Alcoholics that want to quit their unhealthy habit are faced with sometimes very hard problem – alcohol withdrawal. First symptoms usually appear several hours after the last drink, and they are at their worst about a day later.
How to Recognize Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol is known to depress the activity of the brain, and when there is no alcohol in the system of an alcoholic, suddenly they are faced with over-stimulation of the central nervous system. This over-excitement is the root of their withdrawal symptoms, which may include: agitation, irritability, anxiety and sleeping problems. Some patients could also experience: fever, blood pressure changes, rapid heartbeat, mental problems, aggressive behavior, seizures or delirium tremens. Falls and decreased ability to perform normal everyday activities are also very problematic for these people.
Seizures and delirium tremens are serious problems for people trying to quit alcohol. About 10% of alcoholics experience seizures, and they are often multiple seizures, requiring medical treatment.
Delirium tremens (DTs) is also very severe complication and include several different symptoms, like confusion, agitation or hallucinations, and sometimes generalized seizures. However, DTs is rare and only 5% of people quitting alcohol experience it, usually 2 to 4 days after they had the last drink. Untreated DTs is lethal in 20% of the cases, unless treated on time.
How to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal
DTs should be treated very quickly, and most of these patients are given injections of anti-anxiety medications. Some of them need to be restrained and for all of them it is very important to provide sufficient hydration.
Benzodiazepines are drugs used to treat seizures in alcohol withdrawal, and sometimes, if patient is suffering from epilepsy or seizures, combined with phenytoin (Dilantin). They shouldn’t be given for longer than several weeks and maximally 3 times per week, because of the adverse effects they cause. These include: addiction, withdrawal symptoms, impotence, daily sleepiness, interactions with other drugs and lethal consequences when combined with alcohol.
Chlormethiazole is the current therapy for seizure and over-excitement commonly used in Europe.
Rapid heartbeats patients are treated with lidocaine (Xylocaine).
Delusions and hallucinations must be treated with anti-psychotic drugs, and doctor’s choice is usually haloperidol (Haldol). Alcoholics might also suffer from Korsakov’s psychosis, caused by chronic deficiency of vitamin B1. This condition is hard to deal with, and these patients should receive B complex injections.
Additional medications that can be used for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal are: some other anti-seizure drugs and beta blockers. Carbamazepine (Tegretol) and Depakote can be useful for people suffering from withdrawal symptoms, but on their own they can’t resolve either hysteria or seizures. Propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin) ate beta blockers which have proven to be beneficial for decreasing the tremor and pulse rate present in alcohol withdrawal.