While moderate alcohol use is generally not considered harmful, for the 18 million Americans currently struggling with alcoholism, it can be downright deadly. Not only can alcoholism increase the risk of certain type of cancers, it can also seriously damage the heart, brain, central nervous system, and the liver. Alcoholism can also increase the risk of death from car accidents, alcohol related injuries, drowning, homicide, and suicide. However, one of the main reasons why alcoholism can turn into a potentially life-threatening disease is because of the severe, and even deadly symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Signs and Symptoms of Being in Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal is a collection of potentially life-threatening symptoms that become visible in a person after they have abruptly stopped drinking after abusing alcohol over a long duration. Because abusing alcohol in large quantities, over a significant period of time, can induce physiological dependence, once an alcoholic has abruptly stopped drinking, it can have devastating effects on the central nervous system, immune system, and the overall body’s functioning as a whole.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary from mild to life-threatening. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as a few hours after the last drink, and can persist for days, even weeks at a time. Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Agitation and Anxiety
- Paranoid delusions
- Rapid heartbeat
- Delirium tremens
It is extremely important to seek out professional attention if you’re are experiencing any moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These may include seizures, severe confusion, hallucinations, irregular or rapid heartbeat, and persistent vomiting. Because alcohol withdrawal symptoms can worsen rapidly, it is important to seek out professional attention even if an individual is suffering from only mild to moderate symptoms. This is because, an individual suffering from even moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms can experience seizures and what is known as delirium tremens, that can eventually lead to neurotoxicity, and even death.
Delirium tremens, also known as DT’s, is a severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome that is characterized by physical tremors, vivid hallucinations, disorientation, seizures, and a racing or irregular heartbeat. DT’s usually develop around 48-72 hours after alcohol cessation, but can appear as soon as two hours after the last drink. Delirium tremens causes severe physical and mental changes to the body, and if left untreated, can be life-threatening.
Withdrawal – Sign Of Alcoholism
However, even the most severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can be treated by an experienced professional, either at a hospital or a drug treatment facility. Once alcohol withdrawal syndrome is suspected, the doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination identifying each and every alcohol withdrawal symptom, as well as any potential existing conditions that may be exacerbating the symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, liver disease, and diabetes.
Once the doctor has identified the seriousness of the withdrawal symptoms they may either prefer to treat an individual in an outpatient setting for mild cases, or may choose to admit the person to a hospital or inpatient facility if the symptoms are severe or life-threatening. Here they will use a variety of prescription medications to help reduce immediate withdrawal symptoms, prevent and monitor any possible complications, and begin long-term alcohol rehabilitation and detox therapy to promote abstinence from alcohol in the future.