Edit: I’m not an alcoholic, I just couldn’t find concrete answers anywhere. 😊
Shadowplay123: Alcohol activates a receptor in the brain to tell it to be sleepy and drunk.
In long term use, the brain doesn’t want to be sleepy and drunk all the time, so it does three things to maintain a normal awake/alert state:
1. Gets rid of some of the receptors that alcohol acts on
2. Gets rid of some of the normal brain chemical that says “be sleepy/sedate” at normal times.
3. Increases the normal brain chemical that says “be awake and alert and active”
When you stop drinking, you now have fewer receptors for chemicals saying “be sleepy” and also less chemicals saying “be sleepy” and also more chemicals saying “be alert and active.”
The result? Seizures. Lots and lots of seizures. Which are basically just too much brain activity. Which use up the sugar and energy in the brain and produce poisonous waste products in amounts too high for the body to get rid of it.
thetwitchy1: The way a body works is to try to maintain what’s called “homeostasis”, which means that all the chemicals in your body are being replaced at the rate they’re being removed.
Now, alcohol (and other drugs) either mimics chemicals in your body, break down into chemicals that mimic chemicals in your body, or do a job that a different chemical in your body would do. Because of this, your body stops producing those chemicals (in order to maintain the right levels of them) when you have the drug in your system.
However, it takes some time when you STOP putting the drug in your system for your body to realise this and start making those chemicals again. This is why withdrawal commonly feels exactly the opposite of how the drug feels: when you’re on a drug, you have extra chemical making a good feeling happen, but when you “come off” the drug, you have less of that chemical, so you go in the opposite direction.
And, if the delay is too long (and the chemical in question is super important), you can run out completely and die.
gransporsbruk: I have gone through severe alcohol withdrawal. It starts with jerking awake despite not being able to sleep. A weird pit feeling in your core, and the anxiety is… indescribable. Then pretty soon you think you hear your neighbors talking, or your roommates are home, or you respond verbally to questions that were never asked.. auditory hallucinations were huge. Starving but you can’t eat, water hurts your stomach, then you seize up, this happens forever until you can get some pho. Solid food seems to feel like a baseball in the gut. I landed in the ER probably 5 times. Librium supposedly helps but I didn’t notice. You have suicidal thoughts. Get professional help if you’re getting off the sauce.
lappnisse: There is a great sub here on reddit that is called r/stopdrinking if you are experiencing alcoholism, or just want some moral support and not feel the anguish of “being alone”.
They are really supportive, I lurk there alot
OhItsPreston: When you go into withdrawal of a drug, then you typically get symptoms opposite of what the drug does to you. For example, lots of opiods cause constipation, so one symptom of opiod withdrawal is explosive diarrhea.
As far as I know, alcohol is for unknown reasons anti-epileptic. So when individuals are experiencing extreme alcohol withdrawal, then they can sometimes go into seizures and die.
rigeldx98: Thanks for the answers! Cheers! *gulp*
BadJuju8274: I learned in nursing school that the side effects of withdrawal are opposite with the drug of abuse. I.e. caffeine is a stimulant, but withdrawing from it may produce an opposite effect, headaches which most of us that binge drink coffee for a week and stop experience.
However, with alcohol theres 3 stages with withdrawal symptoms, easier to treat with Benzodiazapines the sooner in the first 3 stages it is caught. The point alcohol withdrawal is lethal is the 4th stage Delirium Tremens (seizures, hallucinations), the big side effect of that is cardiac arrest causing death. DT is commonly what I see alcoholics withrawing in the ICU, and are more linked with acute alcohol withdrawal. Just remember withdrawal symptoms are opposite of drugs intended effect.
odophe: Don’t forget that long term use of alcohol can also cause significant nutritional deficiencies… while that may sound benign, when too rapidly ‘corrected’ it can lead to some wild n wacky shit!
See: Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff psychosis.
Graysmalls: Alcohol thins your blood; going cold turkey can make your blood thicker too quickly and that can cause blood clots and strokes