When you have some form of alcohol dependence, your body becomes used to the introduction of alcohol into your system on a regular basis. Eventually, your body begins to form a chemical dependency on the alcohol, requiring it on a regular basis to function. So when someone with this chemical dependence decides to quit taking alcohol without weaning off of it gradually, the result are many alcohol withdrawal symptoms that range from inconvenient to painful to possibly life threatening.

Common Symptoms

The symptoms that a person in withdrawal suffers will differ depending on the degree of dependence, and the severity of each symptom can vary between individuals. But in general, symptoms of withdrawal fall into one of these three categories:

Shaking can be anywhere from mild to severe, and may be accompanied by extreme cold or sweating. Nausea, anxiety and an increased heart rate are not uncommon to those suffering from this form of withdrawal, and blood pressure tends to increase as well, leading to a greater chance of a stroke if the person has heart problems. None of the symptoms of “the shakes” are particularly dangerous, though they can be so irritating that many people suffering from these symptoms drink again to ease the effects.
Pain from alcohol withdrawal affects people very differently. Some experience tremendous headaches and migraines not unlike those they experience the morning after a night of heavy drinking. Other people experience aching all over their body, and in rare instances people report experiencing unexplained shooting pains.
Delirium is the most extreme symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Delirium includes visual and auditory hallucinations and it can last for up to a few weeks. In addition to delirium, alcohol withdrawal patients can experience a great deal of disorientation, confusion and heart problems. Seizures are often a risk of those suffering from this delirium, and these seizures can be fatal.

Alcohol withdrawal is not a pleasant experience, and the degree of irritation and pain causes many people to start drinking again. With the right treatment, however, it is possible to have fewer withdrawal symptoms and eventually stop alcohol dependence.

Updated, 23rd February 2014
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