We all want to support our loved ones in any way we can. But, unfortunately, we may not always know what we need to do to help them through delicate situations like alcohol withdrawal. If someone you know is suffering from alcohol withdrawal or battling addiction, it’s important to handle the situation with sensitivity and understanding.
That’s why we wanted to provide you with the tools to support someone who is going through withdrawal. Keep reading to learn more about alcohol withdrawal and how to be there for someone experiencing it.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal occurs when someone suddenly stops or cuts back on drinking after heavily consuming alcohol for weeks, months, or even years. Someone is considered a “heavy drinker” when they binge drink regularly or drink a certain amount of alcohol per week. For example, alcohol consumption is considered “heavy” when a female has over 8 drinks a week or a male has over 15.
Alcohol is a depressant drug — depressants are known to take a toll on the central nervous system. Over time, the central nervous system gets used to having alcohol in the body. When there’s more alcohol in someone’s system, their body works harder than usual to keep the brain awake and active. So when someone stops drinking and their alcohol levels drop, the body is still working at the same high level. This causes confusion in both the brain and body, which ultimately sparks symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may be mild or severe, depending on several factors including weight, age, how often someone drinks, how much they drink, and what they drink.
Mild symptoms of withdrawal typically begin anywhere from 6-12 hours after a person’s last drink. These symptoms are typically irritating, but are not usually life-threatening. Mild symptoms may include a headache, nausea & vomiting, shaky hands, sweating, insomnia, and anxiety.
Hopefully, symptoms will begin to subside after this period of time. However, if the condition is more severe, people may start to feel more serious side effects 12-48 hours after drinking. Serious withdrawal side effects include hallucinations and seizures. These symptoms may require medical attention. If they are not addressed, additional fatal symptoms may occur. Someone who is still going through withdrawal 48-72 hours after their last drink may experience confusion, a racing heart, high blood pressure, a fever, heavy sweating, & delirium. If someone you know goes through these intense withdrawal symptoms, it’s imperative to call 911 or a local doctor as soon as possible.
Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment Options
Many hospitals and rehabilitation centers offer detox programs for individuals going through withdrawal. They may also provide resources after symptoms end, like therapy options or support meetings. If someone’s withdrawal is mild, they may be able to detox at home or in another comfortable environment. Getting through withdrawal successfully requires a quiet space, an alcohol-free atmosphere, soft lighting, healthy foods, lots of fluids, and support from loved ones.
How to Support Someone Withdrawing From Alcohol
If someone you know is going through alcohol withdrawal, there are several ways you can help. You may not be able to remove their symptoms, but you can offer support to set them up for success.
Here are some ways to support someone who is going through alcohol withdrawal:
- Provide care for them at home or another safe space
- Monitor their withdrawal process
- Call 911 if their symptoms worsen or if more develop
- Educate yourself about alcoholism, withdrawal, and symptoms
- Look up rehab facilities if they have a serious dependence
- Be aware of any triggering behaviors or signs
These tips will help you support someone as they are experiencing withdrawal, but what happens after?
Helping During Addiction Recovery
Support doesn’t stop after withdrawal. If your loved one has developed an alcohol abuse or addiction issue, it may be time to consider inpatient or outpatient treatment for alcohol abuse. If they begin treatment, you can help them by giving rides to meetings or appointments, offering financial assistance, or encouraging them to participate in new types of social activities.
If you know someone who has a substance abuse issue or is going through an alcohol withdrawal, give us a call to discuss the next best steps.