Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when someone who has been drinking heavily for an extended period of time, be it weeks, months, or years, suddenly stops or significantly reduces their intake.  This condition is potentially life-threatening and does require treatment.

What causes alcohol withdrawal syndrome?  Alcohol changes the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, namely GABA and glutamate.  Alcohol initially increases GABA (a neurotransmitter involved in feeling calm and relaxed), but, with continued consumption, it suppresses GABA production, which is what causes people to develop a tolerance to alcohol and to have to drink more to become drunk.  Alcohol also suppresses glutamate (which is one of the neurotransmitters associated with excitability) activity, so the glutamate system responds by kicking up production to try to maintain equilibrium.  So, when there is no longer alcohol present to suppress these chemicals, the levels of those chemicals rebound and result in brain hyperexcitability, which causes the symptoms of withdrawal.

What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome? 

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs)

These symptoms can begin to occur as quickly as two hours after the last drink is taken, though it depends on how long and how heavily the person has been drinking.  Usually, the more minor symptoms occur about 6-12 hours after drinking, while the more severe symptoms take 24-48 hours to begin, but this is not always the case.  To be safe, it is wise to seek medical attention at the first signs of withdrawal.

Aspire Hospital’s Behavioral Health Department can treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome with efficiency and care.  Our facility is licen

sed by the state, accredited by the Joint Commission, and certified by Medicare.  Our quality staff includes both psychiatric and medical personnel to help patients get through this difficult period safely.

For more information, contact Aspire Hospital today.