It is believed that alcohol is the one drug whose withdrawal symptoms can actually kill you if you dependency was strong enough. The reason for this is because the effect that it has on the brain’s neurotransmitters. Initially, alcohol enhances GABA transmitters, the ones responsible for feeling calm and relaxed. However, as dependency on alcohol grows, it eventually suppresses GABA. Another transmitter that alcohol eventually suppresses is glutamate, the transmitter responsible for producing feelings of excitement.
When a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking, the brain goes into a state of hyper excitability, which means that the effects of alcohol consumption are reversed. Therefore, the heavy drinker would experience anxiety, agitation, tremors, and other symptoms.
DTs (Delirium Tremens) are the main cause of death in alcohol withdrawal. These can begin within just a few hours of the last drink. DTs include fever, rapid heartbeat and confusion. These can be serious withdrawal effects that must be medically treated. Since withdrawal symptoms can rapidly get worse, even mild symptoms should not be ignored.
As the brain attempts to reset its neurotransmitters, it is normal to experience anything from mild headaches to severe migraines.
Within the first 24 hours, it is possible to experience hallucinations. These hallucinations can be a combination of auditory, visual, can tactile. Unlike hallucinations that occur with DTs, patients are usually aware that these hallucinations are not real. If these hallucinations were to be a result of delirium tremens, the patient may experience extreme panic during the episode.
According to an alcohol rehab center in St. Louis,seizures usually occur within the first 24 to 48 hours after alcohol cessation. Seizures, like headaches, are typically a result of the brain trying to reset the neurotransmitters back to a normal state. Risk for seizures are greater if the patient has a history of seizures and/or multiple detoxifications.
It is not rare for patients to experience insomnia during their withdrawal. GABA is the neurotransmitter responsible for feeling relaxed and calm. As that transmitter resets, the brain will not be able to relax, thus producing insomnia.
5. Nausea and/or vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are common withdrawal symptoms. Do not be alarmed if this occurs before, during and after the first 48 hours.
Because symptoms can become severe depending on the duration of the alcohol dependency, there is a very likely chance medical intervention will be necessary. Finding an alcohol rehab center may be very beneficial for the health of the patient.