Alcohol and the Body
If you’ve ever enrolled in a 12 step process, you know how hard getting over alcohol can be. Alcohol’s effects on the body have been widely studied, showing the physiological and psychological damage that can occur if alcohol is abused for long periods of time. It is well known that damage to the liver and stomach lining can occur if alcohol is abused, but there are lesser side effects of alcohol that only manifest as an alcoholic is slowly weaned off of the substance.
The cause of these alcohol withdrawal symptoms is linked to the central nervous system and how your nervous system adapts to alcohol in your body. As alcohol is consumed over a long period of time, an alcoholic’s body will begin to adapt to the amount of alcohol that is typically their body. This can be seen as tolerances are built up to alcohol, and it takes more and more alcohol to achieve an intoxicated state. When an alcoholic enrolls in a 12 step process, they remove the alcohol that their body became adapted to. The nervous system must readjust to a body that does not have alcohol, which can cause a number of symptoms.
The symptoms usually displayed by recovering alcoholics include anxiety, nausea, headaches, vomiting, insomnia, shaking, and sweating. These symptoms can range from mild to severe cases, with the most severe cases of withdrawal resulting in hallucinations, seizures, and an increased blood pressure. These symptoms usually manifest within 48 to 72 hours of an alcoholics last drink of alcohol, but there are some cases where these symptoms occur after 24 hours of sobriety. The severity of the withdrawals is determined by how long an alcoholic’s body has been dependent on alcohol.
It’s not surprising, then, that many alcoholics need the help of programs, products, and services to assist in their attempt to quit drinking. They range from the aforementioned 12-step programs to more direct measures, such as the installation of a Low Cost Interlock device on a vehicle’s ignition. While these various options don’t guarantee sobriety, as this requires the willpower of the individual, they go a long way to provide a backstop for someone trying to give up alcohol.
The most severe cases of alcohol dependency can result in a disease known as Delirium Tremens. Delirium Tremens is a disease that affects the circulation of blood the brain, resulting in a multitude of medical problems. This disease can manifest roughly three to five days after the patient’s last drink of alcohol, and symptoms may include heavy breathing, poor circulation, and irrational behavior. Delirium Tremens is a serious condition, resulting in death with approximately five percent of diagnosed patients.
Treatment for these symptoms is centered around making the patient comfortable as his body adjusts to an alcohol-free life. Suggested treatments include having the patient stay in a quiet place that is softly lit. This keeps the patient from being overstimulated by loud noises and allows the patient to maintain an extra level of comfort. Other treatments include drugs to help the patient with sleep and drinking lots of clear fluids to help the body flush out any remaining toxins. These treatments do not treat the withdrawal itself, but can make the difference between a patient relapsing and becoming sober.
The withdrawal process from alcohol can take anywhere from five days to two weeks, depending upon the patients level of dependency. The peak of withdrawal symptoms usually occurs after 3 days, after which the patient begins to adjust to a sober body and mind. After this period of adjustment, most symptoms being to alleviate and patients begin to feel a noticeable change in their body. Common after effects of alcohol withdrawal include headaches and high blood pressure. These effects can last from 2 weeks to 2 months after the patient becomes sober.
For those wondering why their friend or relative simply can’t stop drinking, we hope this article revealed how such a plan of action is far easier said than done once alcohol addiction is underway. The body quickly learns to desire this higher intake of alcohol, and it can be difficult to refamiliarize our bodies to lower levels. Yet if there is a will, there is a way.