Have you ever been to a friend’s house, a graduation party, or even a wedding and tried your first alcoholic beverage? This happens quite often for many people. The introduction of alcohol happens at a younger age, unaware of the dangers of withdrawing from alcohol and a life of addiction that can follow with drinking.
Alcohol can have devastating effects on your body and mind when too much is consumed, especially over long periods of time. Being that alcohol is the most widely consumed substance in the United States, many people will, unfortunately, experience alcohol withdrawal at some point in their life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 95,000 people die each year due to alcohol-related causes. That is an average of over 250 deaths each day and the number is steadily increasing.
Is Alcohol a drug?
To understand the imminent dangers of withdrawing from alcohol, one must understand that alcohol is a drug. Like any drug, it can be extremely addictive and hard to put down. Many people are under the impression that alcohol is not a drug because it is legal, but that is untrue.
Alcohol is under the classification of a depressant. This means it slows down vital functions and which in turn causes slurred speech, unsteady movement, impaired thinking, and inability to react quickly. Today alcohol is one of the most abused substances here in the United States and it is reported that over 80% of adults in the US have tried alcohol at least once in their lifetime.
Most people indulge in alcohol to “loosen up” or relax after a hard day’s work. They seek out the stimulant effect that alcohol provides with a beer or a glass of wine. However, when a person consumes too much, they start to experience the depressant effect alcohol can have on the body. This is when they will start to dull their senses or lose coordination and control.
You may find when someone has had too much to drink that they act goofy and say or do off-the-wall things. Some people may get aggressive while others are what is called a “happy drunk”. Alcohol, being a drug, reduces a person’s ability to think rationally and can distort his or her judgment. This can result in a number of poor choices being made, sometimes having fatal consequences. According to the NHTSA, every day about 28 people die in drunk-driving car wrecks. This is about one person every 52 minutes. Driving under the influence is illegal and can cost the driver jail time, loss of their license, and thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the name for the symptoms that can occur when a person has been steadily drinking alcohol for weeks, months, or years and decides to cut back or quit drinking altogether. If a person drinks on a daily basis, the body will become dependent on alcohol. Suddenly stopping can shock the central nervous system which in turn causes AWS.
What are some symptoms of Alcohol withdrawal?
The dangers of withdrawing from alcohol include a combination of symptoms, both physical and emotional. These symptoms can be mild for some, and for others life-threatening. Symptoms can occur as soon as just eight hours after the last drink. These can be different for each individual depending on how much alcohol each person consumes. Signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
The dangers of withdrawing from alcohol also include the most significant symptom, Delirium Tremens (DT). This is the most severe and life-threatening withdrawal symptom and anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical help immediately. The signs and symptoms of Delirium Tremens include:
- High blood pressure
- Auditory and Visual Hallucinations
- Shallow breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Rapid heart rate
The dangers of withdrawing from alcohol are serious and symptoms should never be ignored. Medical assistance should always be introduced if someone is going through alcohol withdrawal. According to the CDC, alcohol is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and cost the nation about $250 billion in 2010.
Health issues related to alcohol
The dangers of withdrawing from alcohol go hand in hand with the serious health issues that come along with heavy alcohol consumption. Alcohol can have a serious impact on the body and health of any individual that drinks, especially binge drinking. According to Medical News Today, 38 million American adults said they binge drink at least four times a month.
Alcohol has been linked to over 60 different health conditions. Heavy alcohol use is found to increase the risk of stroke in middle-aged people as well as many other negative illnesses. The top ten most common effects of alcohol abuse are as follows:
- Liver disease
- Ulcers and gastrointestinal problems
- Immune system dysfunction
- Brain damage
- Malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies
- Heart disease and cardiovascular health
- Accidents and injuries
Abusing alcohol is not only found to have serious health consequences but also can negatively impact the social and psychological aspects of one’s life.
Treatment for Alcohol withdrawal
The negative side effects along with the dangers of withdrawing from alcohol will be different for every individual. Depending on the severity of the withdrawals, patients may either need inpatient or outpatient treatment. The main objective in treating alcohol withdrawal is to manage the signs and symptoms, prevent the progression to serious health issues, and get patients to achieve long-term sobriety.
Patients with mild withdrawal symptoms can often be treated at home. They will need support from a friend or relative to monitor them and make sure that their symptoms aren’t getting worse. They will also need to provide emotional support and make sure to help the individual get to doctor appointments or counseling. Getting through the physical withdrawal symptoms is just half of the battle. The second half is finding the right peer support such as counseling, therapy, or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, to ensure that staying sober and alcohol-free is the main priority.
For patients that have serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms, finding a professional detox and treatment program is extremely important. At a medical detox, the patient will be able to go through the withdrawal process in a safe, stable, medically supervised environment. An assessment is usually done to see which direction the treatment process should begin. An inpatient or outpatient treatment program is the next step in the process. Here the individual will have the tools necessary such as counseling, therapy, and peer support to begin healing and sustain a life of sobriety.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, please reach out for help. The dangers of withdrawing from alcohol are real and nobody should ever go through it alone. Getting sober doesn’t just affect you but also the lives of others around you.