Psychological Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms;
Physical symptoms and emotional symptoms.
A person dependent on alcohol will have physical withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms were pretty well covered in a previous post and we can revisit them. I wanted to talk about other symptoms that can be classified as either “physical” or “psychological”.
When we make a decision to stop using alcohol or drugs, we often think willpower alone can support this decision. However, our brain may have other ideas about our decision to quit. Our brain has become wired to expect the alcohol or drugs. Our brain also has become accustomed to recognizing associations related to the intake of alcohol or drugs. This communication from the brain to our consciousness is often referred to as “psychological”.
Typical psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms may be;
- A certain time of day or a certain day of the week;
- Five PM is Cocktail Hour for many people. The brain gets used to this time and expects a drink. Cravings or desires for a drink may increase at 5:00pm. In the same vein, Friday is a day for many to ‘cut loose’. It’s the beginning of a week-end and cutting loose may mean going on a binge. A binge is a great short-term stress reducer. When we quit drinking or drugging, we may miss this stress reduction. Come Friday, we may be compelled by the brain to begin drinking again.
- Every time I finished cutting the lawn, I would reach in the refrigerator and pull out an ice-cold beer. When I stopped drinking, the brain didn’t stop thinking about the beer … for the next three years, every time I opened the fridge after finishing the lawn, I thought about having a cold beer. My active memory of this ritual continued for three years! Other activities include socializing with certain friends, watching certain TV shows, and many others.
- Physical Locations:
- A bar, pub, or restaurant may illicit a programmed brain response to use a substance. An area of a town or city may bring back fond memories or cue your brain that “relief” is on the way.
This list can go on and on. The brain keeps track of what we are doing and when we are doing it and associates it with activities like drugging and alcohol use. So, what are we supposed to do about this?
Treatment for Psychological Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms:
Many people make a conscious list of “triggers” and make plans to either avoid these triggers or get ready to address the unavoidable triggers when they present themselves. Medications may assist with triggers, a few are Naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol, Naltrexone implants) and Acamprosate (Campral). These have been known to help some recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. Additionally, the use of Antabuse helps some alcoholics cope with alcoholic triggers because they know they can’t drink without getting physically sick.
Withdrawal symptoms do not stop once the classic physical signs and symptoms of withdrawal cease. They continue in psychological and insidious ways, trying to lure us back to use.