Alcohol withdrawal usually begins after prolonged heavy drinking, and then you suddenly stop drinking, or cut down on your alcohol use. It is not one thing, but is a complex combination of signs and symptoms that generally occur to together and define a particular problem or condition.
Alcohol withdrawal is potentially life-threatening, and is a medical emergency.
It can start as early as a couple of hours after your last drink, or may take 1 to 3 days to develop.
It can last from days to a week or more.
It can worsen very quickly.
There are several stages of alcohol withdrawal, although they overlap, as do their signs and symptoms. In the earlier stages, it most commonly includes:
Nausea and vomiting
Mood swings, irritability, agitation, restlessness
DTs are a severe and life-threatening complication. If it happens, it usually begins about 3 to 5 days after your last drink. It is potentially life threatening. DTs are characterized by:
Sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes
Severe disorientation, confusion, hallucinations
Heart racing, or irregular heartbeat
High blood pressure
Possible coma and death
You will need plenty of rest and fluids over the next several days. Eat regular meals and drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Do not drink any more alcohol. During this time, it is best that you stay with family or friends who can help and support you. You can also admit yourself to a residential detox program.
Do not drive until all symptoms are gone and you are feeling better. if you've had a seizure, don't drive until you have been examined by a doctor.
If you were given sedative medication to reduce your symptoms, do not take it more often than prescribed and never take it with alcohol.
Once you have gone through the withdrawal symptoms, you have fought half of the battle. To avoid the risk of returning to your previous drinking pattern, it is essential that you get follow-up support and treatment.
Alcoholics Anonymous offers support through a self-help fellowship. There are no dues or fees. Search the internet or go to www.aa.org to find a local meeting place.
Al-Anon family groups offers support to families of alcohol users. Go to www.al-anon.org
National Council On Alcoholism And Drug Dependence at 800-622-2255 or www.ncadd.org
Residential alcohol detox programs are available. Search the internet for drug abuse and treatment centers in your area.
Call 911 if any of these occur:
Trouble breathing or slow, irregular breathing
Sudden weakness on one side of the body or sudden trouble speaking
Heavy bleeding or vomiting blood
Very drowsy or trouble awakening
Fainting or loss of consciousness
Rapid heart rate
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
Fever over 100.4º F (38.0º C)
Headache, confusion, extreme drowsiness, inability to awaken
Increasing upper abdominal pain
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