Tolerance to Alcohol, Addiction, Alcohol Blackouts, and Potential Deadly Withdrawal: The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse

There are downsides to regular alcohol use and this post will go into detail about the certain drawbacks and dangers of alcohol abuse: addiction, tolerance to alcohol, alcohol blackouts, and dangerous withdrawal. These consequences can happen at various levels of alcohol intake for different people.  Learn more about what to look for with regular drinking.

 

Read my previous post that includes 15 interesting facts about alcohol to help understand how alcohol works in the body.

Tolerance to alcohol:

Summary of the specific drawbacks and dangers of alcohol abuse which include addiction, tolerance to alcohol, alcohol blackouts, and dangerous withdrawal.

With regular use, people become tolerant to alcohol and can drink more before feeling its effects.

Tolerance to alcohol happens for 3 reasons:

  1. Regular alcohol drinkers clear alcohol from their body at a quicker rate.
  2. The cells of the body begin to adapt to the presence of alcohol by making chemical changes inside.
  3. People can get used to the feeling of being under the influence of alcohol so it is less noticeable to them.

Alcohol blackouts

A blackout is a period of amnesia (meaning no memory of events) without impaired consciousness (they are not unconscious or passed out). During a blackout, a person can actively interact and respond but their brain is not creating long-term memories.

 

Some people refer to a blackout as a complete loss of memory for a period of time while under the influence of alcohol and a “grey-out” as a memory that is spotty or fuzzy. Complete alcohol blackouts generally occur at higher blood alcohol concentrations than a partial blackout. Partial blackouts happen more frequently than complete blackouts.

 

People have a higher likelihood of blacking out with rapid, binge-type drinking where larger amounts of alcohol are consumed in a shorter amount of time.

 

Conventional thinking was that people who have blackouts have a greater risk of alcohol dependence. There isn’t universal consensus on this and other studies have suggested that it isn’t the case. This study found that alcohol-induced blackouts during the previous three months predicted increased social and emotional negative consequences, but did not predict alcohol dependence symptoms in the subsequent year.

 

During a blackout, others are not able to determine if someone is having a blackout. There aren’t any specific indicators to look for.

 

For a complete review of alcohol blackouts read this article.

What is an addiction to alcohol?

Summary of the specific drawbacks and dangers of alcohol abuse which include addiction, tolerance to alcohol, alcohol blackouts, and dangerous withdrawal.

Addiction is characterized by the presence of withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is stopped.

 

Alcohol dependence causes:

 

  • Cravings – a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control over alcohol – unable to stop drinking once you start
  • Physical dependence – This causes the withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance – the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect

 

Wondering if you may qualify as having Alcohol Use Disorder? Read this post to find out: Alcohol Use Disorder: Do you have a drinking problem?

 

If you have alcohol use disorder there isn’t “one right way” to recover. Antabuse can be a life-saving treatment for some struggling and make the difference between continued alcohol intake and sobriety. Find what works for you. Explore the different options because recovery is possible. Read here for everything you need to know about Antabuse.

The dangers of alcohol abuse: Why does alcohol withdrawal happen?

Alcohol depresses (slows) a persons central nervous system (CNS) which is the engine of our body. In order to deal with this, the CNS increases its activity to counteract the depressant effects (picture revving a car’s engine to prevent it from stalling).

 

When alcohol is then taken away, the extra activity is no longer needed but the CNS doesn’t know that yet. It takes some time to adjust back to normal levels (ie the car is no longer going to stall but a person continues to press the accelerator. The car then goes too fast).

This increased activity can produce symptoms like:

  • Tremor (shaking),
  • Nervousness or anxiety,
  • Irritability,
  • Nightmares,
  • Difficulty sleeping,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • Seizures.

 

See this post to find out if you are at risk: Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal: Are You at Risk?

When does alcohol withdrawal happen?

Summary of the specific drawbacks and dangers of alcohol abuse which include addiction, tolerance to alcohol, alcohol blackouts, and dangerous withdrawal.

Interestingly, people can go into alcohol withdrawal when they still have alcohol in their system! It all depends on what levels the body is used to having. For people very tolerant of alcohol, sometimes we need to start withdrawal medications even when their blood alcohol level is above the legal driving limit.

A rough timeline for general alcohol withdrawal:

3 stages:

  • Stage 1 (Approximately 8 hours after the last drink): Anxiety, insomnia, abdominal pain and nausea can be experienced during this stage.
  • Stage 2 (Approximately 24-72 hours after the last drink): High blood pressure, high body temperature, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and confusion can happen. The peak incidence of withdrawal seizures is 24 hours after the last drink.
  • Stage 3 (Approximately 72+ hours after the last drink): Hallucinations, fever, agitation, and seizures can happen in this stage.

 

Here is a good summary going into more detail about the timeline for alcohol withdrawal.

Keep in mind: If withdrawal has happened before it is more likely to happen again

If someone has experienced a certain pattern with alcohol withdrawal in the past this is likely to be repeated if they withdraw again. People with a history of serious and dangerous withdrawal should always be medically supervised when attempting to stop drinking.

 

Extreme alcohol withdrawal can be deadly

Delirium Tremens (DT’s) are an extreme form of alcohol withdrawal and can be life-threatening.  It is a medical emergency and early treatment is essential to save their life.

 

A person who has DT’s will have an altered mental status (confusion and disorientation) and sympathetic overdrive which can lead to cardiovascular collapse.

The dangers of alcohol abuse:

After reading this post if you have any concerns about your alcohol use I encourage you to reach out to your physician and discuss this. Although alcohol is everywhere, and frequently enjoyed in society, there is also a huge downside to it. Know the dangers and the signs of trouble so that you can get help (or encourage a loved one to get help).

Read more about alcohol and addiction here:

The Truth About Alcohol and Sleep

7 Alternatives to AA in Recovery from Addiction

 

 

How Does Antabuse Work? Everything You Need to Know to Decide if Disulfiram Antabuse Treatment is Right For You

Antabuse (Disulfiram is the generic name) is a medication given to people who are struggling with alcohol addiction and need medication to support their efforts to abstain. Breaking the cycle of addiction is extremely difficult and sometimes a person needs to medically remove alcohol as an option in order to begin to recover. Disulfiram Antabuse treatment is not a cure for addiction. It discourages drinking due to the extremely unpleasant consequences (the disulfiram reaction) that happen when Antabuse and alcohol are combined. How does Antabuse work? In order to understand this, we need to take a look at how alcohol is metabolized. Antabuse interferes with this pathway and this is why you get sick if you drink alcohol while taking Antabuse.



Wondering if you have a drinking problem or at risk for withdrawal? Take a moment now to read these posts:  Do you have a drinking problem? and Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal: Are You at Risk?

Antabuse Treatment: How alcohol is broken down

Disulfiram Antabuse is a medication for people struggling with alcohol addiction. Antabuse treatment can have unpleasant effects (called Disulfiram reaction) when Antabuse and alcohol are combined. How does Antabuse work? Read here for the full story.

Alcohol needs to be broken down into smaller parts in order to be excreted (cleared from the body). It needs chemicals (mostly supplied by the liver) to break it down. Here are the basics of how alcohol is metabolized and processed:

1st step to metabolize alcohol:

The first chemical needed in the process is called alcohol dehydrogenase. This is responsible for breaking alcohol into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a toxic metabolite and is responsible for many of the symptoms caused by a hangover.

High levels of acetaldehyde cause:

  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Flushing,
  • Headache,
  • Low blood pressure



Because of the unpleasant effects of high levels of acetaldehyde, it needs to be broken down further in order to feel well.

2nd Step:

The next chemical in the process is aldehyde dehydrogenase which is responsible for breaking down the acetaldehyde further into acetic acid, a harmless substance that can be excreted.

How Antabuse works: Why disulfiram Antabuse makes you feel sick if you drink alcohol

Disulfiram Antabuse is a medication for people struggling with alcohol addiction. Antabuse treatment can have unpleasant effects (called Disulfiram reaction) when Antabuse and alcohol are combined. How does Antabuse work? Read here for the full story.

How does Antabuse work? Disulfiram blocks Step 2: the ability for aldehyde dehydrogenase to break down the acetaldehyde. This means acetaldehyde stays around in the system creating the unpleasant effects that happen with high acetaldehyde levels (listed above).

 

The physical effects that happen from the toxic acetaldehyde start within about 10 minutes of drinking alcohol and last for an unpleasant 1+ hours depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.

Antabuse and alcohol: What could happen during a Disulfiram reaction?

Disulfiram Antabuse is a medication for people struggling with alcohol addiction. Antabuse treatment can have unpleasant effects (called Disulfiram reaction) when Antabuse and alcohol are combined. How does Antabuse work? Read here for the full story.

Here is a good summary of what can happen when disulfiram and alcohol are combined. This is called a disulfiram reaction:

 

Disulfiram plus alcohol, even small amounts, produce flushing, throbbing in head and neck, throbbing headache, respiratory difficulty, nausea, copious vomiting, sweating, thirst, chest pain, palpitation, dyspnea, hyperventilation, tachycardia, hypotension, syncope, marked uneasiness, weakness, vertigo, blurred vision, and confusion. In severe reactions there may be respiratory depression, cardiovascular collapse, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, acute congestive heart failure, unconsciousness, convulsions, and death.

 

The intensity of the reaction varies with each individual, but is generally proportional to the amounts of disulfiram and alcohol ingested. Mild reactions may occur in the sensitive individual when the blood alcohol concentration is increased to as little as 5 to 10 mg per 100 mL. Symptoms are fully developed at 50 mg per 100 mL, and unconsciousness usually results when the blood alcohol level reaches 125 to 150 mg.



How long does Disulfiram Antabuse stay in the body?

Disulfiram Antabuse is a medication for people struggling with alcohol addiction. Antabuse treatment can have unpleasant effects (called Disulfiram reaction) when Antabuse and alcohol are combined. How does Antabuse work? Read here for the full story.

Antabuse is quite long-acting (slow to be cleared from the body) and a reaction may occur up to 2 weeks from the last dose of the medication!

 

Until it is fully cleared a person will get sick if they drink alcohol and I highly recommend not experimenting to see if you can drink sooner. I have heard stories of patients who are able to drink after 4 days but I have also heard stories of patients who have tried this and have been sicker from the disulfiram reaction than they ever were in their life.

 

Of course, the amount of time necessary until a person can “safely” drink again does not address the issue of someone struggling with addiction resuming drinking. We all know there are adverse effects that happen with addiction too…

Potential side-effects of Antabuse:

Disulfiram Antabuse is a medication for people struggling with alcohol addiction. Antabuse treatment can have unpleasant effects (called Disulfiram reaction) when Antabuse and alcohol are combined. How does Antabuse work? Read here for the full story.

 

It is important to know this medication cannot be started within 12 hours of consuming an alcoholic beverage. Many of the below-listed side effects are more common in the first 2 weeks of therapy and then disappear. These can also be minimized by lowering the dose if necessary.

 

Side effects include:



  • skin rash,
  • acne,
  • headache,
  • drowsiness or tiredness,
  • impotence,
  • metallic taste or garlic-like taste in the mouth,
  • weakness,
  • loss of appetite,
  • upset stomach and vomiting,
  • yellowness of the skin or eyes,
  • dark urine,
  • rare liver inflammation or failure.

Antabuse treatment: It is an option to aid in recovery from alcohol addictionDisulfiram Antabuse is a medication for people struggling with alcohol addiction. Antabuse treatment can have unpleasant effects (called Disulfiram reaction) when Antabuse and alcohol are combined. How does Antabuse work? Read here for the full story.

Disulfiram Antabuse is not a cure-all for alcohol addiction but it can be a life-saving intervention that, when used along with psycho-social supports, helps support a person that is struggling to achieve abstinence from alcohol.

 

Do you know anyone that has successfully used Disulfiram Antabuse in their recovery? Have you, or anyone you know, experienced the adverse reaction of combining Antabuse and alcohol? What happened?

Please comment with any words of wisdom for people that are wondering if Disulfiram Antabuse treatment is right for them. 

 

To read more about addiction check out these posts:

 

Need help quitting Juul? Learn more about treating Juul addiction.

There is a drug called Lean in school. Have you heard of it?

7 Alternatives to AA in Recovery from Addiction

We Can Help Prevent Prescription Medication Abuse and Drug Diversion

Naloxone: The antidote for opiate overdose

 

 

 

7 Alternatives to AA in Recovery from Addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has helped countless people in their recovery from addiction but one size does not fit all with healing. The messages of AA don’t resonate with everyone and it’s important to know alternatives to AA exist. Healing and recovery are lost on some that become distracted by what they interpret as religious aspects of AA. This post is about the other options for a self-help addiction recovery program.

 

The more alternatives to choose from, the greater the chance that people will find a program they identify with. Recovery will still be hard but may be easier to start when it’s the right fit.



Keep in mind, AA is the most prolific addiction recovery program with multiple meetings every day all around the world. It is by far the easiest to attend if you are looking for daily, free, in-person support. However, it is not the only game in town.

 

This post does not cover medication-assisted recovery. This is an important option for many people on their path to recovery and will get covered in a separate post.

SMART Recovery:Recovery from addiction isn't one-size-fit-all and alternatives to AA exist. This post details 7 other options for a self-help addiction recovery program.

SMART Recovery (stands for Self-Managment And Recovery Training) describes itself as a “science-based secular alternative” and is not specific to alcohol, but for any type of addiction (including gambling and other non-substance related dependencies).  It has face-to-face and daily online meetings in addition to a 24/7 chat room and online message board.

 

SMART recovery views addiction as a bad habit and not a disease.

 

The purpose of SMART Recovery according to their website:

 

To support individuals who have chosen to abstain, or are considering abstinence from any type of addictive behaviors (substances or activities), by teaching how to change self-defeating thinking, emotions, and actions; and to work towards long-term satisfactions and quality of life.

SMART Recovery works as a 4-point recovery program based on cognitive-behavioral techniques that teach how to change self-defeating thinking, emotions, and actions. The 4-point program covers building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and living a balanced life.

 

The SMART Recovery Toolbox provides a variety of methods, worksheets, and exercises to help support you through addiction recovery. Find them here.



Alternative to Alanon:

In addition, Smart Recovery has a friends-and-family section so they can get support and be better prepared to help their loved one.

Refuge Recovery:Recovery from addiction isn't one-size-fit-all and alternatives to AA exist. This post details 7 other options for a self-help addiction recovery program.

Refuge Recovery is a mindfulness-based recovery method founded in Buddhism and focused on compassion. Some of the steps in Refuge Recovery are similar to AA’s like taking an inventory and mentorship.

 

We do not use Buddhism as a religion, but as a liberating approach to a more wholesome life, while remaining thoroughly engaged with the world and cultures in which we live.

 

From their website:

 

Refuge Recovery is a non-profit organization grounded in the belief that Buddhist principles and practices create a strong foundation for the addiction recovery process. Wisdom and compassion enable those struggling with any form of addiction to become more mindful of their mental processes while also developing a deep understanding of the suffering that addiction has created and compassion for their own pain. The mission of Refuge Recovery is to support those on this path of recovery by building an extensive and comprehensive network of Refuge Recovery groups, meetings and communities that practice, educate and provide Buddhist-inspired guidance and meditations for anyone seeking recovery from addiction. We hope to serve you, and meet you on the path.

Refuge recovery has a separate women’s recovery program!

Refuge Recovery has a women’s recovery section called Women’s Recovery and Refuge Online (WRRO) which offers support services for all women (including those that self-identify as women) to ease the suffering caused by addiction.

Women for Sobriety (WFS):Recovery from addiction isn't one-size-fit-all and alternatives to AA exist. This post details 7 other options for a self-help addiction recovery program.

An abstinence-based program encouraging spiritual and emotional growth as a way to help women discover a happy new life as they recover from substance use disorders. This program aims to address the emotional needs of women and uses positive reinforcement and thinking, relaxation techniques, meditation, diet, and exercise.

 

WFS has in-person support meetings, a message board, chat room, phone support, and even a yearly conference to go to.

 

WFS believes that having a life-threatening problem with alcohol and/or drug use is not a moral weakness, it is the symptom of a serious disorder which demands rigorous attention to healing. Founded by a sociologist who related over-reliance on substances to the loss of identity many women feel with competing roles in society, WFS believes that guilt, depression, and low (or no) self-esteem are common problems women experience for which substances have become the primary coping mechanism.



Here are the 13 acceptance statements from the Women for Sobriety website:

 

1. I have a life-threatening problem that once had me. I now take charge of my life and my well-being. I accept the responsibility.
2. Negative thoughts destroy only myself.
My first conscious sober act is to reduce negativity in my life.
3. Happiness is a habit I am developing.
Happiness is created, not waited for.
4. Problems bother me only to the degree I permit.
I now better understand my problems. I do not permit problems to overwhelm me.
5. I am what I think.
I am a capable, competent, caring, compassionate woman.
6. Life can be ordinary or it can be great.
Greatness is mine by a conscious effort.
7. Love can change the course of my world.
Caring is all-important.
8. The fundamental object of life is emotional and spiritual growth.
Daily I put my life into a proper order, knowing which are the priorities.
9. The past is gone forever.
No longer am I victimized by the past. I am a new woman.
10. All love given returns.
I am learning to know that I am loved.
11. Enthusiasm is my daily exercise.
I treasure the moments of my New Life.
12. I am a competent woman, and I have much to give life.
This is what I am, and I shall know it always.
13. I am responsible for myself and for my actions.
I am in charge of my mind, my 
thoughts, and my life.

WFS suggests to spend 15 minutes each morning reading and thinking about the acceptance statements and recommends to choose one to “use it consciously all day”.  Close out the day by reviewing and reflecting on your chosen acceptance statement, how you applied it, and how it affected your day.

The Hip Sobriety ProjectRecovery from addiction isn't one-size-fit-all and alternatives to AA exist. This post details 7 other options for a self-help addiction recovery program.

The Hip Sobriety Project is an 8-week coaching course that includes readings, worksheets, and weekly small-group conference calls. It is an individualized program designed to meet you where you are at in your addiction recovery process. This program is not free but there is a scholarship program for highly-motivated individuals from a disadvantaged background.

 

From the website:

 

Over the course of 8 weeks, you’ll be exposed to a wide-range of tools, teachings, and practices, pulled from all schools of thought and the most recent scientific findings in addiction recovery. The information is delivered in a thoughtful, easy-to-digest manner, and is accessible to you forever.

Through weekly lectures, accompanying workbooks and worksheets, daily emails, daily and weekly exercises, and a vast resource library, this course delivers participants the quintessential field guide on recovery that is not available anywhere else. You’ll walk away empowered with knowledge, and a personalized Hip Sobriety recovery map so that you can put what you learn to work for you and know what step to take, when.

Rational Recovery:Recovery from addiction isn't one-size-fit-all and alternatives to AA exist. This post details 7 other options for a self-help addiction recovery program.

Rational Recovery is an abstinence-based addiction recovery program founded by Jack Trimpey, a recovered alcoholic and social worker. It is based on the Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT), which teaches recognition of the “addictive voice” that tells you to seek drugs or alcohol.

 

Addiction is not seen as a disease and Rational Recovery rejects the idea of being “powerless” over addictive impulses. With AVRT, a person gains awareness of thoughts and triggers that can cause cravings (named “The Beast”) and through that can override addictive impulses in order to remain abstinent.



There are no meetings. Their website includes instruction on self-recovery from addiction using AVRT instructional videos, downloadable PDF’s, a book, and AVRT teleconferences.

 

The goal in AVRT-based recovery is to live comfortably with residual addictive desire, and not to silence or stave off your Addictive Voice. You should welcome the AV as a sign of health, and not as a threat, because your Beast is utterly powerless to act independently of your will.

Moderation Management:Recovery from addiction isn't one-size-fit-all and alternatives to AA exist. This post details 7 other options for a self-help addiction recovery program.

This program is not based on abstinence from alcohol but instead on learning how to moderate and control problem drinking behaviors. They use a 9-step program geared toward helping members find balance and moderation with alcohol and also with life.

 

The program provides education, guidelines, exercises, goal-setting, and self-management techniques through their in-person meetings or online support.



Their website explains what Moderation Management is:

 

Moderation Management (MM) is a behavioral change program and national support group network for people concerned about their drinking and who desire to make positive lifestyle changes. MM empowers individuals to accept personal responsibility for choosing and maintaining their own path, whether moderation or abstinence. MM promotes early self-recognition of risky drinking behavior, when moderate drinking is a more easily achievable goal. MM is run by lay members who came to the organization to resolve personal issues and stayed to help others.

Some people find it is more difficult to moderate drinking than it is to abstain completely. MM estimates that 30% of attendees will go on to an abstinence program.

LifeRing Secular Recovery:Recovery from addiction isn't one-size-fit-all and alternatives to AA exist. This post details 7 other options for a self-help addiction recovery program.

LifeRing provides a network (in-person and online) for people who want to be free of addiction. A requirement for membership is a desire to remain abstinent from alcohol and drugs.

 

Per the LifeRing website:

 

In LifeRing, we offer each other peer-to-peer support in ways that encourage personal growth and continued learning through personal empowerment. Our approach is based on developing, refining, and sharing our own personal strategies for continued abstinence and crafting a rewarding life in recovery. In short, we are sober, secular, and self-directed.

The principles of LifeRing are sobriety, secularity, and self-help. LifeRing “supports recovery methods that rely on human efforts rather than on divine intervention.” They believe the key to recovery is the individual’s own motivation and effort.

Books to help with addiction recovery:

There are many great books about addiction and recovery and here are a few. For a full list of my recommended mental health books look here.

More posts about addiction:

Alcohol Use Disorder: Do you have a drinking problem?

Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal: Are You at Risk?

Naloxone: The antidote for opiate overdose

Will a Prescription Monitoring Program Help Combat Addiction?

 



Find the program that works for you. There are many options for recovery with different philosophies and approaches, in-person meetings, online support, books, etc… AA meetings are practically everywhere but aren’t for everyone. Don’t let that hold up your healing.

 

Please share this list of resources and help spread the word about alternative programs so we can reach the people that may need this.

 

What have you, or a loved one, found to be helpful for addiction recovery? What programs, books, or resources am I missing? Let me know so I can add them to the list.

 

Alcohol Dependence and Withdrawal: Are You at Risk?

Are you at risk for alcohol withdrawal?

First and foremost if you think you need help to stop drinking alcohol let your doctor know! Withdrawal can be deadly and you want to make sure to detox correctly. Your physician can help you determine your risks and recommend whether inpatient or outpatient treatment is necessary. An individualized treatment plan combined with the right support can increase your chance to successfully and safely stop drinking. The information in this post is not to be used in place of your doctor’s opinion and advice so go get yourself help!


alcohol withdrawalDo you qualify for a diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder?

Check out my post on criteria for alcohol use disorder to see if you qualify. If you do, this 20 question survey can help define if you are dependent on alcohol and at risk of experiencing withdrawal: http://www.drinksafely.soton.ac.uk/SADQ/SADQQuiz/?.

Alcohol dependence and withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal can happen when a person who is alcohol dependent stops drinking or drinks significantly less.  It usually starts within hours of the alcohol level markedly decreasing. Withdrawal varies in duration and severity and can clear within hours or take up to 2 weeks. The more episodes of withdrawal a person has the more severe future withdrawals will be. Many patients who develop alcohol-related seizures have an increased number of previous detoxes.


alcohol withdrawal timelineInfographic courtesy of the American Addiction Center

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Possibly withdrawal symptoms: increased blood pressure and pulse, tremor, sweating, elevated temperature, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, irritability, impaired memory and judgement, hallucinations, delirium, seizures.  Alcohol withdrawal is nearly always associated with a depressed mood.



Delirium Tremens (DT’s)

Delirium Tremens (DT’s) is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that usually starts 48-72 hours after the last drink. It happens in 3-5% of people with withdrawal.  People are usually hyper-alert, hyperactive, agitated, disorientated, have a tremor, fever, changes in blood pressure and pulse, perceptual distortions, and hallucinations. Visual hallucinations happen more in DT’s but hallucinations, in general, can happen both in withdrawal or DT’s. DT’s require intensive medication management to treat. Even with treatment, the mortality rate is 5-10%. 80% of cases resolve within 72 hours.

Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal

Treatment is available to help with alcohol withdrawal and will increase the chance of getting off alcohol safely. Benzodiazepines (such as Ativan, Serax, Librium, and Valium) are the main medicines used to treat withdrawal and should be started at the onset of symptoms. They reduce the severity of withdrawal and decrease the incidence of seizures and Delirium Tremens. People withdrawing from alcohol are sometimes prescribed benzodiazepines as an outpatient or they are used for inpatient detox. Inpatient alcohol detoxification is necessary for people with fever, seizures, inability to eat or drink, medical illness, agitation, hallucinations, poor judgement, history of severe withdrawal, poor social supports, and poor compliance.

 

Again- this is worth repeating- let your doctor know if you think you need help to stop drinking. Get an individualized treatment plan and the right support so that you can successfully and safely stop drinking.

 

I recommend these following books to read more about addiction:

 

 

Alcohol Use Disorder: Do you have a drinking problem?

Do I have a drinking problem? It is not uncommon for people who drink alcohol to wonder if their drinking is normal or problematic (or somewhere in between). Some people have alcohol addiction that runs in their families so they know they are at risk for addiction. They want to monitor their drinking closely to make sure they don’t have a drinking problem. Others are confronted by loved ones who think they may have alcohol abuse and the person isn’t sure they agree. Do you want to see if you meet criteria for the diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder? Read here to find out.

Do I have a drinking problem?Do I have a drinking problem? Am I at risk for alcohol addiction? Read here to see if you qualify for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder. See the new criteria for the diagnosis and learn more about if alcohol abuse is an issue for you or your loved one.

Do I have a drinking problem? Am I at risk for alcohol addiction? Read here to see if you qualify for a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder. See the new criteria for the diagnosis and learn more about if alcohol abuse is an issue for you or your loved one.

Here are the newest diagnostic criteria from the DSM-5 (the diagnostic manual put out by the American Psychiatric Association).

 

Take this survey and see how you score:

In the past year, have you:

    1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, then you intended?
    2. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
    3. Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
    4. Wanted a drink so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?
    5. Found that drinking- or being sick from drinking- often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
    6. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
    7. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
    8. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart?



Do I qualify for Alcohol Use Disorder?

 

drinking problem

The presence of at least 2 of these symptoms indicates an Alcohol Use Disorder.

 

Alcohol Use Disorder is divided into mild, moderate, and severe.

Mild: The presence of 2 to 3 symptoms

Moderate: The presence of 4 to 5 symptoms

Severe: The presence of 6 or more symptoms



Alcohol Abuse and Withdrawal vs. Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol Use Disorder previously was called alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. Here is an article from the NIH discussing the change in diagnostic terms: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/dsmfactsheet/dsmfact.pdf.

 

If you have Alcohol Use Disorder:

If you qualify for Alcohol Use Disorder it is important for your provider to be aware even if you aren’t ready to stop drinking. Alcohol Use Disorder can complicate clinical assessments and treatment if the provider isn’t informed. If you would like to stop drinking you may need professional assistance to do it safely.

 

If you have Alcohol Use Disorder assess your risk for withdrawal symptoms if you stop drinking. See my post on alcohol dependence to read more about this risk.

 

I recommend these books to read more about alcohol addiction: