Alcohol Withdrawal


Alcohol withdrawal is a measure to achieve the renunciation of alcohol. It should be carried out when there is an existing alcohol-related illness and can be either voluntary or involuntary. Often, the first and most difficult step in alcohol withdrawal is to recognise the presence of alcoholism. In the course of alcohol withdrawal, various typical symptoms occur, which can be very dangerous. It is therefore important to carry out an alcohol withdrawal within the framework of a medical connection and to take advantage of psychotherapeutic support treatment.

How do I recognize that I need alcohol withdrawal?

There is no clear limit for the regular consumption of alcohol above which alcohol withdrawal is required. However, there are various signs that should make it clear to the person himself and/or those around him that alcohol withdrawal is a sensible measure. One of these is a significant restriction in everyday life.

For example, if the person concerned cannot get through the day without consuming alcohol and cannot do without drinking alcohol on a daily basis, this should be a cause for concern. Similarly, the consumption of alcohol early in the day is a sign of an alcohol disease. A pathological consumption of alcohol often leads to frequent inappropriate behaviour and a change in personality, which in turn impairs relationships with fellow human beings and possibly also the work of the person concerned.

In addition, alcoholism can lead to various symptoms that should also be considered as warning signs. These include, for example, regression of the musculature, also known as muscular atrophy, increased sweating, sleep disturbances and, later in life, rhythmic twitching and gait disturbances. All these are signs that alcohol withdrawal would be useful to improve the quality of life of the person concerned.

What are typical withdrawal symptoms?

During an alcohol withdrawal, various symptoms can occur, which are often referred to as withdrawal symptoms. They are caused by the body’s usually relatively abrupt withdrawal from alcohol. Particularly in the case of long-term alcohol consumption and a pronounced alcohol dependency and illness, these withdrawal symptoms can be very pronounced, making medical care very important.

In this way, possible life-threatening consequences of alcohol withdrawal can be avoided. The typical withdrawal symptoms include various vegetative symptoms: Furthermore, there are various typical withdrawal symptoms that are psychologically related: Another possible form of alcohol withdrawal is the so-called “delirium tremens”. In this case, the person affected is often very disorientated and can easily become overexcited, i.e. show a strong reaction to a less strong stimulus.

  • Open heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased sweating
  • Shaking
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Concentration disorders
  • Inner restlessness
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Depressions

One of the first classic symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is headache. These already occur a few hours after withdrawal and can be very severe. When alcohol is consumed, it is also built into the nerve cells of the brain.

This causes a disturbance in the communication between the cells. If the alcohol is broken down again and no new alcohol is added, the breakdown products also collect in the nerve cells in the brain. This causes severe headaches.

Often, when alcohol is withdrawn, fatigue and exhaustion also occurs during the course of withdrawal. Alcohol often has a negative effect on the sleep rhythm, resulting in a restless sleep structure. For the body, sleep is no longer so restful, as it is busy breaking down the alcohol.

As a result, alcohol withdrawal leads to constant tiredness in the first few days due to the still disturbed sleep structure. The affected persons often feel exhausted and limp and do not have as much energy as they are used to. A possible accompanying symptom of alcohol withdrawal is the so-called alcohol withdrawal cramp.

This is an excessively rapid tensing of the muscles throughout the body. In most cases these are epileptic seizures, often grand mal seizures. These are caused by a defective regulation of the electrolytes in the body, which have been brought out of balance by regular alcohol consumption.

Especially when such seizures occur, it is important that treatment and monitoring take place in a medical facility. Sweating is one of the classic accompanying symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. This is because there is a disturbance of the so-called vegetative functions, i.e. the regulations controlled by the body itself.

As a result, there is often a continuous increase in sweating. Furthermore, sweating is associated with disturbed sleep patterns. Often the affected persons wake up at night and experience increased sweating, as the body is overstrained with the situation of alcohol withdrawal.

Skin itching describes another symptom that can occur during withdrawal. This is caused by the decomposition products of alcohol, which accumulate in the body over years during chronic alcohol abuse. They can be deposited in the skin and cause changes in the skin structure.

This causes itching. This is usually present unspecifically all over the body and is usually experienced as very tormenting and unpleasant by the persons affected. Therefore, care should be taken to avoid excessive scratching of the itchy areas, as this can lead to damage to the skin.

Blood pressure changes can occur during alcohol withdrawal. This is usually initially a reduction in blood pressure, i.e. hypotension, and then an increase in blood pressure, i.e. hypertension.

This is also caused by a lack of control of the body’s own vegetative functions. The exact mechanisms of blood pressure changes are not yet fully understood. Blood pressure changes are often accompanied by changes in heart rate.

There is often an increase in the heartbeat, which is also known as tachycardia. During alcohol withdrawal, there may be short or long periods of tachycardia. These can be triggered by various causes.

Firstly, the initial drop in blood pressure causes an increase in heart rate as compensation. Secondly, the body is exposed to enormous stress during alcohol withdrawal. This can also cause an increase in the heart rate.

Many different types of pain occur during alcohol withdrawal. These can be varied and of varying intensity. They are caused by an imbalance of different organs, which are influenced by the regular consumption of alcohol.

The most common are stomach pain due to a disturbed regulation of the gastrointestinal tract and muscle pain due to a regression of muscle tissue. Another possible accompanying symptom of alcohol withdrawal is trembling. This is also known as tremor and can occur with varying intensity and frequency depending on the degree of alcohol consumption and alcohol withdrawal.

The tremor is caused by a shift in the electrolytes in the body, which disturbs the control of the muscles. The hands often tremble, which can be very restrictive for the persons concerned. However, the legs can also be affected by trembling during alcohol withdrawal.

Depression often occurs during alcohol withdrawal after a certain period of time. These are often related to the personality changes caused by heavy alcohol consumption. This leads to damage to various areas of the brain.

Often the depression is accompanied by other psychological symptoms. Depression can already occur during alcohol withdrawal after only moderate alcohol consumption. It is often accompanied by inner restlessness and an increased need for alcohol.

A possible complication of alcohol withdrawal is the so-called alcohol withdrawal delirium. This is a particularly strong expression of the typical withdrawal symptoms, which occur together with other symptoms. These include orientation disorders, which can even lead to the person concerned no longer knowing who he or she is.

Furthermore, pronounced hallucinations occur. Typical is the seeing of white mice. Seizures also occur in the context of an alcohol withdrawal delusion and are often an introductory symptom.

If an alcohol withdrawal delusion persists over a longer period of time, the consciousness decreases, which can have life-threatening consequences. It can also lead to a so-called Wernicke’s encephalopathy, in which pronounced brain disorders occur. Therefore it is important to treat an alcohol withdrawal disorder as soon as possible. This is usually done with either a benzodiazepine or comethiazole and a powerful antipsychotic, usually haloperidol. It should be borne in mind that haloperidol increases the risk of seizures, which can occur more frequently in the case of an alcohol withdrawal disorder.