Can Alcohol Withdrawal be Deadly? | Futures of Palm Beach
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Can Alcohol Withdrawal be Deadly?

The specifics of alcohol withdrawals vary for every patient, but in some cases, alcohol detox – or the process of stopping the use of alcohol after long-term psychological and physical dependence – can indeed be deadly for the patient. Because of the medical risk associated with alcohol detox, it is recommended that patients do not attempt to quit drinking alone. Rather, inpatient rehabilitation that offers both alcohol detox and long-term addiction treatment is recommended.

Delirium Tremens

The risk of death is most serious during alcohol withdrawal when delirium tremens is an issue for the patient. This severe form of alcohol detox is characterized by a number of intense physical and mental health changes. These may include:

  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Inattention and lack of focus
  • Confusion
  • Body tremors
  • Altered cognitive function
  • Disorientation
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations, aural and visual
  • Extreme and rapid mood swings
  • Intense fatigue
  • Sensitivity to sound, light, and being touched
  • Hyperactivity or excitability
  • Anxiety

Additionally, seizures may be an issue, with or without other symptoms of delirium tremens, especially within the first 48 hours after taking the last drink. Chest pain, fever, and stomach pain may also be issues. Most symptoms will begin between 48 and 96 hours after the last alcoholic beverage but they may begin any time in the first 10 days. Often, symptoms go from bad to worse very quickly, thus patients are again advised to seek medical treatment if they experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms of any kind when they stop drinking.

Increased Risk of Death

Delirium tremens, and an increased risk of death during alcohol withdrawals may be more likely in alcoholics who attempt to quit drinking after a period of heavy alcohol intake, especially if they do not eat well or enough. There also may be an increased risk of delirium tremens if the person has experienced or is currently experiencing any of the following:

  • An infection of any kind
  • A head injury
  • Other medical illness
  • Malnutrition
  • Past issues with alcohol withdrawal

Heavy drinking that increases the risk of delirium tremens is defined as drinking about eight pints of beer, four or five pints of wine, or a single pint of liquor on a daily basis for months at a time. Additionally, an alcohol use disorder lasting 10 years or longer may also increase the likelihood of experiencing delirium tremens and therefore bring an increased risk of death during alcohol withdrawals.

Effective Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawals

Effective alcohol rehab will offer all the resources that the individual patient needs to stop drinking safely and to learn how to remain sober for the long-term. This takes time, an incredible amount of persistence, and a variety of therapeutic tools that will change depending upon the patient’s experience with addiction, underlying issues, and goals for recovery. In general, however, prospective patients and their families should seek out a rehab program that offers:

  • Alcohol Detox: Medical care can help to keep patients safe during withdrawal.
  • Therapeutic support: Traditional, alternative and holistic therapy options provide help and healing as patients learn how to live healthfully in sobriety.
  • Family support: Patients benefit when family members better understand the nature of addiction and the roadmap for recovery.
  • Aftercare treatment: Even after returning home, patients will benefit from ongoing support and therapeutic growth.

Learn more about what you or your loved one can expect from a treatment program here at Futures. Call now for information.

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