Who Needs Help Managing Alcohol Withdrawals?

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Detoxification is the first step toward healing from an alcohol addiction, and according to an article in American Family Physician, most people who have alcoholism can go through the process at home. This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone can get well while living at home, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s safe for people with alcoholism to simply stop drinking on a whim without any warning at all. In fact, many people who have alcoholism will need some kind of support, as their bodies learn to function normally in the absence of intoxicating drinks.

Understanding the Risk

Alcohol is a sedating drug that can keep brain cells quiet and unable to react. People with alcoholism rarely go a moment without some sort of alcohol circulating in the bloodstream, so the brain might be perennially sleepy and quiet. If a person stops drinking abruptly and all of those sedated cells wake up at once, it can cause an electrical storm of sorts, deep inside the brain. Some people may feel just jittery and irritable as a result, but some people can develop more serious symptoms, including:

  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Fear
  • Severe confusion
  • Seizures

The U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that these serious symptoms are most common in people who have been through alcohol withdrawal in the past. Each cycle of awakening and sleeping does a tiny bit of damage that can make brain cells more reactive. The next time the person tries to withdraw, the brain wakes up faster and the storm is larger so symptoms are more severe as a result.

People who have never been through alcohol withdrawal are at lower risk of these serious complications, but they do face a risk. If they’ve been drinking large amounts of alcohol for a long period of time with no break, for example, they might very well develop serious withdrawal symptoms, as might people who are in poor health or who have underlying health concerns. Since the risk never approaches zero, everyone who abuses alcohol should get some kind of help in order to withdraw. It’s the only way to really stay safe.

How Treatment Works

Medications can be used to keep the brain calm and relaxed while the alcohol leaves the body. In the past, medications were given on a set schedule depending on a person’s weight and abuse history, but now, experts tend to provide medications based on the symptoms of withdrawal the person demonstrates, as this tends to bring about a better result. For example, in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, those who were given medications on a symptom basis needed treatment for about nine hours, compared to 68 hours in treatment for those who got medications on a fixed schedule. In addition, those in the symptom group got only 100mg of drugs, while those in the fixed group got 425mg. Given results like this, it’s easy to see why a symptom-based schedule is preferable.

In an inpatient program, the person is checked on a regular basis, and the medical staff asks questions and performs quick physical tests, looking for signs that the process is causing the person distress. Any symptoms are then treated with medications. Outpatients go through this same process, although their checks may happen via telephone or they may have a series of appointments to attend.

As soon as the person feels well enough to talk and think clearly, therapy can begin. While detoxification is designed to help the body adjust to the lack of alcohol, therapy is designed to help the mind adjust. Here, people can develop new habits they can use in order to resist alcohol in the future, and they can develop a network of others who have struggled with and overcome their own addiction issues. It can be a remarkable help, and it should begin as soon as the person feels well enough to get started.

admissions-pageAt Axis, we can help you recover from an alcohol addiction, and we have trained medical staff members who are willing to help you take the physical and mental steps you’ll need to take in order to get well. We have counselors available to talk right now, and we can even set up an intake appointment right over the phone. Please call us to get started.