The Stages Of Alcohol Withdrawal

by | Nov 11, 2022 | Treatment | 0 comments

Alcohol is by far the most normalized drug there is. As such, it is perhaps the most destructive substance consumed in today’s society, not only because of its inebriating effects but also its toxic developments in our brains and bodies. Most of us consume some amount of alcohol, and many of us far too much. Severe alcoholism is on the rise in the US and worldwide. According to National Center For Drug Abuse Statistics, “1-in-10 Americans over the age of 12 have Alcohol Use Disorder.” In addition, 60 percent of Americans increased their alcohol consumption during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Furthermore, alcohol Use Disorder causes 6 percent of deaths worldwide, killing over 3 million people every year.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Any amount of alcohol is damaging to the brain and body. However, occasional and moderate drinking is not what is to be considered Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) refers to one’s inability to manage alcohol consumption, or quit entirely, despite such alcohol abuse negatively affecting one’s life.

The Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The negative effects of AUD go beyond regrettable decisions and bad hangovers. Alcohol is extremely toxic to the brain and body. Other commonly abused substances must usually attach to receptors in certain cells in the body. However, alcohol can actually enter a cell, as it is both water-soluble and fat-soluble. Ethanol, the form of alcohol humans consume, causes significant stress and damage to cells. Ethanol is toxic to the body upon immediate consumption and must be converted into something else once in the body. Once ingested, ethanol is converted into acetaldehyde, an even more toxic substance, as well as adenosine triphosphate, a nutrient-empty calorie. Acetaldehyde is a chemical that indiscriminately kills cells, and it is also what causes you to feel drunk as it disrupts neural networks in the brain.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Alcohol withdrawal is a daunting aspect of getting clean and often hinders those who wish to quit drinking. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) is the set of symptoms that occur when a severe alcoholic halts drinking or drastically reduces consumption.

The symptoms of AWS can include:

  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • tremors or shakes
  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • mood changes
  • gastrointestinal disturbances
  • heart palpitations
  • increased blood pressure or heart rate
  • hyperthermia
  • rapid abnormal breathing
  • hallucinations

The Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

There are 3 potential stages of alcohol withdrawal that a person may experience, the physiological severity of which is relative to the strength of one’s physical dependence on alcohol.

Stage 1 – Mild

The first stage of alcohol withdrawal, which is felt for 6 to 12 hours after the last drink, could be compared to a terrible hangover. The symptoms may include headaches, insomnia, anxiety, hand tremors, gastrointestinal disturbances, and heart palpitations.

Stage 2 – Moderate

The second stage of alcohol withdrawal may persist with the same symptoms as Stage 1, also introducing increased blood pressure and heart rate, confusion, mild hyperthermia, and rapid or abnormal breathing. Stage 2 may last for up to 24 hours after the last drink.

Stage 3 – Severe

The third stage may include symptoms from Stage 2 and may additionally exhibit visual or auditory hallucinations, seizures, disorientation, and impaired attention. Stage 3 can present those symptoms that are most uncomfortable during alcohol withdrawal. Stage 3 is also where harmful complications and even fatalities most commonly arise. This stage generally happens on the third day of detox. However, if one’s physiological dependence on alcohol is high, then Stage 3 symptoms may even continue for up to a week.

We Can Help You Overcome

Anticipating an uncomfortable and painful alcohol withdrawal period could be a likely reason many don’t choose to detox. However, at rehab facilities like ours, patients can use medication-assisted treatment to curb alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This, in tandem with effective therapy methods, can help get an alcoholic clean and turn around their life. If you or a loved one is addicted to alcohol, please reach out to us. We can help.