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Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal

THE COVID-19 (Corona Virus) has brought a lot of changes with it, many of which we are still to experience or even understand. One critical change it has brought has been stopping the sale of alcohol for 30 days from Saturday 28th March 2020.

This was done to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. And this week we are going to look into what to expect in the next few weeks for those who drink alcohol and won’t have access to it. We will specifically be looking at alcohol withdrawal.


What is Withdrawal?
Perhaps in order to understand withdrawal we need to first understand what binge drinking and heavy drinking is. Binge drinking is when someone drinks a lot of alcohol in a short period of time or drinks with the intention to get drunk. Heavy drinking is drinking more than 1-3 drinks daily or almost daily. Alcohol withdrawal usually happens when someone who is a heavy drinker stops drinking alcohol suddenly.

What causes withdrawal?
Alcohol affects the brain by slowing down how the brain functions and the more; the longer a person drinks the more the brain gets used to having alcohol in it and even becomes dependent on it to do its daily functions.

Since alcohol slows down the brain your body compensates by working harder to do normal activities, once the alcohol is absent the body remains anxious and the brain scrambles to function without it and that causes the effects known as withdrawal.

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms differ from person to person and depending on your pattern of alcohol use they may range from mild and uncomfortable to severe and life threatening.

Though symptoms typically begin within 8 hours after your last drink, you may not experience any until several days later. These symptoms tend to spike around 24 to 72 hours after your last drink, though milder ones may persist for much longer in some people.

Some mild withdrawal symptoms include.
• Feeling anxious or nervous
• Feeling irritable
• Feeling depressed
• Feeling wiped out and tired
• Shakiness
• Mood swings
• Not being able to think clearly
• Having nightmares
• Dilated pupils
• Sweating
• Headache
• Difficulty sleeping
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Appetite loss
• Faster heart rate
• Tremor

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal
The more serious withdrawals usually start 12 to24 hours after your last drink and may include hallucinations (seeing, feeling, hearing things that are not there) and seizures. 48 to 72 hours after one may experience Delirium Tremens or DTs, which can lead to death if left untreated.

Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
• Fever
• Extreme agitation
• Seizures
• Extreme confusion
• Hallucinations
• High blood pressure

Hospitals have experienced personnel who are familiar with these symptoms and have the tools to provide appropriate treatment. Should this happen to you or a loved one please call 997 and seek assistance. You can also call for assistance on 11611 or 7265 9891 or contact us on our Facebook page.

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