Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms - Itching

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Alcoholic drinks are fun, and they give a high that people never thought they would experience.  

However, over abusing it has too many negative ramifications.  

People addicted to alcohol often need to go through a strict regimen to get over their alcohol addiction, which causes severe withdrawal symptoms.  

Many individuals may have wondered what alcohol withdrawal symptoms are and if itching is one of them. 

Don’t worry, as this article articulates and answers questions regarding alcohol withdrawal causing itching.  

Moreover, it also elaborates on the other alcohol detox symptoms 

Severe itching is an alcohol withdrawal symptom of the third phase, and it occurs after 48-96 hours after drinking the last drop of alcohol.  

This stage requires maximum medical care.  

Read on to know more about itching as an alcohol withdrawal symptom.  

People will get well-equipped to make a sound decision regarding whether to check an alcoholic into rehab or detox at home.  

Alcohol Withdrawal Itching

Alcohol withdrawal occurs after the last sip of alcohol.

If the person is a daily abuser of alcoholic drinks, they will probably face alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

The symptoms are varying, and each has its unique negative impact.

While alcohol withdrawal itching is not common, it is certainly prominent.

Overuse of alcohol over time makes the body develop several skin reactions that range from rashes, redness, skin flushing and itching.

Alcohol withdrawal patients can face mild to severe irritation due to skin issues derived from it.

Prolonged use of alcohol tends to dry out the skin and cause excessive itching.

Alcohol has the potential to flare up a skin condition called rosacea that tends to make the skin red and cause dryness, skin sensitivity, burning sensation, hives and stinging, as shown in the image below.

Several alcohol-induced skin reactions usually occur due to intolerance, plus alcohol withdrawal itching tends to manifest primarily when an alcoholic is in a delirium.

Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Itching?

Alcohol withdrawal does cause itching.

Its prolonged use tends to aggravate skin allergies and reactions that prove to be severe or mild.

According to a medical practitioner, Timothy J. Legg, alcohol withdrawal syndrome causes tactile and auditory hallucination.

Itching is one of the tactile hallucinations prevalent in patients going through alcohol withdrawal.

The itching sensation is a result of the bugs crawling all over feeling.

This is a common sensation in the third phase of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

48-96 hours after an alcoholic has had their last drop of alcohol, they tend to face delirium and hallucinations, giving them an itching sensation.

Moreover, it has been found that when the liver cannot flush out toxins due to over abuse of alcohol, it causes itching and skin irritation.

How To Treat The Alcohol Withdrawal Itching?

Alcohol withdrawal itching gets treated using different methods depending on what kind of itching it is.

If it is from phase three of alcohol withdrawal, the person needs medical attention.

However, they can treat it using Epsom salt or aloe vera gel for mild symptoms or allergic reaction.

An eczema cream can also help calm the itchy skin.

The itching caused due to hallucination requires benzodiazepines which help treats delirium and hallucinations to reduce the bugs crawling under skin sensation.

What Are The Phases Of Alcohol Withdrawal?

It would help to know the phases of alcohol withdrawal symptom to make a sound and correct decision regarding checking into a rehab centre.

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when an alcoholic stops sedating their stimulatory receptors, and their whole system gets revved up, making them feel restless.

The phases of alcohol withdrawal are tabulated below.

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

Timeline

6-24 hours

24-48 hours

48-96 hours

Symptoms

  • Cravings
  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Mild hallucination
  • Seizures
  • Uneven pulse rate
  • Itching
  • Delirium
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Depression

Treatment

Medication or home detox is recommended

Anti-seizure and Adrenergic medication may be used

Antipsychotic medications are recommended

Each phase of alcohol withdrawal syndrome kicks in at different times.

After an alcoholic starts their sobriety process, they begin facing lows, and it takes time for the brain to function without the daily dose of alcohol.

Ever wondered what makes for excessive consumption of alcohol?

Experts note that having more than 4 drinks for women and more than 5 drinks for men on a single occasion is excessive. 

The below image shows what a standard drink is and helps an individual determine what is excess.

Exceeding the standard drinking capacity over time causes short-term and long-term health risks, each with its complications.

Short-term risks include alcohol poisoning, risky behaviours and driving accidents.

Long-term health risks include hypertension, liver failure, cancer, dementia, alcohol dependence, and more.

So, it is crucial for a person dependent on alcohol to start the sobriety process.

However, withdrawal can prove agonising and have almost the same ramifications as prolonged alcohol abuse.

As tabulated above, the three phases of withdrawal are each painful, mortifying and plausibly fatal.

An alcoholic requires an authoritative yet calm and patient person to deal with their withdrawal syndrome.

Phase one of alcohol withdrawal syndrome is mild, and the person gets prone to anxiety and vomiting.

The symptoms worsen over the days, and the alcohol withdrawal patient suffers from worse symptoms that include the following:

  • Delirium
  • Hallucination
  • Itching
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Heart issues

These severe issues require immediate care and attention.

The severe withdrawal symptoms generally last for a week, so there’s nothing to worry about.

After which, some mild symptoms may persist, including craving alcohol, headaches, and slight appetite loss.

Continued abstinence from alcohol helps forgo the withdrawal symptoms altogether and ensures the alcoholic person starts living a regular life.

Moreover, the person starts feeling happy and lives life without addiction.

So, how does a person go through withdrawal symptoms safely and come out of it stronger?

Should An Alcoholic Check Into A Rehab Centre If They Face Alcohol Withdrawal Itching?

Alcohol withdrawal itching, as mentioned above, is caused either by tactile hallucination or by general dryness caused by alcohol.

Most practitioners recommend getting medical help to detox because of the severity of the withdrawal syndrome and its ramification.

There is a possibility that a recovered alcoholic will have long term medical issues if the withdrawal doesn’t go well.

Depending on alcohol consumption and the longevity of abuse, the treatment for each person varies.

A person with severe dependency on alcohol will require a rehab centre that will guide them step-by-step through the withdrawal process.

More often than not, patients undergoing withdrawal get advised to go to a rehab centre to ensure they get immediate care in case of severe symptoms.

A delirious person who faces tactile and auditory hallucination gets an itchy sensation in a stingy and irritating manner.

They could prove to be a danger to themselves and must be in a private medical or rehab centre to ensure they don’t face unfortunate incidents.

Moreover, rehab centres and facilities have a rigid and fixed structure; this can help the alcoholic individual speed up their detox process. 

They won’t get overwhelmed by the withdrawal symptoms when they have a routine and a person to look after them always.

Is Home Detox Recommended?

In case of alcohol withdrawal itching, home detox doesn’t get recommended because tactile hallucinations can prove dangerous.

The alcoholic withdrawal patient might get into accidents like falling in the bath or spilling hot drinks on themselves.

They may feel highly shaky and might damage their skin due to the itching sensation.

Home detox is recommended only if the alcoholic withdrawal patient doesn’t get prone to severe symptoms.

Their proximity to the doctor should be near, and they should have a strong support system.

The table below gives a concise difference between home detoxing and detoxing in a rehab centre to further help make a sound decision.

Home Detox

Rehab Centre

Affordable

Could be expensive depending on the centre

Unregulated

Rigid and regulated treatment

Proximity to doctors must be ensured

Immediate help available

Alcoholic can slip to their bad habit without a proper support system

The chances of slipping are low as they get monitored constantly

It could prove risky in terms of mental health, physical health, balance, and hallucination issues

There is a safe and structured environment to ensure long-term care to go through withdrawal without untoward incidents

What Are The Treatments For Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Treating alcohol withdrawal syndrome is crucial to avoid it being fatal.

Most rehab centres use cognitive behavioural therapy or benzodiazepines to treat alcohol withdrawal patients.

While some of the itching symptoms can get treated using aloe vera gel, eczema cream or some external cream, it’s imperative to treat the root cause.

The root cause of alcohol abuse could stem from anxiety, depression, and social issues.

Therapy and medication combos are required to treat alcohol withdrawal.

Some other medication includes Diazepam, Naltrexone, Clorazepate, and more to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

The most crucial thing an alcohol withdrawal patient requires is support from a trustworthy person or family who can help the person feel wanted.

The appropriate support system can ensure they stay the course of the detox program.

So, a combination of therapy, support and medications can help treat the alcohol withdrawal symptoms like itching, delirium, and more.

Summing Up

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms start after the individual drinks their last drop of alcohol.

The withdrawal symptoms do cause an itching sensation.

Moreover, it gives a feeling of bugs crawling under the skin and can cause rashes and other skin reactions.

However, getting the necessary treatment and staying away from alcoholic drinks for a long time helps an individual’s outlook.

As soon as alcoholic experiences severe withdrawal symptoms, ensure they get medical care and check them in a private medical centre or rehab to prevent fatal consequences.

Of course, prevention is better than cure.

To prevent alcohol withdrawal itching, it’s best to stave away from a drink or ensure no alcohol dependency.


About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.