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5 Serious Problems That Can Occur During Alcohol Withdrawal and How a Detox Center Can Help

alcohol withdrawal dangers and complicationsAlcoholism is a serious problem in the United States, with nearly 15 million people aged 12 or older suffering from the disease.[1]

While there are many risks associated with long-term alcohol abuse, one of the most important concerns is withdrawal. When you suffer from alcoholism, your brain and body begin to rely on the substance to function properly. If you attempt to abruptly quit using the substance, you will experience symptoms of withdrawal.

There is a common misconception that alcoholism is not as serious as drug addiction because alcohol is legal for people aged 21 and older to drink. However, alcohol abuse can be just as life-threatening as any other form of substance abuse. In fact, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are more dangerous than withdrawal from any other substance with the exception of benzodiazepines.

5 serious problems and complications that can occur during alcohol withdrawal are:

1. Withdrawal Seizures

In addition to painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, you could experience severe seizures during the alcohol withdrawal process. Seizures are more common in those who are not receiving medical treatment, and they are completely preventable with prescribed benzodiazepine medications.

Typically, alcohol withdrawal seizures occur two days after your last drink. Most alcohol withdrawal seizures are usually grand mal seizures, which can be life-threatening without medical attention. Symptoms of grand mal seizures include jerking motions, muscle stiffness, difficulty breathing, and unconsciousness.[2]

2. Alcoholic Hallucinosis

Another risk associated with alcohol withdrawal is referred to as alcoholic hallucinosis. Alcoholic hallucinosis is an alcohol-induced psychotic disorder that can cause you to experience visual and auditory hallucinations. While this complication is not common, it is a risk you must consider if you are not under the care of a reputable medical detox program.

The symptoms of alcoholic hallucinosis include:[3]

  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations

If you develop this condition, alcoholic hallucinosis will begin 12 to 24 hours after your last drink and can be extremely distressing and even dangerous in some cases.

3. Todd’s Paralysis

If you develop withdrawal seizures, you are at an increased risk of developing another complication of alcohol withdrawal called Todd’s Paralysis. Todd’s Paralysis is a neurological condition that develops after you experience a seizure. The symptoms often mimic a stroke, can last from a few minutes to a few hours, and may include partial or complete paralysis.[4]

The symptoms of Todd’s Paralysis include:

  • Numbness
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness of a limb
  • Slurred speech

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this condition. If you experience Todd’s Paralysis, all you can do is try to rest comfortably. Resting can be difficult during alcohol withdrawal without medical treatment, highlighting the importance of attending an alcohol detox program.

4. Delirium Tremens (DTs)

If you have gone through alcohol withdrawal before, you may be aware of delirium tremens (DTs). This is the most dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal that can lead to death without professional treatment.

The symptoms of alcoholic delirium tremens include:

  • Agitation and aggression
  • Confusion
  • Trembling
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tachycardia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Hallucinations
  • Shaking, tremors, and seizures

If you develop DTs, they will begin to affect you 2 days after your last drink. Delirium tremens can last between 2 to 3 days and require extensive medical treatment to prevent symptoms from becoming life-threatening. While only up to 5% of people recovering from alcoholism suffer from DTs, it is still a large number of people, and it isn’t a risk you want to take.[5]

5. Relapse

Lastly, one of the most serious problems that can occur during alcohol withdrawal is relapse. When you are suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms without any medical assistance, the symptoms can become too much to bear. As a result, you may decide to begin drinking again to soothe your symptoms.

While drinking alcohol is not typically life-threatening, returning to your alcohol abuse after a period of abstinence can be. You might forget to factor in your loss of tolerance, causing you to drink too much alcohol for your body to handle. This can cause you to experience alcohol poisoning, which is another term for an overdose, accidental injury, or social problems.

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:[6]

  • Mental confusion, stupor
  • Difficulty remaining conscious, or inability to wake up
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Slow heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled responses, such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking)
  • Extremely low body temperature, bluish skin color, or paleness

How Can an Alcohol Detox Program Help?

While the complications of alcohol withdrawal can be incredibly scary, receiving assistance from an alcohol detox center can reduce your risk of experiencing these conditions. Most detox centers use medications that prevent severe withdrawal symptoms such as delirium tremens and alcoholic seizures.

Because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that affects the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) most alcohol detox centers prescribe long-acting benzodiazepines like diazepam or lorazepam that target the same neurotransmitter.[7] Benzodiazepines affect the same areas of the brain as alcohol, so they can alleviate withdrawal symptoms while also preventing seizures. Over time, your doctor will reduce your dose of benzodiazepines until you are no longer experiencing withdrawal.

In addition to medication, your vitals will be monitored constantly, allowing the medical team to promptly address any medical concerns you are experiencing. Between medications and monitoring, alcohol detox centers will prevent you from experiencing the severe consequences of alcohol withdrawal, keeping you safe, comfortable, and most importantly – alive.

Find an Alcohol Detox Center in Massachusetts Today

If you or a loved one suffers from alcoholism, never attempt to detox at home. Alcohol withdrawal can be incredibly dangerous without proper treatment, sometimes leading to life-threatening conditions like delirium tremens. At a reputable alcohol detox facility, you will have all of the treatment, medications, and support you need to remain safe and comfortable throughout your withdrawal process.

To find a detox center and make arrangements for your care, please contact Woburn Wellness today.



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