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Developing an Alcohol Dependency
Seemingly out of nowhere, one day when you wake up in the morning you find yourself shaking. While you may have noticed your drinking consumption ramping up in recent months, it wasn’t until you woke up with tremors that the reality of your alcohol use disorder was apparent. Tremors are one of the telltale withdrawal symptoms of alcoholism.
This wake up call is an important one. Seeing the stark evidence that your body has become chemically dependent on a steady flow of booze is a tap on the shoulder to take action before the addiction becomes even more serious….and it always does. Learning how to deal with alcohol withdrawal shakes is not just an exercise in masking the withdrawal symptoms, but is instead a call to action.
What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The body’s response to excessive alcohol consumption is bold. Because the liver can only metabolize so much ethyl alcohol the excess toxins that remain in the body gets absorbed into the brain and other organs. Whether it is due to a one night pub crawl resulting in a horrible hangover or consistent alcohol abuse that leads to withdrawal symptoms, the body is rebelling in response to the toxin overload.
In the case of alcohol dependency, withdrawal symptoms signal the fact that the individual’s brain pathways have been altered over time, caused by a suppression of neurotransmitters, as well as the over-production of norepinephrine and serotonin as a response to the sedating effects of alcohol. When alcohol is withheld, the body begins to display distressing signs of its attempt to function without the alcohol, to rebalance the out of whack brain chemistry, which results in several unpleasant physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Some of the common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Hand or body tremors (shakes)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
- Increased respiratory rate
How to Deal With Alcohol Withdrawal Shakes
As with managing all the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, knowing how to get through alcohol withdrawal shakes can assist with the entire picture. Some tips for how to treat entering detox and withdrawal for alcohol include:
- Drink lots of fluids to combat dehydration
- Do not attempt alcohol detox alone
- Take a cool or cold shower
- Avoid sugary or processed foods and eat fresh vegetables and fruits
- Access deep-breathing techniques and mindful breathing
- Meditate or pray
- Listen to soothing music
Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal Timeline
The alcohol detox process can become dangerous; without warning sudden serious health risks can occur. In fact, individuals with a long history of high alcohol consumption should not attempt detoxing from alcohol on their own. Instead, seek out a supervised medical detox where trained detox professionals can provide support and medical interventions as needed. Without this support, the symptoms may become so uncomfortable that the individual relapses back to drinking or the symptoms can become life-threatening.
Each person will experience alcohol detox and withdrawal in an individualized manner, based on the amount of alcohol regularly consumed, the length of history of the alcohol addiction, the age and general health of the person, and if there is a coexisting mental health condition. Generally the detox process progresses in three distinct stages:
Stage 1: This is the emerging stage of detox where symptoms begin about six hours after the last drink. During this phase, which lasts a day or two, the symptoms include shaking, nausea and vomiting, agitation, and headache.
Stage 2: During the next two days withdrawal symptoms will peak and will include disorientation, insomnia, fever, sweating, hand tremors, high blood pressure, hallucinations, and possibly seizures. On day 3 or 4 the possibility of developing delirium tremens (DTs) is possible, which is a potentially fatal condition.
Stage 3: Days 5-7 are characterized by the subsiding of most symptoms as the body stabilizes.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Although most who successfully complete alcohol detox will see the majority of the withdrawal symptoms subside after a week or so, there are some individual who will continue to struggle with post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), a prolonged cluster of symptoms that can linger for months. These symptoms are to be expected as brain chemistry becomes regulated and normalized during the first 6-12 months in recovery, so individuals should not be discouraged if they do experience PAWS.
PAWS symptoms include:
- Sleep disturbance
- Memory problems
- Being highly emotional
Getting Help for Alcoholism
Some people mistakenly believe that detoxification is all they need to complete in order to live a life in sobriety. This cannot be further from the reality of how addiction works. For many, addiction begins in the first place by using alcohol as a means to self-medicate depression, trauma, anxiety, or some other live difficulty. Unless the underlying issues that fueled the alcohol abuse in the first place are processed and healed, no one, no matter how much they desire sobriety, will succeed in long-term recovery. The process of examining underlying emotional pain or trauma, or managing a co-occurring mental health disorder, is what alcohol addiction treatment is all about.
In treatment, individuals will learn new ways to form their thoughts, which leads to healthier behaviors. Treatment will involve meeting in small groups to discuss how alcoholism negatively impacted one’s life and to share stories and successes with peers under the guidance of a therapist. Family group therapy will assist both the family members and the alcoholic in healing wounds and broken trust bonds. Recovery tools are taught that provide access to stress reduction, anger management, conflict resolution, and relaxation enhancement.
The great news is that alcohol use disorder is highly treatable and individuals who stay the course, and continue after rehab with outpatient therapy and participation in a recovery community, have the potential to reclaim their lives and enjoy a fulfilling future.
Treatment and Information About Alcohol Use Disorder
The Treatment Specialist is a highly regarded online resource for individuals seeking information about alcohol use disorder, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and treatment for alcoholism. If you or a loved one is struggling with how to deal with alcohol withdrawal shakes and would like to safely ease withdrawal symptoms, it is key to reach out for help. Receive guidance about treatment options, contact a Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.