I always advise my clients who drink moderate to heavy and wish to stop drinking to see their GP prior to doing so as there are risks with sudden cessation. Here is why.
By John Arber
According to the Australian Government’s department of health, it’s a good idea to see your doctor first if you want to quit or stop drinking alcohol. They can help you to manage any withdrawal symptoms you may have. It’s also helpful to have an action plan and a support network such as seeing an alcohol and drug counsellor to help you achieve your goals.
Alcohol withdrawal is a distinctive clinical syndrome with potentially serious consequences (A American Psychiatric Association). Symptoms commence around 6 hours after the initial decline from peak intoxication. Initial symptoms include tremor, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, and nausea. Predominantly in mildly alcohol-dependent persons, these symptoms may subside without treatment after a few days.
More serious withdrawal symptoms occur in approximately 10 percent of patients (Trevisan, L Et Al) These symptoms include a low-grade fever, rapid breathing, tremor, and profuse sweating. Seizures may occur in more than 5 percent of untreated patients in acute alcohol withdrawal. Another severe complication is delirium tremens (DT’s),which is characterized by hallucinations, mental confusion, and disorientation. The mortality rate among patients exhibiting DT’s is 5 to 25 percent.
The heart is a major site of alcohol induced organ damage, including disturbances of heartbeat rhythm (Smith 1995). Because arrhythmia generally occurs after a binge, rather than during intoxication, alcohol withdrawal may be a contributing factor to the occurrence of alcohol-related arrhythmia (Smith 1995)
Alcohol withdrawal represents a period of significant clinical risk that requires attentive medical management. However, alcohol withdrawal also provides an opportunity to initiate treatments that may lead to extended sobriety. As such, it is a critical component of the long-term treatment strategy for every patient with severe alcohol usage.
Australian Government Department of Health. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/alcohol/about-alcohol/how-can-you-reduce-or-quit-alcohol
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC: the Association, 1994. American Psychiatric Association 1994).
Smith, J.W. Medical manifestations of alcoholism in the elderly. International Journal of the Addictions 30:1749–1798, 1995
Trevisan, l, Boutros,., Ismene , Petrakis, &. Krystal. Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal, Pathophysiological Insights, Alcohol Health & Research World Vol. 22, No. 1, 1998