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Withdrawal symptoms caused by alcohol

Published 15 July 2016.

The most commonly experienced and observed alcohol withdrawal symptoms (in addition to a hangover) are anxiety, sleeping troubles, restlessness, incoherency, tremors, sweating, rise of body temperature, nausea and various sensory and balance issues. As a consequence of these, strong rise of blood pressure and accelerated pulse are also often observed. Strong withdrawal symptoms may also include visual and auditory delusions, psychotic symptoms, unconsciousness and convulsions (‘booze cramps’).

These withdrawal symptoms are caused by regular alcohol consumption, as the nervous system becomes used to alcohol’s presence in the body and, when alcohol leaves the body, the nervous system will go into a state of hyperresponsiveness. The gradually strengthening withdrawal symptoms will start to appear about 12 hours after alcohol consumption has ended. For some people, the blood alcohol content may still be clearly elevated at the time, up to 1 or 2 per mils. If untreated, withdrawal symptoms have the tendency to grow stronger so that the condition of the person suffering from these symptoms will become dramatically poorer within a few days. Therefore, it is important to be proactive about the withdrawal symptoms and treat the condition properly.

Health problems and risks caused by alcohol consumption will develop individually and gradually. Sleeplessness, stomach problems, anxiety, injuries and social issues are a strong indicator that drinking habits should be changed. This is also the most efficient way of preventing the development of withdrawal symptoms.

Petri Kylmänen
Master of Health Care, nursing; Coordinator of substance abuse treatment
Special services of psychiatry and substance abuse, City of Helsinki

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