Alcohol alters the chemical composition of the brain. In fact, regular use of alcohol leads to dependence on the substance, and withdrawal symptoms appear when the person attempts to stop using it. This occurs because the brain chemistry and circuitry must adjust to the loss of alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms vary in terms of their intensity, type, and duration based on the level of dependency, how the drug was used, and if the individual has co-occurring disorders.

Some individuals find withdrawal from alcohol to be very unpleasant or dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms may be life-threatening in certain situations, especially when a person quits “cold turkey.” Medical detox helps individuals at risk of withdrawal, as the process is carried out under medical supervision. Learn more from harrishousestl.org about medical detox and its benefits for alcoholics looking to stop drinking.

The Side Effects of Withdrawal

Alcoholics suffer from side effects when they stop drinking. Some find they are unable to sleep and restless. Depression and irritability have been reported along with sweating and fever. Nausea and vomiting plagued some individuals while others experience diarrhea and abdominal cramps. Muscle aches, joint pain, tingling in the extremities, and cold and clammy skin are additional concerns alcoholics may deal with when they quit drinking. Respiratory distress, seizures, and hallucinations are other side effects of alcohol withdrawal, and there are many more.

Fortunately, patients find they can manage the symptoms of withdrawal. Often, this requires professional help. Nevertheless, patients should take certain steps at home to reduce the severity and frequency of these symptoms.

Medical Detox

Experts agree medical detox remains the best method for managing withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms come in both physical and emotional form and may be dangerous or fatal if left untreated. The New England Journal of Medicine believes up to five percent of individuals struggling with alcohol withdrawal go through the DTs or delirium tremens, a potentially dangerous type of withdrawal. Medical detox ensures the patient remains safe during this part of the withdrawal process. Detox programs tend to last five to ten days on average, and patients remain under supervision around the clock. Medical professionals oversee the withdrawal process to ensure the patient remains safe, and medications help with cravings and symptoms. Emotional support is available at all times too.

Regular Exercise

When a person exercises, the brain releases endorphins to help restore the natural chemical balance of the brain. In addition, exercise reduces stress and tension while helping the individual sleep better. Self-esteem increases with regular exercise as well. Frontiers in Psychology published studies that show exercise reduces the risk of relapse while decreasing compulsive drug use. Cravings lessen, which is also of great help to the recovery process. Improved physical health leads to better mental health and more stability as the process moves forward.

Nutrition

Nutrition plays a vital role in the recovery process. A healthy diet heals the mind and body, so recovering addicts need to ensure they get enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals. A well-balanced diet also helps to restore the proper functioning of the brain and body. Alcohol robs the body of the nutrients it needs to run efficiently. Following a healthy diet expedites the healing process by replacing important nutrients.

Supplementation

Supplements help certain individuals in need of vitamin replenishment. Today’s Dietician shared studies regarding nutritional deficiencies in alcoholics and other addicts. Many lacked the necessary iron or vitamins such as A, C, D, and E. The supplements help to bring these nutrients to the appropriate levels in the body. As with a healthy diet, restoring the proper balance of vitamins and minerals in the body helps to restore the addict’s self-image and improve their mood. They’ll feel less irritable, depressed, frustrated, and anxious when the right balance is achieved.

Hydration

Dehydration remains a problem for many as they move through withdrawal. The body needs water to heal properly. Furthermore, people often mistake hunger or thirst for cravings. By keeping the body hydrated, the alcoholic minimizes these occurrences.

Sleep

Get adequate sleep to ensure healing. Emotional health likewise depends on sufficient rest, and people think more clearly when they are well-rested. Set a sleep schedule and adhere to it. Avoid stimulation before bedtime, and use relaxation techniques to wind down at the end of the day. Withdrawal symptoms tend to disrupt sleep, and a sleep schedule helps to overcome these disruptions.

Support

Rely on others for support during the withdrawal process. Twelve-step programs help many at this time, as they provide encouragement for the alcoholic. Everyone in the program has been in the same boat at one time or another and can help the alcoholic cope with everything they are going through. Relapse becomes less likely when a program of this type is used.

Complementary Medicine

Complementary medicine continues to increase in popularity, as it has been shown to help manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, Reiki, and other options should be explored at this time to determine which will be most effective for the individual. These holistic methods work in conjunction with more conventional therapies and should be considered as part of any treatment plan.

Counseling

Counseling in the form of talk therapy benefits many alcoholics looking to overcome their addiction. During the conversation, the alcoholic explores their thoughts, feelings, and emotions to determine the underlying issues so they can be addressed. Holding them inside may lead to relapse, which is why learning healthy coping mechanisms becomes essential. Different types of therapies are offered and each person will need to find the one that best meets their needs.

Medical detox serves as the first step in an ongoing process. A person never truly recovers from alcohol addiction, as it must be battled throughout life. However, with the right foundation, living with and managing the addiction becomes easier. Healthy habits go a long way toward achieving this goal, but the first step must be taken. Look into treatment today, as a better future awaits those who do.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "From Day 1 to Day 30: The Ultimate Guide to Managing the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal," in Medicalopedia, May 29, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/8932/from-day-1-to-day-30-the-ultimate-guide-to-managing-the-symptoms-of-alcohol-withdrawal/].