Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

People often loosely misuse the term “detox” when discussing their attempts to do the latest juice cleanse or their plans to undergo intense sweat sessions in saunas, steam rooms or hot yoga classes. However, the actual process of detox from drugs and/or alcohol is quite intense and a serious medical undertaking.  What used to commonly be referred to as “alcoholism,” is now a condition that addiction experts refer to as Alcohol Dependence Syndrome. More broadly, addiction at large is often called Substance Use Disorder (SUD). A dependence on alcohol in someone predisposed to SUDs can progress over time. The longer someone consumes alcohol; the amount someone consumes and the rate at which he or she consume it are all contributing factors to what often results in an extreme dependence. Because of this, the body’s physical addiction to alcohol can become so severe that a person can develop Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) when he or she stops ingesting alcohol. The side effects of AWS, according to the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research published via the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), can include “tremor, restlessness, insomnia, nightmares, paroxysmal sweats, tachycardia, fever, nausea, vomiting, seizures, hallucinations (auditory, visual, and tactile), increased agitation, and tremulousness.”

Beginning Detox

Since the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are very serious and very uncomfortable, it’s crucial that someone undergo detox in a safe, medically supervised setting conducive to healing. One of the biggest concerns a doctor has while detoxing someone from alcohol is the risk of seizures. So one of the first strategies implemented is administering medicine designed to prevent seizures. After an assessment of what the client’s past attempts to detox have entailed, the physician creates an individualized approach to the person’s pharmaceutical remedies. The most commonly prescribed drugs for alcohol withdrawal are benzodiazepines, most of which are designed to balance chemicals in the brain and treat anxiety, seizure or panic disorders. Depending on the client’s unique circumstances, these can include Klonopin (clonazepam), Librium (Chlordiazepoxide) or

Ativan (lorazepam). Usually, benzodiazepines are used in the beginning stages of detox to help ease discomfort but are slowly tapered off as the client stabilizes. Why are benzodiazepines so effective in treating someone experiencing AWS? According to the aforementioned Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research published via the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “Data on comparisons between benzodiazepines and other drugs, including α-blockers, carbamazepine and clonidine could not be pooled, but none of them was found to be superior to benzodiazepines. Another meta-analysis concluded that BZD reduce withdrawal severity, reduce incidence of delirium and seizures.”

Sometimes individuals are also given Gabapentin, which is an anti-convulsant, anti-epileptic medication that also helps with anxiety. Additionally, many doctors also administer medicine that aims to alleviate nausea as well as medicine that aides clients in sleeping peacefully.

Preparing for Treatment after Detox

Of course, detox is just the beginning. Once a person is physically stable, there is always the chance of the onset of what some might call an “emotional detox,” officially titled, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). PAWS is often associated with the range of escalating and deescalating moods correlating to alcohol or drug cessation. When someone eliminates the substance he or she had been using as a numbing agent for any or all emotions, there are bound to be side effects to one’s mental and emotional state. So once the physical withdrawal is under control, it’s important that full attention be turned to the symptoms of emotional withdrawal. The capability to address the physical, mental and emotional aspects of treating addiction, or SUDs, is one of many reasons why choosing to undergo the early days of quitting drugs or alcohol in a well-equipped, professional residential treatment setting is ideal.

Thankfully, Recovery Malibu provides a full continuum of care that addresses the many facets of early recovery from alcohol dependence, from medical detox to behavioral modification and intensive therapy. Of course, sound nutrition and physical exercise are also key components to effective recovery, and part of a well-rounded program. Individuals who have a safely withdrawn from alcohol can expect continued holistic care that ensures they are getting all of the vitamins and nutrients necessary for optimal health. When detox is facilitated appropriately and effectively, the client is then relaxed, clear-headed and in the best condition to begin addressing their mental and emotional health.