Alcoholism, like other addictions, is a serious brain disease with various side effects, such as blackout, dizziness, self-destructive behavior, and an increased risk for liver damage and heart-related diseases. Quitting alcohol at the earliest is the best way to avoid these deadly repercussions. However, going cold turkey is not the best way to attain sobriety due to the fear of severe withdrawal symptoms. The withdrawal symptoms are often painful and become unmanageable, especially for heavy drinkers who suddenly decide to stop or reduce the consumption of alcohol.
Therefore, it is advisable to undergo a proper treatment program at a certified detox center as they are well equipped to manage and ease the withdrawal symptoms. However, before enrolling into a rehabilitation center, it is important to have some knowledge about withdrawal so that the user is mentally prepared to encounter its debilitating effects.
Chronological order of withdrawal timeline: An overview
Withdrawal symptoms are a direct outcome of the body's dependency on alcohol. When a person battling alcohol addiction stops using alcohol, the body and the brain (which get altered by regular and excessive consumption of alcohol) crave for the substance to perform their functions normally. Broadly, most of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms peak five days after showing up, and tend to decrease within seven days from the initial outbreak.
6-12 hours after the last drink: It is the first stage of withdrawal, wherein the symptoms start appearing six to 12 hours after the user has had his/her last drink. The symptoms at this stage are quite mild. However, they are irritating enough to bother the user. Some of the most common symptoms seen at this stage are anxiety, insomnia, nausea, loss of appetite, sweating, headache and increased or irregular heartrate.
12-24 hours after the last drink: The stage is often associated with different kinds of hallucinations, which usually begins after 12-24 hours post the last drink. Hallucinations at this stage may continue up to 48 hours. However, experiencing them for more than 48 hours is rare. Hallucinations experienced in this stage are of different kind, comprising tactile hallucinations, auditory hallucinations and visual hallucinations. In tactile hallucinations, the user experiences a sense of itching, burning, or numbness that is not actually happening. While auditory hallucination is characterized by hearing sounds that do not exist, visual hallucination makes the user see images that do not occur at all.
24-72 hours after the last drink: Primarily, after 24-48 hours of the last drink, the user starts experiencing withdrawal seizures. It is after 48-72 hours after the last drink that the user experiences delirium tremens. It is one of the serious withdrawal symptoms of alcohol detoxification as it may also result in death.
Delirium tremens (DT): DT is the severest form of withdrawal, which has the capacity to cause serious mental and nervous damages and even death. However, the risk of experiencing the symptom is higher in heavy drinkers. Although studies have shown a reduction in the mortality rate due to DT, the condition is still treated as a medical emergency.
Road to recovery
Alcohol detox is not a child's play. The withdrawal involves a lot of agony and pain. However, it is manageable when carried out under a certified medical practitioner. Untreated and unmanaged symptoms can be life-threatening. According to an old report, while as many as 2 million Americans experience alcohol withdrawals every year, only 10 to 20 percent of them are treated in hospitals.