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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

For someone who has become alcohol dependent, trying to cut your alcohol intake can be challenging. Known as “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome”, the severity of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms you may experience and how long they might last is generally dependent on how long and how much you have been drinking.  There is no set timeframe but most cases of acute withdrawal will be over within a week to ten days.

Understanding alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Alcoholism is a condition that affects the entire body. People often misunderstand the condition and consider it as something that can easily be dealt with if you have enough willpower. Unfortunately, there’s a common misconception that alcoholism is just “in your head”. The reality is that once the addiction has taken hold, it affects your entire body including your brain, meaning it is a mental issue that requires proper medical attention or rehab in order to overcome. Simply telling someone to get over it or exert more willpower does not work and will only make them feel weak and powerless.

 

How Does Alcoholism Affect the Brain and Your Body?

 

Alcohol can start to interfere with how the brain communicates with the rest of your body especially when a large amount is consumed. These interferences will change the way you behave and react to certain functions in the body, resulting in a lack of coordination or mood swings. This is commonly seen in drunk people and often seen as comical and lighthearted, but there are serious implications when you are drunk.

 

Your heart also suffers during this process. Drinking a high amount of alcohol over a long period of time or binging on alcohol at a party can cause serious heart issues like high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat and even the stretching of the heart muscle. Your liver also takes a heavy toll when you drink a lot and you could suffer a number of different liver inflammations if you’re too careless.

 

Alcoholism and Building a Tolerance for Alcohol

 

Unfortunately, most of these issues are difficult to discern because alcohol makes people feel relaxed, happy and occasionally sleepy. Your brain compensates for these responses by trying to balance your body. Excessive drinking will make you tired, so the brain tries to keep you awake as best as it can.

 

However, as you drink more, your body starts to consider it a “normal” state of your body. This is otherwise known as building a tolerance for alcohol. If you become tolerant of alcohol, then you need to drink more in order to experience the same relaxed and happy feelings.

 

Building an Unwanted Dependency on Alcohol

 

However, it also has the unfortunate side effect of being detrimental to your body and training your brain to believe that your body is almost always in need of more chemicals to keep you awake and in control. This eventually turns into dependence on alcohol, meaning that your body cannot function normally without alcohol. Many people that suffer from alcoholism will drink when they experience these symptoms and it will generally help to alleviate the symptoms.

 

As you can see, this creates an unwanted relationship between your body and the alcohol that you are consuming. The alcohol is bad for your body and causes damage, but your body has become so used to alcohol that it cannot function correctly without it. This can spiral out of control very easily, hence why it’s important to break the cycle and stop consuming alcohol.

 

Going “Cold Turkey”

 

The term cold turkey refers to completely cutting off your alcohol consumption. This is the usual response to someone that has realised that they have an alcoholism problem and wants to do something about it. While the intentions are good, you are essentially preventing your body from utilising something that it has grown used to.

 

The dependency created during alcoholism means that if you do not drink alcohol, your body will continue to assume that there is alcohol in your body that needs to be metabolised but it can’t find any, so your body responds by producing symptoms to indicate that something is wrong with your body. This is what we refer to as withdrawal symptoms and it’s the main reason why overcoming alcoholism isn’t as simple as going cold turkey.

 

You can often cope with mild withdrawal symptoms if you’re not a heavy drinker. It may feel like you have the flu, you might have a fever and you may experience headaches. However, going cold turkey when you only have a mild case of alcohol dependency can be an effective way to deal with your alcoholism. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most people and the dependency will have grown out of control, meaning that withdrawal symptoms could be severe and incredibly dangerous.

 

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can often be expressed in four stages.

 

 

  • Stage One – Stage one starts with light symptoms such as tremors, anxiety, headaches, sweating, abdominal pain, vomiting, depression and fatigue. These start within 12 hours of your last drink and the severity depends on how much alcohol your body has consumed.
  • Stage Two – Stage two introduces hallucinations. This often starts after 12 hours and you may find that the hallucinations will become increasingly vivid as the hours pass. Symptoms from stage one will typically overlap with these hallucinations, amplifying their severity.
  • Stage Three – Stage three starts around 48 hours in and this is when a person can start to experience seizures due to dehydration. This stage will affect the entire body and the tremors may begin to affect the entire body.
  • Stage Four – Stage four is known as delirium tremens or DTs. During this stage, you will experience confusion, delirium, continued hallucinations, an impending feeling of doom, heart palpitations, seizures, fever, sweating and potentially even a stroke. This can start around three to four days after you stop drinking but is known to also start around two weeks after your last drink. There is currently no way to stop the delirium tremens stage once it begins and it is considered the most dangerous one. Only a small percentage of heavy drinkers will experience DTs but it can often be fatal. Immediate medical attention is required to deal with the symptoms.

 

 

The stage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms that you experience will depend on how much alcohol you consume. Many people don’t reach stage three or beyond unless they have a history of abusing alcohol. However, the withdrawal symptoms are serious regardless of their stage and it’s vital to seek medical attention should have experienced these symptoms in the past or know someone that has.

 

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

 

These common alcohol withdrawal symptoms tend to occur at around stage one to two. They include:

 

  • A feeling of anxiety
  • Depressive thoughts
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Easily irritated
  • Regular nightmares
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Constant mood swings

 

These symptoms should be taken seriously even if they are only experienced in a minor way. These may seem like common symptoms of other illnesses and conditions, but it’s vital to understand that these are common alcohol withdrawal symptoms that indicate a dependency on alcohol is not being met and the person should seek immediate medical attention.

 

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

 

These are the common alcohol withdrawal symptoms that occur during stage three and four:

 

  • Constant headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Body tremors
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • A loss of appetite
  • Fever

 

If you, a friend or a loved one experiences these withdrawal symptoms then it’s vital to seek immediate medical attention because these symptoms could easily escalate to DTs. When that happens, you will need to be in the care of medical professionals in order to deal with the symptoms that could potentially be fatal.

 

Dealing With Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

 

If you are only experience stage one or two symptoms, then a comfortable environment in the care of a loved one or trustworthy friends will be all you need to deal with your alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids to replenish your body and to eat healthy meals to keep your body’s nutrients up. You may want to ask someone to watch over you if you fall asleep so that you do not start exhibiting stage three symptoms.

 

However, if you exhibit stage three or four symptoms, then the risk of DTs increases. Although only a small percentage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms will suffer from DTs, it’s important to prepare so that in the event you do suffer from hallucinations and delusions, you at least have professional medical attention that is ready to assist.

 

The-long term solution for solving alcohol withdrawal symptoms lies within your alcoholism itself. You need to work on training your body to operate normally without alcohol in your system. This can be a time-consuming process that could be sped up with the help of alcohol rehab treatment. Specialised medication can help deal with the symptoms, but it will not help with the underlying issue of alcohol abuse or dependency.

 

Doctors can often refer you to an alcohol rehab clinic to help you overcome your reliance on alcohol. If it starts to look hopeless, then getting in touch with someone and expressing your concerns is the best way to start the long healing process. This is known as alcohol detoxification and is often the first step to cleaning up your body so that you are no longer dependent on alcohol. However, as mentioned before, it cannot deal with the underlying issues that are causing you to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and that’s something that an alcohol rehab centre can help you with.

 

Is It Possible to Self-Detoxify From Alcohol?

 

Early-stage alcohol abuse can be dealt with at home if you’re surrounded by loved ones, supportive friends and a peaceful environment. Medical supervision isn’t required, but it’s never a bad idea to have someone watching over you in case the symptoms do get progressively worse. If you don’t have a history of heavy drinking then your body may just be in shock at the alcohol in your system. One night of drinking often isn’t enough to build dependency on alcohol, but it’s important that you do everything you can to stay hydrated and replenish the nutrients in your body with healthy foods.

 

Self-detox is possible, but it’s often easier to handle if you’re willing to speak to a medical professional or reach out for support. Distractions are important when attempting to get rid of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, hence why surrounding yourself with positive support is always recommended.

 

Where to Go for More Assistance

 

If you’d like to learn more about alcohol withdrawal symptoms or want advice on clinics to get in touch with, then feel free to contact us on 0203 955 7700. We’re always willing to offer impartial and non-judgemental advice and you can remain anonymous if it makes you more comfortable.

 

Nicholas Conn / 3rd February 2019/ Posted in: Alcohol

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Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

  • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazapam (vailium)


Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

  • Naltrexone
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Nalmefene
  • Acamprosate (campral)

Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

*based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

Local treatment

Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

Treatment Away

Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.