What to Expect When You Quit Drinking Alcohol

Have you been thinking about ending your relationship with alcohol? Have you ever considered that maybe you drink too much, or need to “take a break?” Here is what to expect when you stop drinking and decide to get help:

Types of alcohol: beer, wine, liquor, liquer, wine mixers, champagne, mouthwash, isopropyl alcohol.
Withdrawal Symptoms: anxiety, irritability, agitation, restlessness, shaking, sweating, vomiting, insomnia, headaches, seizures, delirium tremens, confusion, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, hallucinations.
Time-frame: symptoms can begin anywhere from 2-48 hours after your last drink. DTs (delirium tremens) may occur 72 hours to 5 days after consumption. PAWS, or Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, is a disorder where withdrawal-type symptoms may begin a couple weeks after detox and last up to two years, with its peak at 6 months of sobriety.
Treatment: The course of treatment depends on the severity of your symptoms. A medical professional may treat you with benzodiazepines or barbiturates, which will help ease some of the symptoms and prevents seizures. Benzodiazepine medicines include: Valium (diazepam,) Librium (chlordiazepoxide,) Ativan (lorazepam,) and Serax (oxazepam.) Phenobarbital is a barbiturate sometimes used in treating withdrawal symptoms. These medicines are usually prescribed as a taper to be used only during the acute withdrawal stage, and are not continued long-term. Blood pressure medication may also be prescribed to help reduce hypertension.
Mental Health Treatment: Even with the assistance of medication, it is not a cure for alcoholism. It is often recommended that you enter a detox facility, or find a physician to monitor an outpatient detox. After stabilization, residential treatment (rehab,) partial hospitalization programs, or intensive outpatient programs may be recommended. Therapy is also a very important part of recovery. Most programs and professionals recommended you attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, as this is great way to gain support in remaining sober. Finding guidance from spiritual outlets play a key role in sobriety. Some of these outlets include attending church, meditating, praying, sweat lodges, and getting a sponsor through AA.
Additional Treatment: There are some medications that may be prescribed upon discharge from treatment to aid in supporting sobriety. Antabuse (Disulfiram) is a drug that causes aversion to alcohol. If alcohol is consumed while taking this medication, it will produce unpleasant effects such as nausea and vomiting. Another medication, Naltrexone (Vivitrol,) has shown to be effective in reducing the craving or urge to drink, and limiting its pleasurable effect on the brain. This drug comes in a tablet that may be taken daily, a once-monthly shot (Vivitrol,) and in an implantable pellet that can last 3 months.

For more information on alcohol abuse, please visit Centers for Disease Control

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