Assigning a syndrome to alcohol may seem unnecessary when all signs point to alcoholism. However, not everyone that suffers alcohol withdrawal is necessarily an alcoholic. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is what occurs when a heavy drinker, binge drinker, or periodic drinker cuts their drinking off entirely or has drastically diminished the amount of alcohol that they take in. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome will begin to show within hours after the last drink has been taken.
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
Withdrawal occurs in the brain first. Alcohol stimulates the production of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter that communicates pleasure and lights up the reward center. Periods of heavy drinking mean consistent flooding of the brain with dopamine, confusing otherwise normal signals. Eventually, this production of the pleasure hormone gets communicated to the midbrain, where the brain operates its main survival needs. Alcohol becomes a means of survival, creating neurological and psychological dependency on the substance. As the brain communicates to the rest of the nervous system, soon the body suffers symptoms of withdrawal as well in an effort of the brain to say that it needs more booze.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
At least two of these symptoms will appear within the hours or days of the last drink to indicate that the drinker has entered a stage of withdrawal.
- shaking or trembling
- nausea and vomiting
- migraines or headaches
- intense sweating
- moodiness, depression, and irritability
- high blood pressure
- insomnia and inability to get good sleep due to nightmares of drinking
In its most extreme form, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can become delirium tremens. At this stage, the drinker is at risk for a kind of brain damage known as “wet brain”, fatal liver issues, or even death from one more drink. Delirium tremens is characterized by severe trembling and a sensation of bugs crawling on or under the skin. Also associated with delirium tremens, commonly referred to as “dt’s” are various hallucinations, confusion, and heightened agitation.
Alcohol withdrawal can be indicated by any of these symptoms to different degrees. However, as soon as there is an uneasiness experienced when alcohol is not present in the body, there is already a problematic dependency on alcohol.
If you or a loved one are beginning to experience the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when not drinking, there is help. The Center for Life Change treats alcoholism with integrity, honesty, and progressive psychotherapy. Call 951-775-4000 today for more information.