, NY can help, call at (646) 918-5955.
Ethanol binds to and activates receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) known as GABA receptors. GABA receptors, when activated, have an inhibitory effect on the CNS, which means they reduce activity. In an effort to restore normal nerve function, the body produces more excitatory receptors and decreases the number of GABA receptors.
When ethanol is in abundant supply, it balances out the increase in excitatory receptors by binding the remaining GABA receptors and thus the CNS is not over-stimulated. If ethanol is suddenly removed, the CNS is left with too few active GABA receptors to balance out the abundance of excitatory receptors. The result is over-activity in the CNS that leads to fever, hallucinations, and potentially death. Medical detox manages this problem with drugs that activate GABA receptors to prevent over-excitation. The drug is slowly withdrawn, over days or weeks, to give the body time to replenish its supply of GABA receptors and decrease the number of excitatory receptors.
Withdrawal begins 6 to 24 hours after the last drink and continues until the CNS regains balance by producing more GABA receptors. This process generally takes a few days, but can take weeks in individuals who are malnourished. In the best-case scenario, withdrawal is treated in a medical setting and lasts just a few days. In rare case, a protracted AWS occurs and symptoms persist at a sub-acute, non-life-threatening level for months or even years. Such post-acute AWS is rare.
Symptoms of Withdrawal from Alcohol: Major and Minor
Minor symptoms of withdrawal include:
Severe symptoms of withdrawal include:
Post-acute AWS is characterized by the persistence of the symptoms above beyond the acute phase of withdrawal. Anyone experiencing the above symptoms more than a week after medical detox has ended is considered to have post-acute AWS.
The most common symptom associated with AWS is often referred to as “DT” or “the DTs.” DT stands for “delirium tremens,” a hyper-adrenergic state characterized by tremors, sweating, impaired consciousness, hallucinations, and changes in heart rate. DT is the most severe form of withdrawal, affecting 5-20% of alcoholics. It occurs 24-72 hours after alcohol cessation.
Residential treatment is the best option for both acute alcohol detoxification and for preventing future use. At Alcohol Rehab Centers in New York, residential treatment focuses not just on reducing acute symptoms of withdrawal, but on providing an addict with mechanisms for dealing with addiction over long periods of time. Residential treatment offers counseling, group therapy, and a myriad of other services to help patients gain control over their lives. Most importantly, out specialists work to identify underlying causes of addiction (e.g. undiagnosed anxiety disorders) and provide skills for relapse prevention that a recovering addict will use for the rest of his or her life.