For those who are thinking about quitting alcohol, you have 1 of 2 ways to go about it, medically assisted detox at a licensed rehab facility or quitting cold turkey. While both can be effective, the cold turkey approach is the most dangerous. Regardless of how an individual chooses to overcome their addiction to alcohol, they will be met with severe withdrawal symptoms. Medically-assisted detox can help make these symptoms more manageable. Quitting cold turkey, on the other hand, means you will have to weather the storm as your body works to rid itself of alcohol and other toxins. And these ill-effects do not end there as there are a variety of psychological symptoms associated with abrupt alcohol cessation as well. In this article, we take a look at the full impact that alcohol withdrawal can have on the body.
HOW DOES THE BODY RESPOND TO ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL?
We have all heard the saying that addiction is a disease; however, when it comes to alcohol, it is also a depressant, meaning it can alter how the central nervous system functions. To further put this into context, over time, the body becomes accustomed to receiving alcohol, and when the substance is no longer being provided, it responds negatively. Although the central nervous system will try to compensate for this lack of alcohol in the body, it often fails. Instead, it enters a hyperactive sympathetic state, which triggers an onslaught of physiological changes, such as a rapid heart rate, higher body temperature, and profuse sweating, according to Dr. Richard Saitz with the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Boston University School of Public Health. While these symptoms are also synonymous with a hangover, they can present long-term health problems the longer an individual continues to consume alcohol.
WHAT ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL SIDE EFFECTS?
The longer an individual consumes alcohol, the more likely they are to develop alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) symptoms when they quit drinking, with delirium tremens topping the list as the most dangerous. AWS symptoms, including those associated with delirium tremens, can present themselves in a matter of hours or weeks after they have consumed their last alcoholic beverage. Some of the more common symptoms of AWS include
- Irregular heartbeat
Of course, this list does not encapsulate all of the symptoms associated with AWS; however, they are some of the most common.
ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL AND DELIRIUM TREMENS
Now that we have a general understanding of AWS as a whole, let’s take a closer look at what delirium tremens entails. In most cases, individuals who develop delirium tremens have been drinking excessively for 10 or more years. The symptoms that are specific to delirium tremens can include
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
In addition to these symptoms, delirium tremens resulting from alcohol withdrawal can lead to severe dehydration, which is characterized by dangerously low electrolyte levels. If this occurs, it can lead to a variety of cardiac complications, some of which include an irregular heartbeat and, in extreme cases, a heart attack. Delirium tremens can also trigger a decline in phosphate levels, which, in turn, can cause muscle weakness, breathing problems, and coma. What’s more, the seizures brought on by delirium tremens can lead to bodily injuries, not to mention metabolic problems as well.
METABOLIC PROBLEMS AND ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL
If delirium tremens triggers metabolic problems, it can have a devastating effect on both the heart and lungs, insomuch that both can abruptly stop functioning, which can be fatal if not immediately corrected. Also, metabolic problems linked to delirium tremens can lead to a disruption in insulin production, which can cause alcoholic ketoacidosis, a condition similar to that of those with type 1 diabetes mellitus. It is important to note that alcoholic ketoacidosis can also be fatal if not quickly treated.
HOW IS ALCOHOL WITHDRAWAL SYNDROME TREATED?
If an individual is struggling with alcohol withdrawal syndrome or other medical problems triggered by the condition, they will need prescription-based medication to help combat their symptoms and possibly save their life. Some of the medications commonly prescribed to treat AWS include lorazepam and diazepam, both of which can minimize the risk of seizures. Lastly, most physicians will leave individuals to recover in a quiet room as loud sounds can worsen their condition.
All in all, there are some very serious consequences associated with long-term alcohol consumption. If you’re ready to end your relationship with alcohol and better your health, consider scheduling a consultation with one of our compassionate representatives today at 877-497-6180.