Alcohol withdrawal and hangovers are easy to get confused about. That’s why many people wonder is a hangover alcohol withdrawal? In short, though, hangovers are not withdrawn, and alcohol withdrawal is not a hangover. So what’s the big difference, and why are they so easily confused for one another?
Alcohol withdrawal is when a person has been drinking alcohol regularly and upon abruptly ceasing to drink, experiences pain and discomfort. Withdrawal should not be confused with a hangover.
Hangovers happen when casual drinkers drink too much, suffering the consequences the next day (spells of nausea, vomiting, headaches, etc.). When someone experiences alcohol withdrawal, they probably have some sort of substance use disorder (even if it’s a mild case).
Do I Drink Too Much?
When it comes to how much a person drinks, there is no cookie-cutter answer as to whether or not it’s too much for a given individual. This is because drinking too much has more to do with the ratio of alcohol consumed to a person’s weight, age, or size. There are, however, general guidelines as to how much is too much for particular individuals. Some of these guidelines include the following:
- Female – Over 7 drinks a week or more than 3 drinks in one sitting
- Male – Over 14 drinks per week or more than 4 drinks in one sitting
- Elderly – Over 7 drinks per week or more than 3 drinks in one sitting
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal is when someone has been drinking alcohol regularly and suddenly stops, resulting in painful/uncomfortable feelings. This happens because when someone is drinking regularly, that person’s mind and body become accustomed to needing that amount of alcohol at all times to function. Thus, when that person stops drinking, his or her brain and body suffer.
So how long does it take alcohol withdrawal to take effect? In some cases, it may be as soon as four hours. In other cases, it could take as long as four days. Some people might initially confuse alcohol withdrawal with a hangover because both are experienced when a person who drinks large amounts of alcohol suddenly stops drinking. Thus, it’s not uncommon for some people to wonder is a hangover alcohol withdrawal.
Still, though, it’s important to recognize that people that suffer from alcohol withdrawal chronically abuse alcohol to the point where the negative symptoms that they experience after suddenly stopping drinking are severe and last a long time. In fact, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be deadly. This is a sharp contrast from hangover symptoms that usually only last the day after drinking and then go away.
The number of people that suffer from alcohol withdrawal is somewhere over 200,000 per year in the United States. What’s scary is that sometimes the alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. This is the case in most of those who abuse vast amounts of alcohol regularly.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can vary from bad to worse depending on an individual’s situation. Some people can experience more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms while others may suffer from milder alcohol withdrawal.
Examples of common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Mood Swings
- Delirium Tremens
What Is A Hangover?
Individuals that wonder if a hangover is alcohol withdrawal need to understand what exactly a hangover is to realize that the two are quite different. A hangover is when someone drinks a vast amount of alcohol in one sitting and suffers the consequences the next day or so.
But what causes a hangover? Hangovers are a result of too much alcohol in the body at a given time. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes those drinking to urinate more often, leading to dehydration. Dehydration leads to headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
In addition to all this, alcohol causes inflammation in the immune system. This is likely the catalyst for most physical symptoms associated with hangovers. Some of these include difficulty concentrating, memory loss, or appetite changes.
Not only that, but when a person drinks an excessive amount of alcohol, the lining of that person’s stomach becomes irritated, increases acid production, and delays stomach emptying. These factors can cause nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting.
It is important to note that although the effects of mass alcohol consumption (hangover) make for uncomfortable feelings, these symptoms aren’t exclusive to hangovers. Alcohol withdrawal can cause a person to experience similar feelings.
Oftentimes the effects of alcohol withdrawal are dependent on a number of other factors as well though. These may include adding other substances to alcohol consumption, engaging in certain behaviors, and the makeup of a person. While hangover symptoms aren’t deadly and usually only last around a day, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are often deadly and usually take a much longer period of time to get over.
Symptoms of a Hangover
Hangovers are extremely difficult to get over, and they’re nothing short of unpleasant. Some symptoms of a hangover include the following:
- Lack of focus
- Memory loss
- Muscle soreness
Is Alcohol Withdrawal Related to Alcoholism?
Those who are suffering from alcohol withdrawal are experiencing it because they’ve been drinking alcohol frequently for an extended period (most often years.) In short, alcohol withdrawal and alcoholism go hand-in-hand. In fact, alcohol withdrawal is one of the early indicators of alcoholism. This is because once a person abuses alcohol enough to experience alcohol withdrawal, the development of alcoholism is usually not far behind. Alcohol withdrawal is very serious and could, in very extreme cases, result in death.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is best described as the unshakable urge to drink alcohol; it is an extremely dangerous form of substance abuse. Alcoholism has such a big draw that those who suffer from it can’t help but think about their next drink.
It’s worth mentioning that even if someone who is dealing with alcoholism is drinking at any given moment, they’re more than likely thinking about what they’re going to drink next. The brain of a person who suffers from alcoholism also begins to compensate for the stimulation.
Such behavior from the brain is also part of the reason why a person develops alcohol dependency, which, in turn, causes a person to experience alcohol withdrawal. All of these factors together make alcoholism a condition that is extremely hard to overcome.
Why People Develop Alcoholism
Because alcoholism is so hard to overcome, it often takes a while for people to beat it. As a result, the disorder often negatively affects not only the person that is suffering from alcoholism, but also his or her family and friends. But how does this happen? How can people, despite knowing full well how it will affect them, still allow themselves to become addicted to alcohol? In short, it has a lot to do with brain chemistry.
When someone is drinking alcohol, the pleasure center in that person’s brain is triggered. The result is dopamine in copious amounts sent directly to the brain. Over time, it can become easy for someone to become disinterested in other things as a result of becoming dependent on alcohol.
When this happens, a person’s perception of enjoyment is skewed and the activities or hobbies that once brought someone a sense of fulfillment won’t hold a candle to the satisfaction that alcohol brings. In other words, the concept of pleasure and desire within a person that suffers from alcoholism has become hijacked. Thus, drinking becomes a priority.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
Some symptoms of alcoholism may include the following:
- Consistent drunkenness
- Guilt or shame
- Becoming agitated
- Disinterest in activities that used to bring enjoyment
- Disinterest in friendships
- Financial difficulties
- Legal troubles
- Lack of judgment
How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
Those who are experiencing alcohol withdrawal may be eager to know just how long the symptoms last. Once someone stops drinking alcohol after consistently drinking it for a long period of time, the symptoms of withdrawal could begin as soon as six hours from the last drink.
After 12 hours, a person may become more irritable, experience nausea, and sweat an ungodly amount. Delirium tremens may even occur, depending on the severity of one’s alcoholism.
Most often, those who suffer from alcoholism may experience symptoms like insomnia 12 hours after their last drink. Not only that, but blood pressure may rise, as well as tremors. It’s because of these more intense alcohol withdrawal symptoms that quitting alcohol without medical supervision is not recommended.
When the withdrawal effects pass the 24-48 hour mark, seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens become much more likely. Every hour after that, the symptoms may worsen.
If you thought after the first few days alcohol withdrawal was over, you’re poorly mistaken. These symptoms can continue to be present well past 72 hours. This has the potential to cause a vast amount of emotional distress.
These alcohol withdrawal symptoms, however, as hard as they may be to persevere through, usually only last about five to seven days. It is imperative to note, though, that those suffering from the psychological effects of alcoholism may experience symptoms longer than a week. These symptoms can include anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.
Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal
There are many treatment options available for alcohol withdrawal, some of which may be better for any given individual depending on his or her circumstance. Some individuals, after conducting thorough research, may be inclined to pursue alcohol detox. However, it is imperative that when detoxing from alcohol (or any other substance for that matter), people don’t do so by themselves.
Detoxing under the supervision of qualified medical professionals is the best course of action to take. Those who self-diagnose or try to treat their alcoholism conditions themselves increase the likelihood of relapsing. The best way to ultimately recover from alcoholism is to get professional medical assistance.
There are many treatment options someone can choose for curing their alcoholism, including the following:
Due to the severity of alcoholism, any doctor would be inclined to order medically assisted treatment (MAT) for a person who is suffering from alcoholism. Throughout MAT, patients will take medications that help relieve their withdrawal symptoms and any other kind of discomfort.
If, however, that is not the best form of treatment for a given individual, there are other forms of treatment such as group therapy (alcoholics anonymous, in this case) or even individual therapy. It is worth noting, however, that closely regulated programs like MAT monitor vital signs as well as certain levels of a person’s brain chemistry to ensure success.
Get Help Today for Your Alcohol Use Disorder At Live Free Recovery
There are a vast amount of individuals in the United States who suffer from alcoholism. The exact number is somewhere around 15 million. To make matters worse, some of these people are under the age of 12.
This is a sad reality, but most often people continue to suffer from alcoholism because they try treating symptoms as opposed to addressing the root cause. This is why medically assisted treatment is imperative to a proper recovery from alcoholism.
There are many programs available throughout the United States to help you in dealing with a substance use disorder. At Live Free, we want to ensure that your experience is successful. If you or a loved one is suffering from an alcohol use disorder, or any other kind of substance use disorder and want to seek professional help, don’t hesitate to contact us here.