Alcohol Withdrawal:

Description, Symptoms, Diagnosis

Alcohol Withdrawal is experienced by people experiencing an alcohol detox. Withdrawal from Alcohol ranges from being unpleasant with mild anxiety to tremors and possibly life threatening seizures and Delirium Tremens or DT’s. Any person experiencing alcohol withdrawal should seek medical care and guidance.

Alcohol withdrawal occurs because the body has become physically dependent on alcohol. Once a person who is physically dependent on alcohol stops drinking alcohol, or in some cases, cuts consumption of alcohol, the body begins to give off signs or symptoms indicating withdrawal. Alcohol consumption that is heavy and prolonged will cause a withdrawal syndrome if alcohol consumption is reduced or stopped altogether. The withdrawal syndrome usually starts 6-24 hours after the last drink and may start prior to the blood alcohol level returning to zero.

An EHD Registered Nurse monitors treatment of alcohol withdrawal. We look for signs and symptoms of withdrawal and dispense medication for comfort and medical management. It is important to provide the appropriate medication at the appropriate dosage as soon as possible to prevent life threatening consequences from occurring.

An Alcohol Detox at Home, supervised by an expert nurse, can begin the path to a healthier life and lifestyle.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Restlessness, irritability, anxiety, agitation
  • Lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting
  • Tremor or shakiness, elevated heart rate (tachycardia), and elevate blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Insomnia or trouble sleeping, intense dreaming, nightmares
  • Poor concentration, impaired memory and judement
  • Increased sensitivity to sound, light, and tactile sensations
  • Hallucinations (See, Hear, or feel things not really there)
  • Delusions, usually paranoid or persecutory
  • Grand Mal Seizures, Tonic-clonic seizures
  • Hyperthermia or elevated fever
  • Delirium with disorientation to time, other people, place, and the situation

From Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: A Treatment Improvement Protocol, Tip 45. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Helpful Blog Posts About Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol Withdrawal as a Medical Diagnosis

Alcohol Withdrawal is an actual diagnosis from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition of the American Psychiatric Association.

The DSM – IV requires that two of the following criteria be met to diagnose and treat someone with Alcohol Withdrawal who has been consuming alcohol in a heavy and prolonged manner:

  1. Sweating or a pulse rate greater than 100 (this may be referred to as Autonomic Activity)
  2. Increased hand tremor
  3. Insomnia
  4. Nausea or vomiting
  5. Transient (on and off) visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations or illusions
  6. Psychomotor agitation
  7. Anxiety
  8. Grand mal seizures