When someone has been drinking heavily for a significant period of time and they then either stop drinking alcohol, or drastically reduce their alcohol intake, they will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This condition is known as Alcohol withdrawal syndrome and is potentially life threatening. These symptoms can begin after about two hours of taking the last drink. This condition can persist for weeks, beginning with mild anxiety, the shakes and even severe complications, such as seizures and delirium tremens, known as the DTs. DTs is confusion, rapid heartbeat and fever. Between one and five percent of people die from the DTs.
Even if alcohol withdrawal symptoms are relatively mild, it is still important to get medical attention as your symptoms may rapidly worsen. The correct medical treatment will drastically reduce the chance of developing seizures or DTs, when you stop drinking alcohol. If you have health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, infections or a history of seizures, or if you have experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms on a previous occasion, medical assistance is essential. If anyone has severe withdrawal symptoms it should be treated as a medical emergency. The patient should be taken to the emergency room or 911 should be called.
When someone drinks heavily on a continuous basis, it disrupts the brain’s neurotransmitters, the chemicals in the brain that transmit messages. Alcohol produces feelings of calm and relaxation. More and larger amounts of alcohol are required to continually produce the same effects. This is known as tolerance. When a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking alcohol, the neurotransmitters are no longer suppressed. They rebound and the brain becomes hyperexcitability, the effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, being the opposite of alcohol consumption. Most patients are aware that the strange sensations they experience, are not real and these conditions subside within 48 hours.
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