What Are the Most Dangerous Aspects of the Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Stages?

Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most dangerous as far as the health and safety of the individual who is trying to quit drinking alcoholic beverages. This makes getting professional treatment essential in order to safely detox. The most dangerous stage is Stage 3, which typically occurs three days after the individual has had their last drink.

Alcohol Withdrawal Stage 1 (Least Severe)

Stage 1 starts about eight hours after the individual has their last drink. This means that if an individual consumes an alcoholic beverage right before bed and sleeps eight hours, they will take up in Stage 1. This alcohol withdrawal stage is the least dangerous, but it still produces symptoms, including mood swings and anger, anxiety, fatigue or exhaustion, lack of appetite, pain in the abdomen, trouble sleeping or insomnia, upset stomach, depression and trouble thinking or focusing. The individual may also have periods of shakiness or tremors.

While this stage doesn’t require medical treatment for any life-threatening symptoms, it is extremely important that the individual is monitored. This stage only tends to last between 1 and 3 days, which means more serious withdrawal symptoms could show up quickly.

Alcohol Withdrawal Stage 2 (Moderately Severe)

Stage 2 can start anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after the individual consumed their last alcoholic beverage. Symptoms of Stage 2 alcohol withdrawal include mental confusion, which may lead family members and friends to believe that he or she has resumed drinking when he or she has not and is, in fact, still detoxing. Mood swings and irritability will continue in this stage. The more severe symptoms of stage two include excessive sweating, high blood pressure, changes in heart rate, including having an abnormal heart rate and breathing problems.

Stage 2 typically lasts between 48 and 72 hours. While these symptoms are more severe than Stage 1, they are not considered life-threatening. However, if the individual’s heart rate is extreme or the breathing problems become severe, it is very important to seek medical attention right away.

Alcohol Withdrawal Stage 3 (Extremely Severe and Requires Immediate Medical Attention)

Stage 3, which is the final stage of alcohol withdrawal, and it is the most severe. Symptoms usually start within 72 hours after the person has consumed his or her last alcoholic beverage and include having a high fever, hallucinating and having seizures. Stage three typically lasts between two and three days, and the entire alcohol detox process usually lasts between five and seven days. However, individuals who start experiencing Stage 3 symptoms need immediate medical attention because these symptoms can be life-threatening.

Delerium Tremens

The hallucinations experienced in Stage 3 are medically known as Delerium Tremens. This occurs when an individual starts seeing, hearing or feeling things that are not there. They may hear voices or sounds that no one else hears. They may see objects that are not there, and they may feel as though bugs are crawling on their skin or that they are being touched by an unseen being. Anyone experiencing symptoms of Delerium Tremens should seek immediate medical attention as this can cause extreme mental anguish and be terrifying to the individual. The person experiencing the hallucinations may also start to believe they are going insane.

Alcohol Withdrawal Related Seizures

Experiencing seizures while undergoing alcohol withdrawal is a less common symptom but is still considered a normal part of the withdrawal process. However, just because it’s considered normal doesn’t mean that the seizures should be ignored. Individuals who are seizing could swallow their tongue and stop breathing or fall and severely injure themselves. If you know that an individual is trying to quit using alcohol cold turkey with no medical help and you notice that they are shaking severely or have collapsed to the floor in a fit, you should call 911 immediately.

Getting Help for Alcohol Withdrawal

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation specialists and nurses and doctors do not recommend undergoing the alcohol detox process without medical help since many of the symptoms are life-threatening and not simply uncomfortable. The good news is that there are medications available to reduce the severity of the withdrawal symptoms. The most common medications used to treat withdrawal symptoms include benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines help control anxiety and panic attacks as well as seizures. If the individual is resistant to the benzodiazepines, barbiturates may be used to help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Other medications may also be used to control other withdrawal symptoms.

To learn more about alcohol withdrawal and to get help in order to safely recover from substance use disorder involving alcohol, give us a call today at 844-639-8371.

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