Once the body gets used to alcohol, suddenly stopping ingestion can actually cause a condition called Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome or AWS. People with AWS suffer through a variety of symptoms that include but are not limited to the following:
During the first few hours, the symptoms may be mild but gradually worsen over time. The symptoms themselves may vary from one person to the next but would usually include two or more of the following: anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting, headache, irritability, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, tremors, confusion, insomnia, and sometimes even nightmares. Any two of these symptoms can already help the diagnosis of AWS in someone who was a heavy drinker.
The very nature of the above symptoms often compels a patient to go out and have another drink. The anxiety builds to a level where a person feels as though the only way to stop feelings of dread would be to consume alcohol.
During the onset of initial symptoms, patients can still get by with the use of certain medications and proper care. Keeping the person hydrated and supplied with the right kind of food can help heaps in minimizing the symptoms of alcohol detox.
Doctors often diagnose AWS through the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol standard which rates the above symptoms on a scale of 10. This is combined with a toxicology screen to find out the amount of alcohol in a person’s body.
Severe Symptoms or DT
Over the course of a few days, the initial symptoms can get worse or they can get better. This all depends on the severity of alcohol addiction of the patient.
The most severe symptoms are such that they actually have a name: Delirium Tremens or DT. During this, the patient can suffer from seizures, fever, extreme confusion, and extreme agitation. Some patients also suffer through hallucinations that are both visual and auditory in nature. Others hallucinate sensations of burning or itching of their skin. DT symptoms are considered a medical emergency because the worst-case scenario in this instance would be death.
During DT, the treatment is often administered through the hospital or any Sugarland IOP clinics. People suffering from this condition would need constant observation to make sure that the DT symptoms do not lead to fatality.
While the physical symptoms may only last for a few days, the psychological symptoms associated with AWS can last for weeks if not months. This is the instance when patients will need as much help as they can in overcoming the addiction.
Specifically, patients may experience depression or dysphoria. Dysphoria is characterized as a profound or a deep sense of dissatisfaction. It is often described as the opposite of euphoria and is one of the symptoms of depression as a mental illness.
When a person experiences psychological symptoms, treatment is often a combination of medication and therapy. Patients are encouraged to enroll in different rehabilitation programs in order to address the symptoms as well as encourage them to develop coping mechanisms to prevent relapse.
Medication Induced Symptoms
Finally, there are symptoms that are associated with the intake of medication to help alleviate AWS. Now, this might seem counterproductive, but doctors would take the time to weigh the pros and cons of giving a particular medication. For example, some anticonvulsants can cause dizziness or nausea in patients. However, this is an acceptable exchange since dizziness is not dangerous but unrolled convulsion could be.
A good doctor should be able to hit a balance between what the patient needs and what they can tolerate when prescribing medication. Most are also able to separate which symptoms are caused by AWS and which ones are the result of medications issued for treatment purposes. It’s not uncommon to make changes in between medications depending on how the patient reacts to it.
AWS is often treated through a combination of home care, hospitalization, or the use of certain medication. The symptoms themselves may appear within hours of a person’s last drink and could stay for days. Continuing care however is important, even after the AWS symptoms fade away. Patients are often encouraged to participate in therapy where behavioral issues that led to the substance abuse can be addressed.