Alcohol abuse affects tens of millions of Americans. It’s estimated that 4% of the US population (about 12 million people) suffer from alcoholism, and an additional 4% are alcohol abusers.
The general population is not aware of just how serious the health issues associated with alcohol abuse can be, specifically the dangerous consequences of alcohol withdrawal. Alcoholics themselves underestimate the dangers of alcohol abuse, as only 10% of alcoholics seek any type of treatment.
When an alcoholic stops drinking alcohol heavily, withdrawal sets in. The symptoms of withdrawal are painful and potentially life-threatening. Alcohol Detox rids the body of contaminants; this can be a very difficult process and should be supervised by qualified addiction professionals.
Detox patients are looked after thoroughly, with regular readings of vital signs and administering of intravenous fluids if necessary. Multivitamins are often used to compensate for the nutrient deficiencies brought out by alcohol withdrawal.
Those suffering from alcohol withdrawal are also at risk of dehydration, so the caretaker must make sure that the patient is getting their necessary fluids.
Battling the effects of detox is the scariest part of getting sober. The effort never ends, but it all gets easier from there. At Inspire Malibu, we take pride in providing the safest and most comfortable alcohol detox program in the area.
Our evidence-based alcohol detox treatment programs are closely monitored by addiction specialists who are available during detox whenever necessary.
Many physiological changes occur when a person stops drinking after a long period of alcohol consumption. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms follow an evidence-based, predictable pattern as follows:
About 5% of DT cases are fatal. That figure is a lot better than what it used to be, as back in the 20th century before there was widespread knowledge about the serious health risks of alcohol abuse, it’s estimated that over 30% of DT cases were fatal.
Many people want to tough it out and do their detox at home because they’re concerned about treatment costs and/or they’re simply embarrassed. But without professional management, brain cell death can be irreversible, so a professionally supervised alcohol detoxification treatment center is highly recommended.
During withdrawals, the patient may experience distinct auditory and/or visual hallucinations. Unlike the hallucinations that occasionally occur during Delirium Tremens, which are reported as being clouded and disorienting, these hallucinations are fairly clear and vivid.
Certain people are more likely than others to experience withdrawal symptoms than others. Risk factors include:
There are a few medications that are used to immediately treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including:
Benzodiazepines (benzos) are used more than any other kind of drug to treat alcohol withdrawal. They’re used to prevent the patient from progressing into a more severe withdrawal.
Involuntary movement due to withdrawal-related seizures can be controlled with divalproex sodium (Depakote) and other similar drugs, either alone or in combination with benzos.
When benzos and anticonvulsants aren’t enough to reduce the effects of DTs, barbiturates (especially phenobarbital) in addition to benzos are usually enough to get the job done.
Clinically proven to be effective for those suffering from alcohol withdrawal. It is also decreases the craving for alcohol.
Can be used if patient’s blood pressure and / or heart rate are high
Can be used if patients are experiencing Delirium Tremens or when they are disoriented, seeing things or hearing things.
Large amounts of alcohol consumption can cause blackouts and memory impairment. This is an especially significant problem with college students, as one survey found that 51% woke up after a night of drinking and had trouble remembering what happened the night before, and 40% had done so within the past year.
Alcohol addiction is associated with the dopamine reward system in the pleasure center of the brain – meaning that alcohol consumption is rewarded with dopamine, thus encouraging further drinking. Alcohol addicts literally have to fight what their brain is telling them to do to stop drinking.
Opioid receptors – the same receptors that make heroin as pleasurable and addicting as it is – have an effect as well, as they’ve been shown to respond to alcohol consumption.
During alcohol use, GABA receptor (inhibitory neurotransmitters) activity is enhanced and NMDA receptors (excitatory neurotransmitters) are blocked. This produces an anti-anxiety effect.
An opposite reaction occurs during alcohol cessation, resulting in low activity of GABA and high activity of NMDA, causing high anxiety, shakes, sweats, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, seizures and DT.
Alcohol cessation also has an effect on amino acids (proteins). Alcohol use inhibits glutamate-induced amino acid excitation, and abruptly stopping that alcohol use leads to unregulated excitation.
Chronic alcohol abuse and alcoholism affects all organ systems in the body, the most critical of which include the brain, liver and heart, as illustrated below.
Alcohol abuse has shown to harm parts of the brain that affect memory, movement, judgment, and speech.
One study found in binge-drinking rats, alcohol decreases the amount of neural stem cells, as well as the amount of surviving neurons produced from these stem cells.
Alcohol abuse-related brain complications include:
The liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol into harmless byproducts, but it can only handle so much.
Alcohol abuse-related liver complications include:
A history of heavy drinking weakens the heart muscles, which means it isn’t able to pump blood as efficiently.
Alcohol abuse-related heart complications include:
Detox is just the first step of the recovery process – after detox, Inspire Malibu offers a variety of inpatient and outpatient services to prevent further withdrawals from happening again in the future.
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