Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

A study conducted by the University of Sussex researchers recommend that Indian men, who love spirits should not have more than two large glasses of whisky or three small shots of vodka a day. Women, on the other hand should not consume as much alcohol – a maximum of two medium sized glasses of wine per day is enough.

As long as people drink within the safe limits, it shouldn’t be really a cause of worry. It is when they get severely addicted and become heavy drinkers, troubles can strike their paradise. Some of these alcoholics make sincere efforts to get rid of this addiction, but may resort to extreme measures such as instant abstinence from alcohol. It is at this time that they start experiencing Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.

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What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) is the collective of symptoms, which are noticed in a heavy drinker, when he or she either stops or significantly reduces drinking, suddenly. These can be both physical and mental changes, ranging from mild to severe anxiety and nausea. AWS can also cause Delirium Tremens (also known as DT), which can cause death due to rapid heart rate, confusion and fever. Deaths due to DT have been estimated between 1% to 5%.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Also read : Can You Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Excessive or prolonged drinking damages the neurotransmitters in the brain of the alcoholic and hampers its ability to transmit messages. Initially, alcohol helps to enhance the effects of chemical called GABSA, which is associated with the feelings of relaxation and calmness. But, gradually excessive alcohol suppresses its activity and makes a person take more alcohol to reach that state of relaxation. This phenomena is also known as tolerance. Alcohol also causes similar effects on glutamate, which produces the feelings of excitement.

When a person stops excessive drinking, these suppressed neurotransmitters come back to their original state causing brain hyperexcitability. They rebound and cause the withdrawal effects like fatigue, irritability, agitation, seizure, DT and others. AWS has several severe health implications, which need to be treated in time.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

What is Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?

The alcohol withdrawal timeline refers to the period after the withdrawal from alcohol and also, the types of withdrawal symptoms that an alcoholic suffers from during this period. It can be divided into three major stages:

Stage 1: This begins within 8 hours of the last drink and symptoms includes nausea, anxiety, abdominal pain.

Stage 2: Usually, this occurs between 24 to 72 hours after the last drink and symptoms include high blood pressure, high heart rate, and even mild fever.

Stage 3: After 72 hours of the last drink, moderate or severe symptoms like high fever, agitation, hallucination and seizure appear.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Severity of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

The severity of the symptoms and how bad the case is, depends on how long a person has been drinking. Minor symptoms start appearing within 6 to 12 hours after s/he has stopped drinking. His or her blood might still have a certain amount of alcohol traces left. These symptoms include sweating, nausea, vomiting, shaky hands, headaches, insomnia.

Visual or auditory hallucinations, called alcoholic hallucinosis occur between 12 to 24 hours. These might fade away by 48 hours, and they are not the same as DT.

Withdrawal seizures come between 24 to 48 hours. However, they can also occur as early as 2 hours after the drinking has been stopped. The risk becomes high for people who have undergone detoxifications earlier.

Finally, DT starts showing between 48 to 72 hours. The risk increases if the person had withdrawal seizures earlier, or has a history of medical illness, old age of liver abnormalities. The symptoms usually peak at 5 days, which include:

  • Seizures
  • Disorientation or severe anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Severe tremors
  • Irregular or high heart beats
  • Fever
  • Excessive sweating

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

AWS is one of the most feared complications of alcohol addiction and can cause mortality reaching up to 15%, if it is not treated properly in time. The treatment depends on the stage and severity of symptoms. The doctor might recommend an outpatient detoxification, if the person has a supportive family. Else, an inpatient detoxification is required at the hospital. Inpatient detoxification is also recommended for people who are pregnant, have suffered from several seizures of DTs earlier or have a chronic medical illness.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Basically, treatment includes three major goals:

  • Immediate reduction in symptoms
  • Prevention of aggravation of symptoms
  • Long-term therapy for alcohol abstinence

As a part of treatment, doctors may prescribe drugs like Valium or similar compounds, which have benzodiazepines and help to control the shakiness, anxiety and reduces chances of seizure and DT. Sometimes, an anticonvulsant may be prescribed as it does cause sedation and is low on abuse.

Sometimes, a few other drugs can be given in addition to the above to control the complication. These include antipsychotic drug to prevent hallucination, a beta-blocker to reduce heart rates, blood pressure controller and other anticonvulsant to manage the condition of underlying seizures.

If a person is sincerely planning for alcohol withdrawal, it should be ensured that it is done under proper medical or expert consultation.

Also read: How to Get Rid Of Hangover: Home Remedies

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Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

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