Making the decision to get help to overcome addiction to alcohol is a positive step. But it is not an easy one to make. And you’re probably wondering what’s in store for you. Before any treatment program can begin, you may first have to undergo detoxification to clear alcohol from your body. Perhaps you think you can detox on your own to save time and money. But this can be dangerous. Just how dangerous is alcohol withdrawal? Can you die from alcohol withdrawal?
The short answer is yes, you can die from alcohol withdrawal. The effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild to life-threatening. Symptoms begin within two hours of cessation of alcohol use. They can also persist for weeks.
Alcohol Detox Can Be Fatal
The worst outcome from alcohol detox done improperly is that you can die from alcohol withdrawal. In order to be safe, professionals need to medically monitor your alcohol detox. They will be there to assist in the event of an emergency and to ensure comfort and ease symptoms during withdrawal.
Why is alcohol withdrawal so dangerous? How can you die from alcohol withdrawal? An alcoholic relies on alcohol both physically and mentally in order to function. This is a compulsion that becomes an alcoholic’s basic need for survival.
Alcohol is physically addicting. This means that when your body doesn’t have what years of alcohol abuse have given it, you get sick. And this can kill you. For example, alcohol withdrawal can lead to heart arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems) and kidney or liver dysfunction. Sometimes, this can prove to be fatal.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
If you try to detox on your own, without medical supervision and assistance, it can be very unsafe. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms include both physical and psychological symptoms. The following symptoms are common for those suffering from alcohol withdrawal syndrome:
Physical Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
- Excessive vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations
- Hand tremors (also called “the shakes”)
- Repeated seizures, called delirium tremens, or DTs, which can kill you in alcohol withdrawal
Risk factors for delirium tremens increase with multiple alcohol detox attempts. These risk factors include a history of seizures, older age, liver abnormalities and functioning, and acute medical illness.
Symptoms of delirium tremens usually peak at five days and include:
- Severe tremors
- Racing heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Fever of a low grade
- Excessive sweating
- Severe anxiety
Psychological Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
- Intense cravings
Post-Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
If you have an alcohol addiction, you may experience chronic alcohol withdrawal symptoms after the initial symptoms have subsided. This is known as post-acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). These withdrawal symptoms can last a few weeks to a year. Symptoms include:
- Emotional outbursts
- Lack of energy
- Trouble sleeping
- Memory problems
- Delayed reflexes
- Being more accident prone
Recovering From Alcohol Withdrawal the Safe Way
The important thing to keep in mind is that you want to get clean and sober. This requires eliminating alcohol from your body during detox and overcoming alcohol withdrawal symptoms. But getting sober doesn’t have to be done alone. There are inpatient and outpatient alcohol treatment facilities that can direct you to effective medically monitored detox programs.
Getting rid of the alcohol in your system is the first step in your overall goal to live clean and sober. You also need to learn coping skills, understand the disease of addiction and start incorporating healthier habits into your life. Participating in 12-step support groups or other self-help groups will also help you maintain your commitment to living in sobriety. The encouragement and support you receive in alcohol rehab and support groups is invaluable in your journey to live free of substance abuse.