Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: An Unexpected Consequence of Staying Home
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed daily routines for people throughout South Carolina. To slow the spread of the virus, people are being encouraged to stay home as much as possible, essentially placing themselves under quarantine.
Consequences of Quarantine
One unexpected consequence of so many people staying home is that problems with alcohol abuse are becoming harder to hide. In many cases, quarantine has led to alcohol withdrawal.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol consumption may be legal for adults over the age of 21, but it’s important to remember that alcohol is a depressant drug. Consuming alcohol slows your brain function and changes how your nerves send messages back and forth.
When you drink regularly for a long period of time, your central nervous system adjusts to the constant presence of alcohol. It gets used to working harder to keep your brain alert and your nerves communicating properly. The body’s ability to compensate for excessive alcohol consumption is also why heavy drinkers experience an increased alcohol tolerance.
If the level of alcohol you consume suddenly drops, as a result of quarantine or something else, it takes your body time to adjust. Withdrawal symptoms happen because your body is used to working overtime to keep your brain and nerves functioning. It needs a transitional period to return to a normal state.
How long alcohol withdrawal lasts depends upon a person’s overall health, how often they normally consume alcohol, and how much they typically drink. However, the majority of people find that their symptoms peak within 24 to 72 hours after withdrawal starts. Symptoms gradually become less intense as the body adjusts to sobriety.
What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?
The mildest symptom of alcohol withdrawal may be experienced as soon as eight hours after a person’s last drink. Everyone’s experience is a little different, but some of the more common symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Shaky hands
Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be managed with supportive care that includes a quiet environment, soft lighting, healthy foods, and plenty of fluids.
Can Alcohol Withdrawal Be Dangerous?
In most cases, alcohol withdrawal is merely unpleasant. However, someone who has been drinking heavily for an extended period of time is at risk of a severe form of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that affects up to 10% of people going through alcohol withdrawal. People over age 40, those who have suffered from untreated alcoholism for 10 years or longer, and those with other chronic medical conditions have the highest risk for developing delirium tremens.
Delirium tremens, also known as the DTs, can begin anywhere from 48 hours to 10 days after a person’s last drink. Symptoms can include:
- Severe confusion
- Sudden changes in mood and behavior
- Increased blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dehydration due to vomiting
Safe Detox Is Important
When someone is at risk of developing delirium tremens during alcohol withdrawal, the safest approach to recovery is to go through a medically assisted detox at an approved treatment facility. This means the person is monitored 24/7 by experienced doctors and nurses to ensure that their vital signs remain stable and that they are made as comfortable as possible. In some cases, medications may be used to manage specific symptoms such as nausea and anxiety.
Once the worst of a person’s withdrawal symptoms are over, they need to receive intensive individual and group counseling to address the underlying reasons for alcohol abuse and to develop the skills necessary for lasting sobriety. If someone is released without any follow-up care, it’s likely that they will go back to drinking.
Waypoint Can Help
At Waypoint Recovery Center‘s South Carolina drug and alcohol addiction treatment program, we provide services personalized to meet each client’s unique needs. We are continuing to accept new clients during COVID-19, subject to additional screening procedures designed to ensure the safety of our clients and staff. If you’re ready to make a change, there’s no better time to get the help you need to begin building a sober future for yourself.