Alcohol Withdrawal: Treatment and Symptoms
Description, Symptoms, Diagnosis
Description of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol Withdrawal is experienced by many people suffering from alcohol dependence. The Alcohol withdrawal experience ranges from being unpleasant with mild anxiety to tremors and perhaps life threatening seizures and Delirium Tremens or DT’s. Any person experiencing alcohol withdrawal should seek medical care and guidance.
Alcohol withdrawal occurs because the body has become physically dependent on alcohol. Once a person who is physically dependent on alcohol stops drinking alcohol, or in some cases, cuts consumption of alcohol, the body begins to give off signs or symptoms indicating withdrawal. Alcohol consumption that is heavy and prolonged will cause a withdrawal syndrome if alcohol consumption is reduced or stopped altogether. The withdrawal syndrome usually starts six to twenty-four hours after the last drink and may start prior to the blood alcohol level returning to zero.
Executive Home Detox monitors treatment of alcohol withdrawal, looking for and treating the symptoms and providing medication (physician prescribed). The goal is to decrease the unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. It is important to provide the appropriate medication at the appropriate dosage as soon as possible to prevent life threatening consequences from occurring.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Restlessness, irritability, anxiety, agitation
- Lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting
- Tremor or shakiness, elevated heart rate (tachycardia), and elevate blood pressure (hypertension).
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping, intense dreaming, nightmares
- Poor concentration, impaired memory and judement
- Increased sensitivity to sound, light, and tactile sensations
- Hallucinations (See, Hear, or feel things not really there)
- Delusions, usually paranoid or persecutory
- Grand Mal Seizures, Tonic-clonic seizures
- Hyperthermia or elevated fever
- Delirium with disorientation to time, other people, place, and the situation
From Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: A Treatment Improvement Protocol, Tip 45. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
EHD blogs about Alcohol Withdrawal:
Alcohol Withdrawal as a Medical Diagnosis
Alcohol Withdrawal is an actual diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition of the American Psychiatric Association.
The DSM – IV requires that two of the following criteria be met to diagnose and treat someone with Alcohol Withdrawal who has been consuming alcohol in a heavy and prolonged manner:
- Sweating or a pulse rate greater than 100 (this may be referred to as Autonomic Activity)
- Increased hand tremor
- Nausea or vomiting
- Transient (on and off) visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations or illusions
- Psychomotor agitation
- Grand mal seizures
A further requirement is the symptoms above cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. A further requirement is the symptoms are not caused by another medical concern (i.e., Parkinsons) or another mental disorder.
Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal
Treatment of Alcohol withdrawal can range from supportive care in the home to life saving treatment in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. The severity of the alcohol withdrawal usually determines the location of treatment. The severity of alcohol withdrawal is usually correlated with the amount of alcohol one has been drinking along with the length of time the person has been drinking. Multiple withdrawal episodes will also increase the severity of the withdrawal.
The first step in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal is alcohol detox.