Why Do People Go Through Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is caused when you interrupt constant exposure of alcohol to the central nervous system.  Sometimes, withdrawal can be confused with a hangover, especially when hangover duration lasts more than a couple of days.  However, withdrawal is distinct and separate from a hangover and usually occurs after long, heavy periods of drinking.  After you withdraw from alcohol, you may experience disturbed sleep patterns or changes in mood, attention and concentration, foggy brain, headaches, dehydration, anxiety, lethargy ranging from days to months after the last drink.

Without out knowing how much or how often you weredrinking, people who drink more than a few drinks every day, or who drink large amounts of alcohol consistently over time end up affecting their brain chemistry. In fact, regular alcohol intake “slows down” some brain cell activity and responsiveness, making others work harder to keep up normal functioning (imagine a seesaw). So when you remove alcohol, the brain becomes hyperactive until these parts of the brain (the neurotransmitters) balance out again. This period of balancing outis called withdrawal.

Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. They relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.” The brain uses neurotransmitters to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe, and your stomach to digest.

Duration Of Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal severity and length vary by person. Experts thinks that the different factors contribute to withdrawal include:

  • age
  • central nervous system mechanisms
  • coexisting illnesses
  • genetic influences
  • neurochemical mechanisms
  • pattern of alcohol use

Most people are able to reduce or stop drinking with only minimal withdrawal symptoms. And although the symptoms of withdrawal vary, the time course for withdrawal symptoms can be predictable. Withdrawal usually begins 6 to 8 hours following a reduction in alcohol use, peaks 24 to 28 hours after the last drink, and can last up to 7 days.