Alcohol is the most commonly used substance in the US. While most people only drink moderately or occasionally, as many as 12 percent of American adults have an alcohol use disorder and the rate may be increasing. When you decide to get help for an alcohol use problem, the first thing you have to do is quit drinking. People who have developed a physical dependence on alcohol through regular heavy drinking will likely experience some withdrawal symptoms when they quit drinking, some of which may be dangerous. Withdrawal is caused by a sudden imbalance in neurotransmitters in the brain. When you develop a physical dependence on alcohol, your brain chemistry slowly changes to compensate. The most significant changes are that your brain becomes less sensitive to the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, and more sensitive to the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. When you suddenly quit drinking, your brain is essentially stuck in overdrive, making you feel irritable and increasing your risk of seizures. Here’s what you can expect from alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms can begin in as little as six hours after your last drink. Early symptoms include headache, anxiety, sweating, nausea and vomiting, shaky hands, fast or irregular heartbeat, and insomnia. For some people, this is as bad as it gets. Heavier drinkers may start to experience worse symptoms starting about 12 hours after their last drink. These symptoms might include seizures or hallucinations. Severe alcohol withdrawal, delirium tremens, or the DTs, typically start two or three days after your last drink. Only about five percent of people experience DTs, which can be fatal. Symptoms include delusions or vivid hallucinations. You may experience confusion, racing heart, fever, profuse sweating, and high blood pressure. You can go from moderate withdrawal to DTs pretty quickly. If you or someone you know starts to experience the DTs, call an ambulance. Most people will be able to detox from alcohol on their own. Before you try, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor. Tell her about your addiction history, including how much you typically drink and other drugs you may have used. She may prescribe medication to make detoxing a little easier. If you have tried to quit before and failed, or you experienced severe withdrawal, you are likely to experience severe withdrawal again and you may want to consider a medical detox. You may also want to consider a medical detox if you have a complicating health issue such as heart disease.
If you’re struggling with substance use, Recovery Ways can help. We offer intensive outpatient treatment as well as residential treatment. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.