When someone suddenly stops drinking, they can quickly experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to severe. While most people aren’t aware of how much drinking causes withdrawal symptoms, these can worsen over time if people don’t seek help. The most severe symptoms occur within the first 72 hours after the last drink. However, figuring out how much drinking causes withdrawal can be pretty tricky, especially if you’re struggling with alcohol dependence or addiction.
The Difference Between Moderate and Excessive Drinking
For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate drinking equals one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Generally, moderate drinking is seen as safe for most people over the age of 21. However, to understand this, you have to beware of what a drink means:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 8 ounces of liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of spirits
According to the NIAAA, when women have four or more drinks in 2 hours or men have five or more drinks in the same amount of time, it is considered binge drinking. Binge drinking SAMSHA defines five or more times in the past month as heavy alcohol use. On the other hand, excessive drinking means eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 drinks or more per week for men. It’s important to note that people who binge drinking or drinking excessively might not have an alcohol use disorder or aren’t dependent on alcohol.
The Alcohol Addiction Cycle
Most people are surprised to find out that someone who engages in excessive drinking doesn’t struggle with alcoholism. In reality, these are signs that there could be an alcohol addiction problem, but they’re not the only factors. Alcohol dependence doesn’t develop overnight, and excessive drinking isn’t the only path to develop an addiction.
Usually, people will start engaging in excessive drinking patterns more often than ever. These individuals might also engage in frequent binge drinking episodes. However, the problem arises when they develop a physical dependence or psychological dependence on alcohol. At this stage, people believe or feel they cannot continue functioning at their best without being under the influence of alcohol. Usually, people start drinking before or at work. They drink before social activities that drive anxiety and other occasions.
Eventually, after months of alcohol abuse, people tend to develop an addiction. At this stage, people can’t control their alcohol cravings and often experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop drinking. Addiction means they cannot control their impulses or what they do. It’s easy for them to feel out of control, even with their desires.
Even heavy drinkers that are not alcoholics are likely to experience mild symptoms if they stop drinking suddenly. Most people use alcohol to relax and relieve anxiety. One of the effects of alcohol is to increase the effects of neurotransmitters responsible for creating feelings of euphoria and calmness.
However, heavy drinker makes it harder to increase these neurotransmitters, so people need more and more alcohol to get the same outcome. When someone suddenly stops drinking, they’re no longer impacting these neurotransmitters. However, the body is continuing to overproduce them. When this happens, people experience withdrawal symptoms.
Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Anyone who stops drinking out of a sudden will likely experience withdrawal symptoms, even if this is their first excessive drinking episode. Drinking habits, overall wellness, and biology are all factors that influence whether or not an individual experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking.
Most symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nausea and vomiting
- Faster heart rate
- Appetite loss
Severe withdrawal symptoms include:
- Delirium tremens
- Extreme confusion
- High blood pressure
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Can You Predict Withdrawal Symptoms?
Although we cannot give you exact numbers, it is without a doubt true that individuals who drink alcohol in higher amounts and more frequently are more likely to experience more severe withdrawal. The severity refers to both the length of the withdrawal timeline and the actual symptoms that are likely to present. However, the severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on many factors. Age, gender, drinking habits, genetics, and even your size will affect how you experience withdrawal.
Alcohol Withdrawal Outlook
Fortunately, most people experience a full recovery from alcohol withdrawal. In some cases, people might continue to have disruptive symptoms, especially those struggling with post-acute withdrawal. These symptoms include difficulty sleeping, mood swings, fatigue, and anxiety. A tiny percentage of people die from alcohol delirium tremens, particularly those who chose to detox without medical supervision.
Heavy drinking causes organ damage and can lead to health conditions like heart disease and liver disease. These underlying conditions can make the withdrawal process a bit more dangerous for people who chose to go through it alone. Choosing an alcohol treatment facility can help people detox from alcohol in a safe and comfortable environment.
Alcohol withdrawal treatment options will depend on the severity of symptoms. Those experiencing mild to moderate symptoms might need medical assistance to ensure the process is comfortable. When someone experiences moderate to severe symptoms, these individuals will likely require partial hospitalization. Vital signs will be monitored, fluids will help prevent dehydration, and medications might be used to avoid seizures and other complications.
No matter how mild or severe someone’s symptoms are, the best long-term treatment is to seek addiction treatment. If someone doesn’t stop drinking altogether, especially after going through withdrawal already, they’ll probably never leave the addiction cycle.
Treatment options for alcohol addiction include:
- Medical detox programs with medication-assisted programs
- Intensive outpatient programs
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Group therapy with 12-step meetings (AA meetings)
- Family therapy
- Aftercare recovery programs
Combining these and more treatment programs will help someone fight their battle against alcoholism and hopefully help them walk into a sober life. Sometimes alcoholics might need a dual diagnosis program to address any mental health disorders also present.
Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, seek help immediately. While the withdrawal process isn’t as severe and dangerous as other drugs, alcohol abuse is a life-threatening condition. Those who struggle with alcoholism are more likely to suffer certain cancers, experience accidents while under the influence, get in trouble with law enforcement, and suffer irreversible organ damage.
At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction specialists can help you find the right treatment plan to fight your addiction. We believe in offering custom addiction treatment plans to fight your substance abuse problem and help you find long-term sobriety. Contact our admissions office today and speak with one of our specialists to begin your journey into recovery.