Drinking alcohol is a common part of American culture. However, it is not without its consequences, and the negative effects can be tricky to pinpoint at first. It might take a few deep breaths and moments of honesty, but with the right knowledge, it is easy to know when a habit is turning the corner into a damaging addiction.
Ranging from very mild to quite serious, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary significantly depending on how much and how frequently you drink. Mild symptoms may occur as soon as six hours after your last drink and can include anxiety, shakiness, headaches, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and restlessness. More severe symptoms include delirium tremens, hallucinations, seizures, and elevated blood pressure, and typically worsen in severity two to three days into the withdrawal period. These symptoms can even be fatal, so it is vital to seek immediate medical care if you are experiencing any of them, especially if you were a heavy drinker prior to experiencing withdrawal.
As many of us understand, alcohol is a depressant on the nervous system. As such, it may seem counterintuitive that most of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are related to an excess, not a shortage, of neural activity. To understand withdrawal periods, we must understand the body’s habituation of alcohol over long periods of use.
Habituation describes the way our brains adapt to our environment by decreasing the response to a repeated stimulus. After repeated and frequent exposure to alcohol, which constantly dampens brain activity, neural activity increases overall to maintain normal functioning. Our brains are quite clever, and they learn to predict the environmental dampening effect of alcohol by kicking the whole system into a higher gear. On one hand, this strategy allows alcoholics to retain more of their ability to function than such amounts of alcohol would normally take away from an individual. On the other hand, the sudden removal of alcohol from the equation poses immense health risks. Without the constant signal dampening from drinking, the brain becomes toxically hyperactive as its compensation measures have not had time to be unlearned.
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be hazardous and even fatal. The degree of severity in symptoms ranges from mild to severe depending on the person and the level of drinking before stopping. Symptoms include anxiety and restlessness on the mild side to life-threatening seizures, high blood pressure, and hallucinations at their most severe. If you plan on quitting drinking, it is important to let your physician know or receive support from an addiction treatment and detox center. At Safe Harbor, your lasting health and safety are our number one concern. Your first step towards recovery starts here with our state-licensed detox service. We understand how difficult addiction is, and nobody deserves to suffer alone. Our facility, located in Orange County, will provide you with the immediate medical and psychological care needed to facilitate this process of detoxing from alcohol. Call us today at (833) 580-1473 to learn more.