Should withdrawal symptoms become severe, the residential detox team is equipped to respond appropriately.
Severe Alcohol Detox
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary from mild to severe according to various factors. These factors include the acuity of the alcohol dependency, length of history of heavy alcohol consumption, age, general health status and whether there are any conditions, and if there is a co-occurring mental health disorder. Certain risk factors can alert the residential detox team of potential complications, such as hallucinations or seizures, that arise as the detox proceeds.
Alcoholic hallucinosis is a situation than begin at about 24 hours following the last alcoholic drink, persisting for a few days, and causing distress to the individual. During alcoholic hallucinosis, also referred to as alcohol-related psychosis, the client experiences things that are not really there, including auditory, tactile, and visual hallucinations. This is an uncommon event, usually only present with individuals who have a history of many years of consistent heavy drinking.
The most serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms is the delirium tremens, or DTs as it is commonly referred to. The DTs usually appear 2 to 3 days after the last alcoholic beverage is consumed and is difficult to predict. Tremors that may have begun in the hands now progress to the head and the body. The individual will become highly uncoordinated and experience extreme mental confusion along with hallucinations, terrors, and delusions. Sweating becomes profuse, blood pressure spikes and the heart rate dramatically increases.
The DTs occur in about 5% of the individuals undergoing alcohol detox, and if not treated by a profession can prove fatal to 15% of those individuals. Complications include over-sedation, cardiac arrhythmias, respiratory arrest, and aspiration pneumonitis. Some risk factors for the DTs include age (middle age or older), history of seizures during alcohol withdrawal in the past, abnormal liver function, a co-existing mental health disorder, or extreme alcohol cravings.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
In most cases, alcohol detox is completed within 5-7 days. This means that the majority of the pain and discomfort associated with withdrawal have subsided by week’s end. However, some individuals continue to struggle with protracted withdrawal symptoms that can persist for weeks or months. This collection of both physical and psychological symptoms is referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS.
Prolonged symptoms are common among alcoholics in recovery, often complicating the recovery process. It is important to have realistic expectations in early recovery, and understand that these symptoms too shall pass in time. PAWS symptoms might include: