What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Felicia Dye

Alcohol can be an addictive substance. When a person has been drinking for an extended period of time, her body becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol. If something happens, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, that inhibits her consumption, a person is likely to experience numerous symptoms, such as insomnia, nausea, and hallucinations. This process is known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Alcoholism affects 140 million people globally.
Alcoholism affects 140 million people globally.

Alcoholism is a major problem in many countries around the world. Although alcohol is generally a socially and legally acceptable indulgence, it is one that can result in serious consequences if it is abused. Once a person becomes addicted, it may be very difficult for her to simply stop drinking or to drink in moderation, as is often suggested by the associates of alcoholics.

Alcoholics may find it extremely difficult to refrain from drinking.
Alcoholics may find it extremely difficult to refrain from drinking.

When a person develops an alcohol addiction, chemical changes occur in the brain and it no longer functions normally. If that individual decides she would like to overcome her addiction, she is doing more than exercising a choice. She is essentially requesting that her body make another modification which can have physical and psychological effects. These can include vomiting, involuntarily shaking, and seizures. A person may also experience hallucinations, anxiety, and insomnia.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is not a condition that develops from having a single alcoholic drink or even several drinks on various occasions. This condition usually results from long-term, regular consumption. It is important to note, however, that alcohol withdrawal syndrome is also not limited to complete abstinence. A person may suffer from this condition when she attempts or is forced to reduce the amount she drinks.

There is not a defined point when the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome begin. This tends to differ from one individual to another. People who have severe addictions may find that the symptoms begin while they are still under the influence of alcohol but have not had a drink for a few hours. Those with the most severe addictions are also commonly the individuals who have the harshest and longest withdrawal experiences. It is believed by many medical professionals that multiple attempts to overcome alcohol addiction cause symptoms to become more severe each time.

This condition may require medical treatment. In most instances, it is not necessary for sufferers to be hospitalized but some of the more severe cases may require in-patient treatment. It may be necessary for prescription medications to be administered for either in-patient or out-patient treatment. The American Academy of Family Physicians says that alcohol withdrawal treatment should be followed by treatment for alcohol dependence.

Insomnia may occur for those experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
Insomnia may occur for those experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

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Discussion Comments


For those who are trying to quit drinking on your own: I quit in '92 after calling a local hospital for advice. A fantastic nurse told me it was extremely important to take corn syrup regularly to avoid death. Unfortunately, I do not remember the amounts...it seems like it was four times per day. I had been drinking all the time and huge quantities for years, so depending on your habit, it may not be as crucial.

I would advise calling a hospital or rehab facility for further info. You *can* do it alone if you want to. It's a different life, and so much better.

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