In our culture, alcohol is seen as one more recreational element, as an essential actor in parties and celebrations; perhaps because of this continuous presence in our lives, we do not realize the significant problem it represents for society.
It is estimated that between 40 and 60% of deaths caused by injuries in Europe are caused by alcohol, figures to which should be added direct deaths and diseases caused by alcohol, which is a problem of great magnitude for public health. Despite these scandalous figures, there is still much ignorance about what it means to be an alcoholic; compared to other drugs, there is not so much social alarm around this fact, nor is it aware of how difficult it is to overcome this situation.
Next, in FastlyHeal, we will try to solve any doubts you may have about alcoholism; for example, how long does the alcohol withdrawal syndrome last?
Table of Contents
Consequences of alcoholism
How does alcohol work?
Commonly, alcoholism problems are associated with the lack of will or character to quit the drug; one is not aware that alcohol changes the brain’s structure, making it almost impossible to quit the habit of drinking without professional treatment.
The compulsive consumption of alcohol significantly affects the neurotransmitters that control the flow of neuronal information by altering and hindering the function of neurotransmitters, eventually changing the behavior, feelings, and will of the alcoholic.
Over time, this effect on neurotransmitters causes the brain to only function typically with a certain level of alcohol in the blood, which causes the patient to continue drinking. However, this level increases as the addiction lasts longer. This need to further increase the amount of alcohol ingested is called tolerance; the body has already become accustomed to alcohol and increasingly needs more to achieve the same effects the first time.
What does it do to the body when you leave it?
When a person with chronic alcohol consumption stops drinking, all the brain disorders caused by abuse that had been camouflaged while there was the constant flow of alcohol that the body demanded are manifested. These disorders cause withdrawal syndrome, the set of symptoms the body alerts that there is a lack of alcohol in the blood and pushes you to remedy it. These symptoms only diminish if consumption is restarted. Hence, the difficulty of getting out of alcoholism, the remedy that can calm you is the same substance that causes the disease.
During the withdrawal syndrome, the opposite effects are produced to those caused by consuming alcohol; if this is an element that inhibits neurotransmitters and induces a state of sedation when it is absent, the central nervous system is over-activated, affecting an excruciating and life-threatening way.
Symptoms of withdrawal syndrome
The alcohol withdrawal syndrome is one of the most complex and most difficult to pass; however, depending on the levels of addiction of each person, the symptoms can change and be more or less intense. Recent studies indicate that when you stop consuming, the body goes through an overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system and increases hormones such as cortisol to toxic levels in nerve cells. The result of these changes in the body are:
- excessive sweating
- heart rhythm and blood pressure disturbances
These physical symptoms are accompanied by other psychological ones, a great desire to consume that makes it very difficult to keep firm the decision to abstain from alcohol.
The delirium tremens
In the strongest addictions, it is pretty standard that between the first 6 and 48 hours after the last drink, hallucinations accompanied by seizures are experienced. Hallucinations are primarily visual; although there are also sound and olfactory ones, the duration varies according to the level of addiction and the person and can go from hour to week. All these symptoms can lead to delirium tremens, the worst phase of the withdrawal syndrome and a possible cause of death.
The DTs is a state of psychosis caused by the lack of alcohol in the body of the alcoholic, which, once it starts, are common convulsions, heart attacks, and strokes that can end the patient’s life. If this stage of withdrawal syndrome is reached, mortality is 10-15% among patients with medical treatment, while it rises to 20% in those not treated.
How long does alcohol withdrawal syndrome last?
Taking into account that factors such as the amount of daily alcohol, the years of addiction, and the physical characteristics of each person can make it last more or less time, in general, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome improve after five days without consuming. However, in very acute cases, it can last weeks.
Compared to other drugs, it is a short period. However, it is more complicated and requires medical treatment. One way to minimize withdrawal symptoms is not to stop drinking alcohol suddenly but to decrease the amounts until it is completely eradicated. Another, and the most recommended, is to request medical help; they will analyze the case and establish pharmacological service if necessary.
Unlike the physical symptoms of withdrawal, psychological addiction in an addict will never go away. Addiction is a behavior installed in the brain that cannot be changed. You can live a happy life without using again, but the addict will always have that temptation, a litmus test that must pass every day.
As we have explained throughout the article, alcohol detoxification is one of the most difficult and puts more pressure on the body; that is why a treatment to quit alcohol without medical supervision or the necessary care can mean severe and life-threatening health problems.
Although there are no specific tests that determine the withdrawal syndrome, it is easy to detect with a simple medical examination since the symptoms above appear after stopping the habit of alcoholic consumption.
If withdrawal symptoms appear, it is that the amount of alcohol that has been drunk has been enough to damage different organs, so the doctor will proceed to evaluate the possible damage to the kidneys, liver, heart, nerves, and the possible lack of vitamins like B12 or minerals like magnesium.
If you start to suffer withdrawal symptoms, it is better to go to the nearest hospital there; they can treat you so that the effects on your health are minimal. You will likely undergo drug treatment with benzodiazepines to alleviate the effects of withdrawal and provide you with vitamins and nutrients missing in your body.
At the same time, they will offer you psychological help while treating the physical addiction to alcohol treating the mental addiction.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
If you want to read more articles similar to How long does alcohol withdrawal last? We recommend that you enter our category of Mental Disorders .
I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.