Alcohol abuse is a common condition exhibited by many individuals worldwide. A case study reveals that at least 20% of the population is affected by alcohol abuse, which has ruined many people and their lives. Many people want to get better for the sake of their families or friends and loved ones but what people don’t talk about is the struggle of alcohol withdrawal and for that reason. We’ve included the stages and a few tips on what helps with alcohol withdrawal.
1. What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal is a symptom that people with dependency on alcohol experience, which causes them to hallucinate, sweat profusely, get irritated easily, get nauseous, and throw up if they do not consume a drink within a few hours from their last drink.
2. What Helps with Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Several treatment options are available for alcohol withdrawal or PAWS. Several rehab facilities, therapy sessions, and drugs can be administered to help one get through this tough time.
Read our overview on what helps with alcohol withdrawal to know more.
Any addiction is hard to overcome, especially if it is a substance addiction. The first step is to admit you have a problem, and the second thing you can do is seek help from licensed medical professionals and join a support group to help you through this tough journey. The question that now needs answering is what helps with alcohol withdrawal.
2.1 A Few Pointers That Might Help
- Talk to an expert: Your doctor will talk to you about the medication you can take to control your withdrawal symptoms, such as vitamin tablets, anti-anxiety medicines, or benzodiazepines.
- Drink enough water or sports drinks: a detox generally means there will be an imbalance of electrolytes in your system, which may lead to dehydration. Thus you should always stay hydrated with water or electrolytes or sports drinks. Staying hydrated will also help you combat nausea, and control sweating and signs of vomiting.
- Eat well: a healthy diet is important during your withdrawal stages because you will need to keep your glucose level in check and ensure you get enough nutrition. Experts suggest fueling up on fruits like apples, grapes, oranges, bananas, and raspberries. Fruits should be consumed in the morning to help cleanse your system. You should also include a lot of veggies in your meal since these contain fiber which is essential in aiding digestion. Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, quinoa, and oatmeal are also high in fiber and help release sugars slowly into your system that control mood swings. You also have more energy during the day if you eat well.
- Vitamins are also essential during the withdrawal stage since prolonged consumption of alcohol strips your body of it. For instance, liver damage can be caused if your body lacks vitamin A and lack of vitamin D leads to low calcium absorption, which can lead to low bone density and bone mass. Lack of vitamin B usually tarnishes your brain and nervous system, therefore, ensure you get your daily dose of vitamins.
This is just an overview of what helps with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor may be able to guide you better on what helps with alcohol withdrawal.
2.2 Who is an Alcoholic?
Any person who drinks daily or for a prolonged period and becomes dependent on alcohol to get by is deemed an alcoholic. Because alcohol acts as a depressant, it changes the brain chemistry over a period which usually results in changes in the neurotransmitters dopamine as well as gamma-aminobutyric acid. The neurotransmitters and GABA affect the excitement level of a person and give them a sense of reward every time they consume alcohol.
When a person tries to cut back on alcohol or stops consuming alcohol altogether, the production of neurotransmitters is affected, and the brain needs to readjust itself, which results in withdrawal symptoms.
In other words, alcohol withdrawal is a state in which someone who is heavily dependent on alcohol cannot stay away from liquor because their brain is wired to rely on the depressant to stay happy.
Alcohol consumption, especially in excess, can lead to serious consequences such as addiction.
3. Stages of Intoxication
There are 7 stages of intoxication, namely;
3.1 Subclinical intoxication
It is the first stage of intoxication where the blood alcohol level lies between 0.01 to 0.05 BAC. At this stage, a person may not seem to be intoxicated. This is not a cause of concern unless a person decides to take back a few more drinks at a series of intervals.
This is the second stage of intoxication where the BAC lies between 0.01 to 0.12%. At this stage, a person may appear to be more fun and confident and may also have a short attention span. This is generally a lighter stage of intoxication where the person may or may not seem intoxicated yet.
When the blood alcohol level or BAC lies between 0.09 to 0.25%, a person may be at the third stage of intoxication, wherein the reaction time is slowed down, and they may suffer from blurry vision. At this stage, the person is already deemed intoxicated by their behavior and actions.
At this stage, the BAC lies between 0.18 to 0.30% and is highly intoxicated. The symptoms at this stage include drowsiness, difficulty speaking and framing sentences, aggression, and blurred vision.
When the person’s BAC lies between 0.25 to 0.49%, the intoxicated person can barely keep themselves up. The person in question may also slip in and out of consciousness several times, and medical help may be needed.
When the BAC of a person lies between 0.35 to 0.50%, they may fall in and out of consciousness, their heart rate may slow down considerably, and their body temperature may shoot down which calls for a serious medical emergency.
Once a person’s BAC shoots over 0.50%, the autonomic nervous system shuts down, which is responsible for breathing, digestion, heartbeat, and other vital functions, and leads to death.
The best time to see a doctor is when you make it a habit to consume alcohol daily, especially if your BAC reaches 0.09% or higher daily.
It is important to know your limits, a drink here and there, once in a while at an event or gathering, is fine, but once you realize you are making a habit of drinking, you should seek help immediately before it is too late.
The best way to seek help is by accepting you have a problem and then reaching out to an expert who can help you limit or stop your drinking.
4. What is a Depressant: Everything You Need to Know
A depressant can be classified as a drug or substance that comes in the form of solids or liquids and affects neurotransmission levels, due to which you experience a downfall in stimulation and arousal.
These substances toy with your central nervous system, which affects the flow of communication between your brain and your body, lowers your concentration levels, and slows down coordination and even one’s ability to respond on time in any given situation.
There are generally 4 types of depressants people use:
- Opioids such as heroin or morphine
5. 8 Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Let us take a look at the 8 most common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
5.1 Profuse sweating:
Sweating is a common withdrawal symptom. Most people experience night sweats; although temporary, it is an uncomfortable experience for many addicts.
Uncontrollable tremors or shakes are also quite common in people withdrawing from alcohol. People tend to experience tremors six to ten hours after their last drink because the brain increases nerve activity in the body to keep you at your most alert level.
The tremors usually take weeks to stop once you have decided to quit alcohol consumption completely.
When overactivity happens in the central nervous and autonomic nervous systems during withdrawal, you may experience hallucinations. You tend to see or hear things that are not there, and these symptoms can become extreme and can even lead to seizures if not treated on time.
When your body is deprived of the effects of alcohol, you tend to feel nauseous because the body needs time to adjust to functioning without alcohol. You may want to stay hydrated with the help of water and or sports drinks that contain electrolytes.
5.5 Trouble Sleeping:
Your body goes through a tough time during withdrawal, and adjusting back to its normal sleep cycle generally takes time. You may need professional medical advice when this happens.
Lack of alcohol in your body can lead to overstimulation of the brain, which results in anxiety and restlessness.
It is normal for people to experience irritability or a change in behavior during withdrawal. This is because the dopamine receptors drop drastically and may sometimes also lead to you feeling sad.
5.8 Delirium tremens or DT:
This is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal wherein the mental status of a person is altered, and the person goes through an autonomic overdrive. This may also lead to hallucinations at an extreme level, and in severe cases, this can also lead to a cardiovascular collapse.
6. Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal
There are three stages of alcohol withdrawal which are;
- The first stage is mild. This stage includes headaches, palpitations, anxiety, hand tremors, and gastrointestinal issues.
- The second stage, often referred to as the moderate stage includes the same symptoms as mentioned in stage one but with an increased heart rate and blood pressure, hypothermia, and usually mild and abnormal breathing patterns.
- The third stage is the most severe stage wherein the person suffering from withdrawal also suffers from seizures, extreme hallucinations, impaired attention, and may suffer from cardiovascular collapse.
6.1 Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
- Five to twelve hours after their last drink: in such situations, an addict usually experiences mild symptoms that we stated above in stage 1 viz headaches, anxiety, hand tremors, and so on. The person may also suffer from profuse sweating and have sleep irregularities.
- Twelve to twenty-four hours post their last drink: You tend to hallucinate for about 2 days at this stage.
- A day to two days post their last drink: at this stage of withdrawal, the person may experience a seizure.
- Three days or more from the patient’s last drink: the withdrawal symptoms tend to improve around this stage. Still, many patients experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms for about 5 weeks before feeling better.
7. Foods to Avoid During Withdrawal
There are certain items or foods you need to avoid at all costs to ensure a smooth withdrawal journey.
Greasy, fatty foods and sweetened snacks are a big no-no during this stage because you want to restore the lost vitamins in your body due to alcohol consumption.
Avoid candy bars, caffeine, ice cream, soda, cookies, or junk food in general because junk food is a cause of high cholesterol, weight gain, and high blood pressure.
The first few months of recovery will be difficult because your body and brain need time to adjust to the withdrawal effects. There will be times you want to throw in the towel and go back to gulping down your favorite liquid courage but remember why you decided to come clean. Read on to find out what helps with alcohol withdrawal.
8. Steps That Matter: What Helps With Alcohol Withdrawal?
Quitting something as addictive as alcohol may not seem as easy. Addiction treatment is a long process but you can start with small changes. Here are a few tips on what helps with alcohol withdrawal that you can implement to start the journey to a healthier you;
8.1 Your Circle Matter:
If you are surrounded or befriended by a bunch of people who like to drink alcohol, you should distance yourself from them. Watching someone have alcohol may be tempting and may break your withdrawal journey.
Instead, surround yourself with people who enjoy healthier alternatives such as going on walks and exercising.
8.2 See a Professional:
You will need to see a professional to ensure your journey is successful. Your doctor will first run some tests to see if any damage has been done to your liver or other organs and will prescribe you medication during your withdrawal stages. Your doctor may also suggest a proper diet chart to ensure you get enough vitamins, fiber, and nutrients.
8.3 See a Therapist:
It is always best to talk about your feelings and your struggles with someone you trust or someone you do not know. Some find it easy to talk to a therapist in private, while others prefer talking to strangers about their struggles and gaining insight from them on how they deal with the issue. It may not be easy withdrawing from alcohol, but with the right group and guidance, you can be steered in the right direction. There are several rehab facilities that you could enroll in or meet a family physician to help you get started. Most treatment centers offer various forms of therapy such as:
It is a form of therapy where communication or conversation is required. The patient is expected to talk to his or her therapist about his or her day-to-day struggles, the underlying issue due to which he or she relies or relies on alcohol, and steps to overcome them. Although one-on-one sessions are fairly popular, you can also seek group therapy or family therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a form of therapy where the negative thoughts and behaviors of the patient are identified and replaced with positive thoughts and behavior. In simple words, CBT works on correcting actions and thoughts and usually requires about 5 sessions. You will learn to challenge your negative thoughts and fears and improve or work on your social interaction.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
DBT is a therapy session that involves communication. The strategy here is to talk about thesis and antithesis and make the patient learn to live in the present. Since a lot of alcoholics dwell on the past or fear an unpleasant future, they tend to draw themselves to alcohol. However, with the help of dialectical behavioral therapy, the patient is taught to think and live in the present.
Establishing an emotional balance and embracing positive thoughts and change is also part of the process and has been an effective method for people struggling with alcoholism or withdrawal symptoms.
If you want to stay focused on getting better, there is nothing better than yoga and meditation. You will learn to control your cravings and focus on things that matter. Moreover, with the help of physical and mental exercise, you can establish emotional peace and can gain clarity.
Art and Music Therapy
This is a creative form of release and expression that helps people release their anger or feelings related to their alcohol struggles. What some cannot express in words, they can express through music or art and it helps the patient relax and remain occupied with a positive activity.
8.4 Change Your Environment
Get rid of liquor bottles at home, at work, and wherever you spend your most time. Change the environment you are in. You can also change the color of your walls to attract positivity and stack your workplace or house with water bottles and electrolytes so you remember to stay hydrated.
8.5 Keep Yourself Busy
The best way to quit drinking alcohol is to keep yourself so busy enjoying what you are doing or working that you forget to think about alcohol. Go out with friends, go on a trip, or do what you like to do the most. Meditation also helps in this case. Join a yoga class and learn to control your breathing and thoughts, you will be a new person within a week of it.
These are just a few tips on what helps with alcohol withdrawal. You can seek help from your support group or a professional for in-depth guidance.
9. What is Considered Binge Drinking and Heavy Alcohol Use?
Although everyone has a different definition for binge drinking, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or NIAAA defines binge drinking as a drinking pattern wherein the blood alcohol concentration or BAC lies higher at or higher than 0.08.
On average, if a man consumes 5 drinks a day, usually within 2 hours, and a female consumes 4 drinks or more at the same timespan, that person may be a victim of binge drinking.
On the other hand, heavy alcohol use is when a man or woman consumes 14 and 7 drinks a week, respectively.
Heavy drinking tends to lead to addiction which can alter how you behave, process information, or even sleep.
9.1 Healing Period
According to the Recovery Research Institute, it may take up to 6 months of abstinence from alcohol to regain short-term and long-term memory, verbal intelligence quotient, and verbal fluency. In some cases, the brain structure may also recover.
However, some candidates were also found to lack in areas like semantic memory, neurocognitive functions, and visuospatial skills.
Additionally, complete recovery for certain behaviors such as attention span sustained attention, and multitasking may be affected indefinitely in some, depending on the level of alcohol abuse.
9.2 What are Post Acute Withdrawal Symptoms?
Post-acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms or PAWS is used to describe a panicle of withdrawal symptoms that occur come about post alcohol withdrawal. These tend to appear for a few weeks and even months and are similar to anxiety attacks, mood swings, and insomnia. Beware of the following symptoms:
If you face any of the problems listed below, get in touch with a professional health expert and let them guide you on what helps with alcohol withdrawal.
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble learning, recalling things, or trouble with problem-solving
- Gloomy mood
- Constant irritation and feeling anxious
- You are easily stressed out
- Seeking apathy
- Trouble maintaining social and personal relationships.
An expert can guide you better on what helps with alcohol withdrawal, especially in serious cases such as PAWS.
10. Treatment for PAWS
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms are terrifying to deal with, and resisting relapse requires a lot of willpower and support. To help you muster through the hard time of post-acute withdrawal symptoms, your doctor may administer a drug called Acamprosate which is given to recovering alcoholics.
Acamprosate is a drug that helps the brain function normally again. It is generally prescribed to patients in addition to therapy.
Remember, this medicine is not a cure for alcoholism, it is merely a drug administered to help you battle your withdrawal symptoms and abstain from your liquid courage.
Some patients may be administered to go through psychotherapy in addition to taking Acamprosate whilst others may be asked to attend meditation classes to gain clarity and mental strength.
11. How Does Alcohol Affect Your Mental Health?
A study by the Mental Health Foundation suggests that there is a link between alcohol consumption and mental health. Since alcohol is a depressant, it causes an imbalance in the neurotransmitters which affects your emotional and mental well-being viz your feelings, behavior, and thoughts.
It is known that alcohol toys with one’s inhibition ergo people feel confident, more relaxed, and less anxious. That being said, these empowering feelings also tend to wear quickly, resulting in anger, depression, and anxiety taking over.
Moreover, liquid courage also slows down how fast your brain can process information.
11.1 Effects on the Body
Alcohol affects the body in several ways from weight gain to disruption in your sleep cycle to lack of consciousness and organ failure and death. Let us have a look at both the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol consumption.
Short-term effects include alcohol poisoning, disruptions in your sleep cycle, bloating, migraines, and digestive issues.
Long-term alcohol consumption tends to lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, liver damage, and failure, and in some cases, it can also lead to cancer or death.
11.2 Who is Eligible for Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment?
Anyone who knows they have a problem and wants to get better is eligible for alcohol withdrawal treatment. The first few weeks of alcohol withdrawal are the hardest; that is why you need all the love and support you can get from friends, family, or people in similar situations.
To conclude, we would like to address that alcohol addiction is something many of us do not foresee. Sometimes it is your environment or your clique that is responsible for this episode and in other cases, it may be certain events that have led to this behavior. Our article on what helps with alcohol withdrawal talks about everything you need to know about the symptoms, the causes of alcoholism, and what steps you can take to recover from it.
No matter the root cause, just remember help is there for you. You just need to find the right person to help you through your addiction. The former article will shine a light on the effects of alcohol on a developing brain, the stages of intoxication, and how the body responds to alcohol abuse.
Also, check out, Major Reasons Why Antidepressants Cause Weight Gain