Alcohol withdrawal is a tell-tale sign of alcoholism. By definition, alcohol withdrawal is the body’s reaction to the abrupt cessation or reduction of alcohol consumption after a period of alcohol dependence. In other words, if you drink too much and stop drinking, you’ll get withdrawal symptoms. The severity of these symptoms depends on how much you drink.
What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe. They include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tremors or shakes
- Delirium tremens
Therefore, how much a person can drink to develop alcohol withdrawal is dependent on several factors such as:
The Drinking Level
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are more likely to occur in people who drink heavily regularly. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks per day or 15 or more per week.
The Length of Time Drinking
It’s also important to consider the length of time you’ve been drinking. If you’ve consumed alcohol for a long time, your body becomes used to having it around, and you may have withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking.
The Amount and Type of Alcohol Consumed
As previously mentioned, the amount of alcohol consumed can determine if the withdrawal symptoms will occur and how severe the symptoms will be. The type of alcohol consumed can also be a factor because certain types of alcohol (such as red wine) contain antioxidants that can help ease withdrawal symptoms.
A person who consumes large amounts of alcohol regularly may develop tolerance over time, which means they need larger doses to achieve the same effects that smaller amounts had in the past. This is one reason drinking too much is dangerous because an alcoholic may not realize their tolerance has increased, which could lead to serious health consequences if they continue to drink heavily without changing their behavior and lifestyle.
How Long You’ve Been Abstaining From Alcohol?
If you stop drinking for a short period, then it’s unlikely that you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms when it’s time to start again. However, if you stop drinking for several weeks or months, your body has become accustomed to not having alcohol around and will react when it’s reintroduced into the system. It doesn’t matter how much alcohol was consumed before abstinence. If someone stops drinking for several weeks or months, they will probably have withdrawal symptoms when starting again.
Also, some people are genetically predisposed to have difficulty processing alcohol and thus experience more severe reactions than others when they consume it. Women tend to develop higher levels of tolerance than men because they have less water in their bodies (which means there’s less water to dilute the alcohol). Women also have a higher concentration of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which helps the body break down alcohol. Alcoholism was first described in the early 19th century by Victorians who were alarmed by the number of people excessively drinking. At that time, alcoholism was seen as a moral failing attributed to overindulgence and intemperance.
In the mid-19th century, doctors were able to begin diagnosing alcoholism as a medical condition after German chemist Karl Koller discovered that ethanol could be used as an analgesic for eye surgery. This discovery helped doctors recognize that alcoholism is a disease characterized by complex physical and psychological dependencies on alcohol and not simply a moral failing or lack of willpower on the part of the alcoholic.
The most common treatment for alcoholism is detox, followed by attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or another rehabilitation program designed specifically for alcoholics. Disulfiram (Antabuse) may also be administered in cases with continued drinking despite participation in treatment or AA meetings.
Disulfiram works by inhibiting the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol, causing a buildup of acetaldehyde (a byproduct of alcohol metabolism) in the patient’s body. Acetaldehyde is highly toxic and causes nausea, vomiting, and headaches in the patient. Thus, if the patient drinks while taking disulfiram, they will experience immediate and severe adverse side effects.
Other drugs used to treat alcoholism include naltrexone, acamprosate, and baclofen. Naltrexone blocks opioid receptors in the brain that are activated by endorphins released in response to drinking alcohol; this action inhibits a patient from experiencing pleasurable sensations from drinking. Acamprosate and baclofen help maintain abstinence from alcohol by reducing the craving for alcohol.
The development of alcohol withdrawal symptoms is dependent on several factors. However, if you notice the symptoms mentioned above after a brief period of abstaining from alcohol, you are most likely experiencing an alcohol withdrawal phase and should seek professional help. If you are ready to start your alcoholism-free lifestyle, contact us at 833-610-1174.