Is there danger in withdrawal from alcohol, and what, exactly, is alcohol withdrawal?
Withdrawal from alcohol, (as with any other drug), is simply a set of symptoms that occur when a person suddenly stops using it after a long period of time. Through observation and experience over time, it is observed that there is a set of symptoms that is readily identifiable. Though not everybody may have all symptoms, they are generally easily recognized and can occur in varying degrees from light to severe.
Some of the more common alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be observed by simply looking at a hangover. Headache, mild shakiness, upset stomach, and sweats are all common symptoms.
The more severe symptoms that generally occur with long-term exposure to high amounts of continuous alcohol use are the “DTs”. These are called delirium tremens. People would DTs generally experience anxiety, confusion, visual, aural hallucinations and seeing things that really aren’t there. Stories that illustrate DTs are seeing pink elephants, the feelings of bugs crawling on a person, etc.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally occur with habitual drinkers. The reason for this is their body has become the used to high levels of alcohol intake, and actually goes through a shock when the intake is suddenly stopped.
Is there danger in alcohol withdrawal?
The answer to that question is that alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous. Other than delirium tremens, a person who has habituated themselves to a high intake of alcohol over a long period of time, and suddenly stops, runs a significant risk of seizures. It is suggested in the strongest possible terms that medical supervision is used for alcohol withdrawal.
A number of people wonder if withdrawal from alcohol is actually painful. The answer to this is yes it can be. The medications that are used in a medically monitored alcohol detox program allow a person to “come down” gently over a period of several days. The purpose of this is to reduce the possibility of seizures. Medically detoxing is like rolling to the bottom of a hill, quitting cold turkey is like getting to the bottom of the hill by jumping off a cliff.