A woman contemplates the question, "What is complicated withdrawal?"

What Is Complicated Withdrawal?

Perhaps the most complicated substance to detox from is the one most readily available: alcohol. You may have heard that alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous because of the possibility of developing complicated withdrawal. But what is complicated withdrawal? Learn more about withdrawal and addiction treatment by calling Promises at 844.875.5609.

What Is Complicated Withdrawal?

Complicated withdrawal refers to the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, which presents with mental symptoms at the outset along with powerful physical symptoms that can put your life at risk.

When you develop an alcohol use disorder, your body starts to depend on alcohol to function correctly. Drinking is no longer about feeling “good” but about not feeling sick. If you stop using alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms can kick in within a couple of hours, causing unpleasant symptoms. 

For the majority of people, alcohol withdrawal is difficult and causes a lot of discomfort, but for some, it can be a life-threatening process. 

Complicated withdrawal presents almost immediately with severe symptoms, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Severe anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

Delirium tremens refers to a group of symptoms that includes seizures, disorientation, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and uncontrollable restless behavior. 

Why Complicated Withdrawal Occurs

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that affects GABA and glutamate. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that lowers the ability of a nerve cell to send or receive signals. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that regulates mood, cognition, and memory. 

Severe alcohol abuse changes the balance of these two neurotransmitters as the body adjusts and builds tolerance to alcohol. When you abruptly stop alcohol consumption, GABA activity plummets while glutamate activity increases, leading to over-excitability in the entire neural system. 

For some people, complicated withdrawal occurs the first time they try to detox from alcohol, while for others, it can develop after multiple attempts to get sober. The more times you put your body through the alcohol abuse-withdrawal cycle, the more likely you are to develop these severe symptoms. 

Avoiding Complicated Withdrawal

Although you may not be able to avoid all of the symptoms of the withdrawal process, if you have an alcohol use disorder, the best step you can take for yourself is to turn to medical detox services.

With medical detox services, you can always have medical supervision guiding you through the process. Although there are outpatient options for detox, if you have an alcohol use disorder, inpatient services may be better suited to meet your needs. 

DTs can develop many hours after you stop drinking—sometimes even days after—so having experts by your side to notice the first symptoms and offer assistance is crucial. 

Treating complicated withdrawal requires access to fluids and short-acting benzodiazepines to prevent the over-excitability that can put your life at risk. 

People who face complicated withdrawal without any help are more likely to relapse to get relief from the symptoms. By turning to a medical detox facility, you can keep yourself safe while also beginning your recovery correctly.

Trust Promises With Your Recovery and Complicated Withdrawal

Alcohol is one of the most complex substances to detox from. The process is potentially dangerous, making it vital that you turn to professionals for help. 

At Promises, we offer medical detox services to keep you safe as you begin your recovery, as well as inpatient and outpatient services to help you maintain your sobriety. We know how difficult asking for help can be and how much entering recovery can impact your daily life, so we’re always here to prepare a treatment plan that fits your needs. 

Call Promises today at 844.875.5609 to learn more about our alcohol use disorder programs.

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