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How to Deal with the Physical Withdrawal from Alcohol

By: Sam Harrington-Lowe - Updated: 18 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Alcohol Alcoholism Alcohol Detox Alcohol

Giving up alcohol after daily and habitual heavy drinking is going to have an effect on your body. The alcohol detox will create some fairly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms as the body adjusts to going without, and the first few days can be pretty bumpy. Alcohol abuse creates a physical dependence in the body in addition to any mental addiction and when giving up, it's as well to be aware of the symptoms that can arise.

How bad you are depends on the level and length of your addiction. For those who have extreme and/or long term habits, residential rehab is probably going to be a good option, as medical support for the early stages of withdrawal could be advisable.

But for most, giving up at home is a safe and successful method. It's just important to be prepared.

Going 'Cold Turkey'

The quickest way to get the horrid bit over and done with is to just stop. It's going to be a rough ride for a few days, but it means getting on with the rehabilitation and recovery much quicker.

For most people quitting, the kind of withdrawal symptoms you can expect will be anxiety, shakiness, nausea or vomiting, irritability and depression; and trouble sleeping which can mean bad dreams, insomnia and tiredness.

Very heavy users or long term addicts can expect the same, but added to that there might be fever, hallucinations, confusion, ranting and even in the worst case convulsions.

Of course it goes without saying that if you expect to experience the worse symptoms it's a good idea to be somewhere where you can get the best medical treatment possible.

Cutting Down

Cutting down your alcohol intake before giving up will definitely make the final stopping a bit easier. But beware of letting this go on too long as the volume can start to creep up again. The best way to cut back is to give yourself a time limit and stick to it.

Giving Up at Home

This is the way most people give up and it's fine to do so - just be prepared. Clear the house of booze, take some time off work and see your GP for sleeping tablets and medication to help with the anxiety and shakes. Rent a load of DVDs and strap yourself in! Go shopping and get plenty of sweet fruit juice too - alcohol has a high sugar content and one of the causes of bad shakiness is sugar withdrawal, so you can help this by having sugary drinks. Once you're past the first couple of bad days, sleep when you can, get plenty of rest and try to eat healthy food.

Giving up in a Residential Centre

If you are one of those who is going to suffer quite badly when giving up then it's a good idea to be somewhere where medical experts can monitor you. Talk to your GP about this - if you can't afford residential treatment there are often subsidised opportunities for extreme cases.

Being under the watchful eye of addiction and recovery specialists will mean you are cared for and medicated to ensure that the withdrawal symptoms are managed. It can be pretty rough for a few days and the horror of going through that can be assuaged if the patient is aware that they are in good hands.

Don't Give Up Giving Up

If at first you don't succeed… don't give up. Many reformed alcoholics will have had several goes at quitting and it's very common for it to take a few tries to stick. Take each day as it comes, try to stay strong, and avoid temptation.

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As a formel dependant of alchol I can state from my own experiance that "cold turkey" should not be attempted. You speak about this very lightly and I don't feel you express how life threttening it can be. Befour anyone desides to quite they must seek medical healpand get the much needed and required medication. Anyone who has developed any kind of physical depandancy or experiances any withdrowals from alcohol must do this regardless of there current alcohol consumption. Withdrowing from alcohol is not only hard but physicly demanding, draining, and dangerus and the proper medication is needed to provent possible fatal results.The normal medication is usualy diazipan or some dereratrive of diazipan however withdrowals almost always plays havoc on your cardiac output resulting in a raised heart rate (tachiacardia) or a arithmia so a beta blocker also may be required like propananol.
bob - 17-Aug-12 @ 4:36 AM
Sitting at the table at 10am with leftover wine from a drink/food binge from yesterday.started drinking 9 years ago when the man I loved told me to leave him.I could not eat and alcohol did serve a purpose then I got over the break up and started to eat again, but, still continued to drink, I get very argumentive when drinking. - I don't have a life now just work and home to drink - its a sin, a waste of life - I try to give up but it lasts for about three days then I am at the supermarket buying wine and binge food - from 11 stone to 17 stone in nine years - where will it end?i am in a dark placce - and I put myself in it
cadence11 - 14-Aug-12 @ 10:23 AM
As a nurse and drug and alcohol counselor, I share Drews concerns that you haven't identified the seriousness of alcohol detox and that although many people pull through it without experienceing bad symptoms there is always the risk of death due to convulsions. You should also be recommending a does of thiamine ...vitamin B1!Please add this information...people should be encouraged to seek help and the use of Diazepam for a few days to stop bad withdrawals is sensible!
jenwren - 24-Feb-12 @ 5:21 AM
I have made the decision to quit today after many year of social and then heavier drinking as I dealt with deaths illnesses in family - two hip replacements within a year etc etc - we can all give ourselves reasons to drink - I had to find the reason to give up - I am finding these sites very helpful and distracting me from the nausea which I now understand is to be expected. Good luck to all who have addictions and are battling them.
none - 28-Nov-11 @ 12:45 PM
my girlfriend has been a very heavy drinker most of her life and has now given up the bad habit for just over 12 months with which i am so proud of her,but what i want to know is what happens to sex drive when giving up drinking as she has now gone off it completely,and i'm not sure if it is me or the effects of giving up drink. before giving up we had a healthy sex life but it is now starting to effect me. i have tried to find info online but fail every time. I love her so much and don't want to lose her,so would be grateful for any help in this matter.
tunna - 23-Nov-11 @ 5:52 PM
You REALLY shouldn't be recommending Cold Turkey for dependent drinkers, it can be fatal. The convulsions you mention, delerium tremens, can lead to coma or worse. Don't mistake stopping drinking with, say, stopping heroin, which is very unpleasant but not fatal. It's a common misconception, but even some GPs tell people to just "stop drinking".
Drew - 11-Jul-11 @ 4:56 PM
Thank god for this website.I only just made the decision today to quit, and I'm scared to death. This is very informative and is giving me a bit better idea what to expect. I've been drinking since i was 15 years old.I'm 35 now. Wish me luck everyone.
ladyrose403 - 6-Jul-11 @ 3:19 AM
I really like the topic "dont give up on giving up'. Alcoholism is very serious. It destroys life and is addictive. So it often takes alot of will power to quit. Of course after the withdrawal stage. The biggest thing is identifying there is a problem. Good luck to all on their Soberity.
tbus3 - 27-May-11 @ 9:03 PM
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