Clinically Reviewed on: 28/04/2022 9:00 am by Dr Alexander Lapa (Psychiatrist)
All information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.
If you suspect that yourself or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism and you are reading this message, then there’s a good chance you may wish to take action to improve the situation by attending a drug rehab.
If so, you need to gain some basic knowledge of ‘alcohol withdrawal syndrome’, a term you or your loved one are soon to become acquainted with.
Are you suffering from an alcohol addiction and need help? Cassiobury Court is a leading UK based expert in Private Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Treatment. Find out how we can help by getting in touch with our friendly team today.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is an umbrella term for a family of symptoms an alcoholic endures when you suddenly cease to drink alcohol.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary, and each person tends to experience a different set of symptoms depending on how long drinking has persisted in the period leading up to detoxification. Symptoms also vary according to the quantity of alcohol consumed.
As a rule of thumb, the longer one has consumed alcohol and the higher the quantity of consumption the more severe the symptoms will be (sounds obvious!). At the top end of the spectrum, a sufferer can expect life-threatening symptoms roughly 48 hours into alcohol cessation.
Professional observation thus becomes essential. Withdrawal for a chronic alcoholic can be far more dangerous than withdrawal from harmful drugs such as heroin or crack-cocaine. These are the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It is hard to avoid these symptoms, especially after prolonged alcohol consumption.
The journey through the spectrum of withdrawal symptoms or alcohol abuse begins as early as two hours after drinking, peaking in severity roughly two to three days after the cessation.
Symptoms can last for up to a year after cessation, although this tends to be limited to temptation. The spectrum of symptoms changes, depending on the amount of time that has passed since you last consumed an alcoholic beverage, something we shall detail below.
12 hours no alcohol
Usually, within the first five hours of cessation, the addict will suffer irritable symptoms such as becoming anxious and experiencing the classic ‘shakes’. Vomiting and headaches may also be experienced. This is the stage when most addicts give in and start to drink again. The cycle of addiction has the addict in its grip.
12 to 24 hours after quitting alcohol
Symptoms tend to progressively get worse as time goes on. Symptoms begin to manifest themselves in the form of tremors and mild hallucinations which are distinguishable from reality. The more chronic the addiction, the more severe the symptoms will be.
24 to 48 hours after stopping drinking
Symptoms normally peak 24 to 48 hours in. Tremors can morph into full-on seizures and the probability of death becomes a legitimate concern, especially for the chronic alcoholic. Hallucination can get more vivid and can be indistinguishable from reality, a condition known as ‘Alcoholic Hallucinosis’.
48 to 96 hours no alcohol
Within 48 hours the sufferer tends to begin to get better. However, for the chronic alcoholic, symptoms can get progressively worse, potentially suffering from a disease known as Delirium Tremens (DT).
DT manifests itself in the form of an increased heartbeat and rapid fever, and a stroke can occur, even death. Unlike any prior hallucinations, hallucinations can be confused with reality, such hallucinations tend to be both visual and auditory in nature.
Survivors who suffered from harsh withdrawal symptoms recount hearing threatening voices and visions of moving objects such as insects crawling around in their bed. Blood pressure also increases to dangerous levels.
DT is a medical emergency requiring 24-hour medical observation. DT occurs in roughly 1 in 20 of sufferers. Chlordiazepoxide, vitamins and several other drugs are usually prescribed to aid the detox process and prevent DT from manifesting.
96 hours+ after cessation
Life-threatening symptoms all but fade after 98 hours of cessation. The ‘acute’ stage of withdrawal has ended but a protracted period of symptoms can last up to one year of cessation. This set of symptoms are known as ‘non-acute withdrawal syndrome’ and can manifest in the form of an ever-present urge to return to drinking and a more insidious syndrome known as ‘anhedonia’ whereby one’s ability to feel pleasure is suppressed. Insomnia is also a common occurrence at this stage.
If you have taken the time to read the above, you may be eager to learn why the brain and body behave as they do to cause alcohol withdrawal syndrome. When the prolonged intake of alcohol has occurred, the brain’s transmitters go into overdrive.
A chemical is known as GABA, which makes you feel calm and relaxed, increases, and depletes. More alcohol is needed to get this ‘kick’. You build up a ‘tolerance’ and more and more alcohol is needed.
Chronic alcohol intake also suppresses Glutamate which is a substance in the body that produces the feeling of excitement. The glutamate system goes into overdrive to maintain normal levels of the glutamate substance.
When alcohol is withdrawn, the system continues in overdrive, leading to a state of hyper-excitability – or ‘neuropsychiatric‘ excitability. The brain acts rather like a runaway train.
Here at Cassiobury Court London, our alcohol rehab centre, you shall receive 24-hour medical observation from our knowledgeable medical staff who specialise in rehabilitating alcoholics. Medication such as Chlordiazepoxide may be offered during an alcohol detox depending on the level of severity of withdrawal symptoms. Willpower is the essential and the residential treatment we offer means temptation is minimised.
We additionally provide education and coping strategies that aid the overall process which is especially helpful for long-term relapse prevention. You will also be given plenty of nutritious meals and a range of supplements to ease this difficult process of withdrawal.
In addition to detox from alcohol, our dedicated team also provide various psychological and well-being therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, stress management, relapse prevention, counselling, art therapy, relaxation and sleep management, fitness therapy, and low-level laser therapy.
John Gillen - Author - Last updated: 25th August 2022
John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience in providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John is also the co-author of the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.
Dr Alexander Lapa (Psychiatrist) - Medical Reviewer - Last Reviewed: 28/04/2022 9:00 am
MBBS, PG Dip Clin Ed, OA Dip CBT, OA Dip Psychology, SCOPE Certified
Dr Lapa graduated in Medicine in 2000 and since this time has accrued much experience working in the widest range of psychiatric settings with differing illness presentations and backgrounds in inpatient, community and secure settings. This has been aligned to continuation of professional development at postgraduate level in clinical research which has been very closely related to the everyday clinical practice conducted by this practitioner as a NHS and Private Psychiatrist.
He is fully indemnified by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) and MIAB Expert Insurance for Psychiatric and Private Medical practice. He is fully registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK with a licence to practice.
Dr Lapa is approved under Section 12(2) of the Mental Health Act (1983)
Member of Independent Doctors Federation (IDF), British Association for Psychopharmacology (BMA) and The Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)
Dr Lapa’s extensive experience has also concentrated on the following areas of clinical practice:
– Assessment, Diagnosis and Pharmacological Treatment for Adults with ADHD.
– Drug and Alcohol Dependency and maintaining abstinence and continued recovery
– Intravenous and Intramuscular Vitamin and Mineral Infusion Therapy
– Dietary and Weight Management and thorough care from assessment to treatment to end goals and maintenance
– Aesthetic Practice and Procedures
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