Alcohol withdrawal is associated with uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms. Unfortunately, there are no reliable home remedies or shortcuts for treating those symptoms, but there are some things that can help with alcohol withdrawal.
In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, even lethal. Anyone who has developed a dependence on alcohol is urged to undergo an assessment with a rehab professional before beginning the detox process in order to ensure that it is done safely. In addition, the professional may provide personalized tips that can help with alcohol withdrawal management.
What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be generally categorized as mild, moderate and severe. While there can be substantial overlap between the three categories, each one has cardinal mental and physical effects.
Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Mild tremors
Moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms include mild symptoms as well as:
- Profuse sweating
- Pronounced trembling
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include mild or moderate symptoms as well as:
- Low-grade fever
- Cardiovascular abnormalities (racing or irregular heartbeat)
- Risk of seizures
- Risk of delirium tremens (DTs)
DTs are a true medical emergency. Signs and symptoms of DTs include:
- Profound confusion
- Memory loss
- Vivid nightmares
Hangover vs. Alcohol Withdrawal
Excessive drinking can cause hangover symptoms that are similar to withdrawal symptoms. However, a hangover does not necessarily indicate that someone has developed alcohol dependence. Hangovers often begin to subside within the course of a few hours, whereas even mild withdrawal lasts for a few days. Moreover, hangovers are not associated with cravings but withdrawal often is.
Managing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms at Home
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or home remedies for alcohol withdrawal properly. However, the severity of symptoms may be managed with the following tips:
- Hydrate: Drinking a sports drink can keep you hydrated while preventing electrolyte deficiency and low blood sugar, both of which contribute to symptom severity.
- Take a cool shower: As anyone who has taken a cold shower knows, focusing on anything beyond the immediate physical sensation is difficult. A cool or cold shower can help reset your physical and emotional state.
- Prepare to push past cravings (remember the big picture): Unfortunately, cravings are a hallmark symptom of withdrawal, and there is no way to stop alcohol cravings. However, remembering why you want to quit using alcohol and the importance of sobriety can help you overcome them.
- Eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods: For many people, eating is one of the last things they want to do during alcohol detox and acute withdrawal. However, getting quality nutrition will speed healing and recovery. An ideal “alcohol detox diet” includes leafy green vegetables, fruits, eggs, fatty fish, almonds and whole grains. Avoid sugary snacks and sweets.
- Supplement with vitamins: Alcohol use disorders are often associated with vitamin deficiencies. Supplementing your diet with magnesium, thiamine (vitamin B1) and a quality multivitamin will ensure that your body has the vitamins and minerals it needs for optimal health and recovery throughout alcohol withdrawal.
- Exercise: Exercise can help your mind and body recover from an alcohol use disorder. It may not be possible in the first days of detox, but moderate aerobic exercise during alcohol withdrawal has been shown to reduce symptom severity and shorten overall alcohol withdrawal duration.
- Stay busy: Among the most useful tips to help with alcohol withdrawal is to stay busy. During moderate-to-severe detox, even getting off the couch may be a challenge. Try meditation to help you center yourself and calm your anxiety. Many people discover new hobbies or rediscover old passions that can occupy the time that they used to spend drinking.
- Commit to lifestyle changes: A major predictor of long-term success in recovery is a sincere dedication to changing your lifestyle. This dedication may mean redefining your friends, which can be emotionally challenging. When you are struggling with defining and sticking with lifestyle changes, remember your goals and why sobriety matters to you.
- Talk with someone: Before you begin the detox process, sit down with a trusted friend or family member and discuss why you want to quit drinking. Identify short- and long-term goals for recovery and define why they matter to you. If you find yourself questioning your resolve, call your designated support person and discuss why recovery matters to you.
- Create roadblocks to prevent relapse: Alcohol relapse prevention is a crucial component of long-term sobriety, especially in the early days of recovery. Avoiding situations where alcohol will be present is imperative and, while it sounds obvious, make sure you do not have any alcohol in your home. If you do relapse, it does not mean your recovery has failed! Many people who successfully manage sobriety today have dealt with sobriety setbacks in the past. If you do experience a setback, stop drinking, acknowledge your mistake and learn from it.
When to Seek Treatment
It is generally recommended that anyone who has a physical dependence on alcohol seek a professional assessment before they start alcohol detox and withdrawal. Severe alcohol dependence can be dangerous — even deadly — if alcohol use stops abruptly.
Signs of alcohol withdrawal delirium tremens include confusion and hallucinations. DTs are a true medical emergency. Even if you decide against a pre-detox assessment, it is very important that you discuss your plans with a trusted friend or loved one who will periodically check in with you to make sure your withdrawal is progressing safely.
There are several alcohol detox centers in Florida, but they do not all offer the same level of care or program quality. Look for programs that have experienced rehab professionals who provide evidence-based treatment programs for all levels of alcohol use disorders.
Overcoming Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol is a powerful drug, and overcoming dependence and addiction is not easy. There is no single best way to overcome withdrawal, but there are common themes that are associated with successful recovery. For many people, alcohol was a big part of their daily lives. Recovery depends on finding healthy new activities that can occupy the time once spent drinking alcohol. Exercise, artistic pursuits and social engagement and outreach are common avenues toward recovery.
Some people find motivation and inspiration by hearing alcohol recovery stories. Many rehab facilities and medical centers offer aftercare programs and meetings that allow people to share experiences, successes and motivating insights and inspiration in a safe, non-judgemental environment.
Contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health to speak with a representative about receiving professional treatment for alcohol addiction. You deserve a healthier future, call today.
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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.