ALCOHOL TOLERANCE AND
People who drink heavily for years often lose control of their drinking and orient their life more and more around drinking behaviors. In addition, they drink more rapidly, consume larger amounts, drink more often, and experience withdrawal symptoms when they decrease drinking. This latter set of behaviors, which involve physiological and psychological dependence on alcohol, is called the alcohol dependence syndrome.
Consider Tanya: The amount of alcohol Tanya drinks has increased over the past several years, but the effect she feels from alcohol hasn't changed. This indicates that she has developed an increased tolerance to alcohol. With regular drinking, the body breaks down and gets rid of alcohol more quickly and changes occur in the brain, so a person needs to drink more to get the same effect. Tolerance to alcohol generalizes to other drugs and medications that affect the brain in ways similar to alcohol, such as benzodiazepines.
Persons who have developed tolerance to alcohol will have a physiological reaction called withdrawal when they reduce the amount they drink or stop drinking completely. These withdrawal symptoms might include anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Other common symptoms include nausea, headache, and tremor. When alcohol or sedative hypnotics are used over a longer period of time or in larger amounts, withdrawal symptoms are worse and include vomiting, fever, and increased blood pressure. In severe cases, people can experience seizures or a life threatening illness called delirium tremens, or the DTs.
What's it like
Detox is different for each individual. You should never try to detox on your own and even with help you may have some of the following experiences:
Many people confuse detox with treatment. Detox should be seen only as the beginning of a longer process. Typically, inpatient detox lasts for five to seven days. Treatment, which may be done on an outpatient or inpatient basis will likely last 30 to 90 days.
Delirium tremens ('DTs') is a more severe reaction after stopping alcohol. It occurs in about 1 in 20 people who have alcohol withdrawal symptoms about 2-3 days after their last drink. Symptoms include: marked tremor (the shakes) and delirium (agitation, confusion, and seeing and hearing things that are not there). Some people have convulsions. Complications can develop such as dehydration and other serious physical problems. It is fatal in some cases.