Why Do Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Occur & How To Treat It?

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when a heavy drinker stops drinking abruptly or reduces his alcohol intake considerably. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) manifests as a blend of physical as well as emotional symptoms.

Undue consumption of alcohol irritates and excites the nervous system. If you drink every day, your body becomes totally reliant on alcohol. As a result the central nervous system cannot adapt to the lack of alcohol. If you stop drinking suddenly or decrease the amount of alcohol you drink significantly, it causes alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Excessive drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks in one sitting for women and 5 or more drinks for men.

Your doctor will go over your medical history, understand your symptoms, and carry out a physical examination. He may also conduct a toxicology screen which shows how much alcohol is present in your body.

The Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol helps diagnose alcohol withdrawal syndrome and determines the severity of your symptoms. The scale measures these 10 symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Auditory disturbances
  • Visual disturbances
  • Incapacity to think clearly
  • Headache
  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tactile disturbances
  • Tremors

Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

The signs and symptoms develop 6 hours to a few days after the last drink.

These are:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Increased heart rate and hypertension
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares

The symptoms tend to persist for a few weeks. They may be more obvious when you wake up.

The most severe type of withdrawal syndrome is delirium tremens. The symptoms include:

  • Tremendous confusion
  • Fever
  • Undue agitation
  • Heart disturbances
  • Seizures
  • Tactile hallucinations
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Visual hallucinations

How To Treat Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

  • Treatment depends upon the severity of the symptoms. Some can be successfully managed at home, whilst others require supervised hospital care to ward off complications.
  • Alcohol counseling is a very vital treatment goal. Your health care provider needs you to stop drinking quickly and safely.
  • A relative must stay with you to keep an eye on your condition. He will also help you to go for all the counseling sessions and visit your physician regularly for follow-ups and routine blood investigations which may be ordered.
  • In case you feel that your home environment is not conducive to staying sober, discuss it with your doctor at once. Your doctor may be able to hook you up with programs for people who are recovering from alcohol abuse.
  • If your symptoms are extremely severe, you may need to stay at the hospital. This is so your doctor can monitor your condition and manage any likely complications. Fluids need to be administered via the veins in order to avert dehydration, and medicines will be given to allay your symptoms.
  • Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome are often managed with sedatives called benzodiazepines.
  • Additionally, vitamin supplements need to be given to put back essential vitamins that have been depleted by alcohol abuse.
  • Once the withdrawal is complete, extra medicines and supplements may be necessary to treat complications and nutritional insufficiencies which occur due to chronic alcohol use.