What are Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

by Anthony Carter on July 22, 2011


Once an individual becomes chemically dependent on alcohol they will experience withdrawal symptoms should their blood alcohol level fall low enough. This may occur because they have left it too long between drinks or because they are trying to give up. Most alcoholics will actually be in withdrawals most mornings because their blood alcohol level has fallen overnight. This is why they will feel the need for an alcoholic drink first thing in the morning so that they are able to function. The symptoms of withdrawals can be mild or severe depending on the extent of the addiction. Some individuals have symptoms that are so severe that they because of it.

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol is a toxin that can cause a lot of damage to the body. The human body is an amazing machine though and it is able to adapt to the ingestion of large amounts of alcohol. In fact it adapts to the situation so well that it becomes dependent on having alcohol in the system. If the level of alcohol in the blood stream falls too low the body is now no longer able to function properly. It is this that causes the alcohol withdrawal symptoms. If the individual has reached a stage where their body has adapted to alcohol they are referred to as dependent or addicted.

Typically Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Anyone who is physically dependent on alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms should they try to stop. Such symptoms include –

  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Hallucinations
  • Sweating
  • Cardiovascular changes
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood changes
  • Depression and possibly suicidal thoughts
  • Diarrhoea
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Flu like symptoms
  • Deep cravings for alcohol
  • Agitation

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

If the alcoholic has been chronically abusing alcohol for over a decade they are at risk of developing severe withdrawal symptoms known as delirium tremens or the DTs. These symptoms can include –

  • Vivid visual and audio hallucinations
  • Changes to heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate
  • Extreme agitation and anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Many long term alcoholics may also have developed wet brain (alcoholic dementia). These symptoms may become more apparent once the individual has come off the booze. The alcoholic with wet brain may never regain full mental functioning. Symptoms can include –

  • Loss of the ability to form new memories
  • Loss of recent memories
  • Inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy
  • Changes to physical coordination

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be extremely unpleasant. It is therefore often necessary that people are medically supervised while going through them. This is particularly important if the individual is likely to develop delirium tremens. Severe withdrawal symptoms can quickly progress to death if they are not monitored correctly. Those individuals who are only likely to experience mild withdrawals are usually able to do this without medical supervision.

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