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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Learn about the withdrawal symptoms people experience when they give up alcohol in this Howcast video featuring addictions specialist Paul J. Rinaldi, Ph.D.


When people are drinking heavily, they're often concerned that if they stop drinking, will they have withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. It's not necessarily predictable if they'll have symptoms and if so, what those symptoms will be and what the severity will be. However, alcohol withdrawal can be very serious and potentially life threatening. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start five to 10 hours after stopping drinking but it can also not start for up to 48 hours after stopping so just because you don't experience any symptoms right away, it doesn't mean you won't have them. A lot of it depends on the person's constitution, their metabolism and of course, the amount of alcohol they've been consuming. So alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from a mild tremor, just shaking, feeling shaky and literally their hands shaking but also that could progress and people can also have along with that, feel a lot of anxiety, which is they don't often think of as a withdrawal symptom but actually, is. But the more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be actual seizures from the withdrawal of alcohol that the brain reacts and people will have seizures. Seizures can be very life threatening, even mild seizures can be dangerous because one doesn't know when they're going to come on. They come on very quickly, often within just seconds where people may have a slightly weird feeling and suddenly seize and when one seizes, one is not conscious and you fall so that can be very dangerous because people can be driving, they can be walking on the street, they can be in situations where a seizure can cause other kinds of dangerous situations. Again, if someone's driving and has a seizure, they can get into an accident. They can hurt themselves. They can hurt other people. And also seizures in and of themselves can be life threatening. The other more severe withdrawal symptom is called DTs, delirium tremens. The rate of death from DTs is actually very very high but DTs are fortunately, are quite uncommon. Seizures are much more common so when people are going to stop drinking, if they've been drinking heavily, I highly recommend that they do so under the care of a physician, that they consult a physician, they speak to the physician and have someone evaluate how much they've been drinking and what they often require is a medication taper, where they're given a medication that will help them avoid those withdrawal symptoms that's tapered down in the dose over a few days until they're off that medication. And then they can be guaranteed that they're not going to have serious withdrawal symptoms. So that is what to look for and what to look careful for when stopping alcohol.

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