Did you know that the body treats alcohol as if it were any other drug?
That means you can go through withdrawal symptoms if you decide to stop drinking alcohol. You must go through a formal detox procedure that can produce uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous symptoms. Hundreds of people die each year because they decided to quit drinking and their bodies rebelled from the effort.
Lowell Cauffiel, a bestselling author of true crime novels, described the symptoms as his “guts being pulled from his body.” There were shakes, sweats, and vivid hallucinations after stopping his habit of drinking two-fifths of bourbon daily.
Because of these withdrawal symptoms, and the fact that many try to stop drinking on their own without doctor supervision, alcohol is the most dangerous substance to quit cold-turkey.
How Dangerous is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
About 16 million people in the United States have an alcohol use disorder. That means they use it compulsively, lose control over their intake habits, and encounter negative emotional states when they’re not using it.
The fatality rate from alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be as high as 4% when the most serious symptoms occur. People who deal with shivering, shaking, confusion, and worse are in the highest risk categories.
During a study of patients admitted to a hospital in Spain with this issue, 6.6% of them died over the 15 years covered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that over 800 people died in the United States because of alcohol withdrawal. It affects the young, old, rich, poor, and famous all the same. Actor Nelsan Ellis, who struggled with alcoholism most of his life, died from complications of this issue even though he’d checked himself into a medical center.
Will I Experience Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome if I Quit Drinking?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs for those who are dependent on the substance for proper functioning.
This process takes time to create through the excessive use of alcoholic substances. You would begin to experience the withdrawal symptoms about six hours after you had your last drink.
The symptoms are at their worst during the first three days of the withdrawal process. Most people see an improvement in their health about a week after they had their final drink.
Most people who drink casually, even up to one or two alcoholic beverages each day, will not experience the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. It occurs because the chronic use of alcohol can change the brain’s chemistry, especially with regards to GABA.
When you stop drinking after chronic use, the body begins the process of detoxification. It attempts to restore brain patterns to their regular functioning. Repetitive detox efforts can increase the severity of the symptoms too, which increases the risk of a life-threatening experience.
If you struggle with alcohol, then finding a way to quit will help you to begin the health restoration process. Don’t start down this path by yourself. Talk to your doctor about your concerns, bring your family into these conversations, and then find the therapy you need.
It will be a struggle over the first few weeks, but it is also an investment in your future.