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I.V. Therapy for Alcohol Withdrawal: How It Works

Alcohol withdrawal is an unpleasant and potentially dangerous process that commonly occurs when an addicted person stops drinking alcohol. It typically serves as a required first step on the path to substance treatment and eventual sobriety.
how long do alcohol withdrawals last

How long do alcohol withdrawals last?

That depends on a range of considerations. No matter how long the process takes, doctors commonly use some form of IV (intravenous) therapy to help their patients cope with the effects of withdrawal. Let’s take a look at how this therapy works.

What Is IV Therapy?

During IV therapy, a fluid solution is gradually introduced into one of your veins, usually through an IV line and a device called a catheter. Doctors can use this therapy to do a number of things, including:

  • Keeping up your fluid levels if you can’t drink water
  • Supplying your body with medications or vitamins that dissolve in water
  • Supplying your body with needed electrolytes
  • Supplying your body with an energy source called glucose

IV Therapy for General Alcohol Withdrawal Support

People withdrawing from alcohol often require various forms of IV support to address nutritional deficiencies or other important health issues. Specific nutrients you may receive in an IV solution include:

  • Multivitamins
  • Vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid)
  • Glucose
  • Minerals such as magnesium, phosphate and potassium

You may also receive an IV containing glucose and vitamin B1 (thiamine) to prevent the development of a serious alcohol withdrawal complication called Wernicke encephalopathy.

IV Therapy and Withdrawal Medication

Doctors frequently use sedative/tranquilizer medications called benzodiazepines to treat patients going through alcohol withdrawal. These medications can help stop any minor withdrawal symptoms you experience from growing more severe. They can also ease the effects of a specific symptom called psychomotor agitation, which can produce a wide range of aimless or unintentional body movements. In addition, you will almost certainly receive intravenous benzodiazepines if you experience convulsions or develop delirium tremens (the DTs), a withdrawal complication with the potential to severely damage your health or even kill you.

It’s difficult to answer the question: How long do alcohol withdrawals last? Whether the process moves relatively quickly or slowly, IV therapy will help you recover in the shortest possible amount of time and move on to active involvement in a substance treatment program.

Resources

Industrial Psychiatry Journal: Clinical Management of Alcohol Withdrawal – A Systematic Review
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4085800/

Nurses Labs: Intravenous (IV) Therapy Technique
https://nurseslabs.com/intravenous-iv-therapy-technique/

UpToDate: Management of Moderate and Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Syndromes
http://www.uptodate.com/contents/management-of-moderate-and-severe-alcohol-withdrawal-syndromes

Posted on February 4th, 2017
Posted in Alcoholism, Articles

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