Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol will vary with quantity and length of time of consumption. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be most severe, and careful treatment most necessary, when drinking has been significant for a long time.

The acute withdrawal syndrome can include seizures or psychosis as well as headaches, nausea and vomiting, sweats, irritability and craving. Professional medical help will be necessary to ensure that detoxification is carefully controlled.

Withdrawal symptoms will vary from one patient to another, depending upon general health and other dependence such as drug abuse.

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, with depression and sleep disturbances and other distressing symptoms, may follow acute alcohol withdrawal after the initial withdrawal symptoms have resolved.

The symptom that tends to cause most distress in acute alcoholic withdrawal during detox from drink or drug use is anxiety, coupled with shivers and shakes. Hallucinations may occur. These symptoms usually resolve within a few days.

The neurologial effect of alcoholism is eventually very severe. Ethanol (the chemical name for alcohol) damages the brain. Chronic alcoholics or heavy drinkers therefore need to be prescribed Thiamine (vitamin B1) in order to protect the nervous system from further damage.

A decreasing dose of Librium (Chlordiazepoxide) given over five to ten days will cover the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal so that the patient is comfortable. Protracted withdrawals from addictive substances beyond ten days are usually not necessary in a supportive environment.

Patients may experience a psychiatric problem in early recovery when they recognise how toxic alcohol and other drugs have been to the body and mind as well as to the family and to the work situation and social environment.

Problems with alcohol and drugs can affect anybody. Addiction is an equal-opportunity condition. It causes social, professional and economic damage long after the acute effects of alcohol have worn off.

Acute withdrawal may be the least of the problems caused by acute alcohol withdrawal. When the individual decides to quit drinking, reality has to be faced.

Medication is generally not necessary in support of long-term abstinence. Antidepressants, tranquillisers and sleeping tablets may lead to more damage than benefit.

The most effective long-term therapy in preventing relapse is regular attendance at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and application of the recommended Twelve Step programme.

The disease of alcoholism is exceptional among psychological disorders because it can be put into full remission with, in most cases, no significant sign of previous impairment. The chronic drunk is given a new lease of life.

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