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“Why, why, why did I drink so much last night?” you moan as you struggle with a killer headache. A nasty hangover is never pretty, especially when you have to function at your job.
Maybe it’s time to ask yourself if the terrible headache is from drinking too much on a particular night. Truth be told, it could be alcohol withdrawal headaches that you are experiencing.
Are Headaches Caused by Hangover or Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
To better understand whether your headaches are due to a hangover or alcohol withdrawal, let’s define each of these:
- Hangover. A hangover is the result of having consumed too much alcohol in a given drinking session. The body is overwhelmed with the alcohol-related toxins in the system and cannot process it efficiently. This can lead to dehydration, which often causes headaches, along with dizziness and nausea.
- Alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal headaches are just one of several withdrawal symptoms that emerge when an alcoholic stops drinking. For someone who is dependent or addicted to alcohol, alcohol withdrawal is the body responding to the absence of alcohol.
In either scenario, headache is a symptom but the cause of the headache is different.
Heavy Drinking vs. Alcoholism
So, you may be wondering which camp you are in. Are you an occasional partyer who overdoes it and suffers from a hangover? Or, are you an alcoholic?
Let’s start by defining what is considered heavy drinking by noting what the CDC guidelines are for safe drinking.
Men: Heavy drinking is having more than fourteen drinks a week, or more than four drinks in one sitting.
Women: Heavy drinking is having more than seven drinks a week, or more than three drinks in a sitting.
Now, let’s take a look at the common features of alcohol use disorder. They include:
- Try to cut back or quit drinking but cannot.
- Spend much of your time thinking about drinking, planning for it, buying alcohol, and recovering from drinking.
- Have memory blackouts due to heavy drinking.
- Keep drinking despite the adverse consequences it causes in your life.
- Have had to drink more to experience the initial effects of alcohol.
- Have become irresponsible.
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed.
- Alcohol cravings.
- Engage in high-risk behaviors.
- Avoid social events to drink alone.
- Have withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol wears off.
What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches?
If the headaches are the result of an alcohol use disorder, they may be a regular feature each morning. When someone abuses alcohol for an extended period of time, their brain is altered by the constant presence of alcohol. Neural pathways shift in response to the dopamine produced by the alcohol, so the body comes to expect it.
For someone with a history of heavy alcohol consumption, the alcohol withdrawal headaches are a common daily occurrence. The effects of the alcohol wear off, which causes the body to become unstable until the alcohol is reintroduced. This is how the cycle of addiction forms.
Understanding Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal
When you make the decision to stop drinking and enter a medical detox program, you will need to endure some discomfort for a few days. After alcohol cessation, the body goes through three phases of withdrawal, with each phase having certain symptoms.
It is always advised that you complete detox and withdrawal under the supervision of a medical team. They are able to stay on top of your symptoms and provide medications to help minimize the discomfort. They are also trained to spot any signs of trouble during the detox, which may emerge on days three or four.
Although each person will have a slightly different symptom severity profile, the three phases of alcohol withdrawal are:
- Early symptoms. Symptoms begin showing up 6-12 hours after the last drink. This early phase lasts only one day and includes such symptoms as hand tremors, headaches, irritability, and nausea.
- Peak symptoms. This stage lasts about two days. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, sweating, confusion, irritability, mood swings, heart palpitations, insomnia, and anxiety. Those with more severe alcohol use disorder may also experience hallucinations, mental confusion, high blood pressure, and seizure.
- Subsiding symptoms. The final phase of detox features milder symptoms, which is a sign that the brain is stabilizing. Symptoms include insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
Alcohol Addiction Recovery
Now that you have completed the detox step it is time for treatment. Treatment refers to a medley of therapies and classes that help you adjust to living a sober lifestyle. While in treatment, you will learn new coping skills to help you avoid a relapse, and also new ways to respond to stress or other triggers.
- Therapy. During the weeks of treatment, you will engage in both private therapy sessions and group therapy sessions. Licensed therapists guide you through steps that assist you with making lasting changes in the way you think and behave. In the group sessions, you will practice many of the concepts you learn, which helps prepare you for recovery.
- Mental health. For some, there is a co-occurring mental health disorder present that needs to be addressed as well. Meds may help manage the symptoms of the mental health issue.
- Classes. While in treatment you will join peers in recovery in an array of classes. Topics include addiction education, life skills training, and relapse prevention.
- Holistic. Holistic methods teach you how to regulate stress in various ways. These include focused breathing, yoga, massage, mindfulness, journaling, equine therapy, art therapy, and exercise.
If you realize your headaches are not simply a hangover, but are signs of alcohol use disorder, help is available.
Capo by the Sea Provides Comprehensive Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
Capo by the Sea offers a luxury setting where you can address your problem drinking and return to health and wellness. If you have been experiencing alcohol withdrawal headaches, our medical detox and recovery program is perfect for you. Please reach out today at (888) 529-2114.