What to take for alcohol withdrawal?

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Doctors may give specific medications to patients at risk of alcohol withdrawal to ease distress, stop the progression of symptoms, and reduce the risk of relapse.

Individuals can also take water, hydration liquids, fruits and vegetables, and supplements to reduce withdrawal symptoms and strengthen their immunity.

Medications

Medications are used to manage and reduce the amount of alcohol consumed by the patient and manage symptoms of withdrawal.

Several prescription medications can help with alcohol withdrawal such as:

  • Benzodiazepines are sedatives commonly used to treat panic, anxiety, and seizures. These medications are the first-line treatment for many of the most severe withdrawal symptoms.
  • Anticonvulsants like carbamazepine prevent future seizures and have less probability of abuse than benzos. They are also ideal for individuals with mild to moderate addiction.
  • Barbiturates are ideal for patients with withdrawal symptoms but are resistant to benzodiazepines. The medications are also effective in treating severe cases of alcoholism and withdrawal symptoms.

Drinking water with electrolytes

Drinking alcohol lets your body slowly inching to dehydration. This leads to other symptoms like nausea, cravings, and headaches.

Electrolytes are nutrients that help your body function properly. Drinking fluids rich in electrolytes can help ease symptoms of distress during alcohol withdrawal.

Fluids rich in electrolytes are:

  • Coconut juice
  • Watermelon juice
  • Electrolyte-infused waters
  • Sports drinks
  • Tablet-fused electrolyte medications

Electrolytes are ideal to take for a patient especially when withdrawal symptoms show:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Dark urine
  • Dry mouth and skin
  • Excessive thirst

Water and a well-balanced diet are usually enough to keep fluid intake in most individuals. An electrolyte beverage may be necessary if you're doing lengthy, severe physical exercise and if you're sick or having diarrhoea.

Fruits and vegetables

Because alcohol is sugar-concentrated, patients who are suffering from withdrawal symptoms frequently seek sugary food and treats. It's best to take fruits and vegetables to balance the body's sugar levels.

Here are the best fruits and vegetables to take:

  • Papayas, oranges, and leafy greens help build calcium in the body as alcohol diminishes this nutrient.
  • Apples, pomegranates, beans, and tofu are all rich in iron.
  • Bananas are rich in potassium and happy compounds. This is also true for dark cacao treats, beans, and dried fruits.
  • Avocados, blackberries, and raspberries are rich in zinc. Zinc helps regulate mood and cognitive abilities.
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes are magnesium-rich foods that help support muscle function and energy production. It also helps lower the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure among many others.

A proper diet will boost recovery from alcohol withdrawal and curb symptoms. Leafy vegetables, fruits, eggs, and make an ideal diet for recovery.

Vitamins and supplements

Vitamin deficiencies are frequently linked to alcohol abuse problems. Magnesium, thiamine, and multivitamin supplementation among many others can guarantee maximum recovery.

  • Magnesium: Magnesium supports the effectiveness of other vitamins to ensure the body strong and healthy. The vitamin is also responsible for lowering diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.
  • B Vitamins: B vitamins are essential in key bodily functions such as converting sugar to energy and the regulation of blood cells. B vitamins also help eliminate toxins from excessive drinking.
  • Vitamin C: The deficiency of this vitamin may cause fatigue and moodiness in withdrawal patients. What’s more, low Vitamin C may decrease immunity to ward off certain diseases.

Patients will experience various symptoms of withdrawal in addition to nutritional deficits.

Taking medications, drinking water, eating fruits and vegetables, and supplementing vitamins for withdrawal can curb its side effects and speed up recovery.

What to eat and what to do when undergoing alcohol withdrawal?

A well-balanced diet and an active lifestyle are what an individual should be doing-especially when he or she is undergoing alcohol withdrawal. These factors will help speed up recovery and ease withdrawal symptoms.

There are some things that you can do and eat when you're feeling extreme discomfort.

If you're planning on detoxing, eat foods that are more easily processed while still being able to provide nutrients for a quick burst of energy.

Eating can also help with less severe withdrawal symptoms such as nausea and fatigue.

Foods that can help reduce withdrawal symptoms:

What to take for alcohol withdrawal

Green leafy vegetables

You can find thiamine nutrients in green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale.

Excessive alcohol drinking will lead to thiamine deficiency, and during withdrawal, your body will experience symptoms like tremors, shakiness, and fatigue.

Consume green vegetables to replenish your nutrients and strength.

Seeds, nuts, and legumes

Eating sunflower seeds will help raise dopamine levels that help curb alcohol cravings. Moreover, nuts like almonds and walnuts boost brainpower and mitigate the effects alcohol has on your brain.

Not to mention, nuts also make a healthy snack when you’re craving something to eat. Meanwhile, legumes help build proteins in your body after alcohol diminishes your nutrients.

Fish and seafood

Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that support brain functions. These foods also help combat anxiety and depression in people undergoing withdrawal.

Fruits

Eating fruits help regulate blood sugar levels and cravings for alcohol. Bananas, most of all, are a rich source of potassium ideal for heart health.

Also, these fruits are rich in dopamine which raises happy hormones to combat anxiety and stress during withdrawal.

Iron-rich foods

Foods like chicken, beans, and tofu build up iron in your body. As alcohol coagulates blood circulation with plaques, what the body needs is iron to boost the circulation of oxygen and nutrients.

Other than foods, physical activity is shown to benefit alcoholics during their recovery. Exercise keeps your mind off of your cravings and may elevate some symptoms of withdrawal.

Aerobic exercises, of all physical activity, are shown to relieve withdrawal symptoms and shorten their severity on the overall duration of the side effects. If you’re undergoing alcohol withdrawal, here’s what you need to do.

  • Go for a walk – a 30-minute walk can help clear your mind and emotional state. What’s more, a walk can keep your body healthy and organs functioning – especially, the heart, liver, and kidneys. This is beneficial if you want a speedy recovery from alcohol.
  • Yoga and meditation – most rehab centres employ yoga as a form of therapy to curb withdrawal symptoms. Plus, when you exercise, you will start to feel stronger and healthier. It is beneficial to your self-esteem and recuperation for recovery.
  • Take up a hobby – keep yourself busy! A healthy hobby like gardening, playing sports, or crafting will keep your body moving. Also, this keeps your mind busy and away from craving alcohol.

At the end of the day, diet and exercises help combat alcohol addiction and relieve withdrawal symptoms.

Couple it with eight hours of sleep every night will hasten recuperation and recovery of the body.

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Medically-assisted treatment vs self-management

When a person wishes to stop drinking alcohol, they can avail of a medically supervised detox treatment or self-manage their symptoms at home. But, which is right for you?

Medically-assisted treatment

Therapies for unpleasant withdrawal symptoms as well as pre-existing medical problems are among the advantages of medically assisted detox.

Detoxing without medical supervision raises the chances of a failed withdrawal attempt and a higher risk for relapse.

Medically-assisted treatment has several advantages that lead to a higher probability of complete recovery, including lessening of symptoms and management of co-morbidities.

Among the advantages are:

  • 24/7 medical and access to facilities – For inpatient rehab, patients have the advantage of full-time medical care during their stay at the centre. Nurses and doctors will be able to monitor any symptoms that may arise during your withdrawal period.
  • Expert care in relief – Your medical treatment is handled by expert staff to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal. In the event of an emergency, they can cater to your needs and make necessary treatments for your conditions.
  • Safe and peaceful environment – Medically-assisted treatment has the privacy and peacefulness one needs when undergoing treatment. This is beneficial for people who have turbulent home settings and environments that trigger their alcoholism.
  • Medications, therapies, and interventions – Advantages of medically-assisted treatment consist of provided medications to lessen withdrawal symptoms. They also have a structured programme for withdrawal stabilization like individual and group therapies to curb its side effects.
  • Can be life-saving – withdrawal symptoms can be deadly if the side effects of detox are too severe. This might be the case for alcoholics who are long-time binge drinkers or those with co-morbidities. Having a medically assisted treatment will help save your life especially when doctors are there to treat you 24/7.

Medically-assisted treatment is ideal for those who are binge drinking for a long time. The severity of alcoholism will be mostly treated under the care of professionals.

People who are also looking to escape from their social and environmental triggers (e.g. home, work, family, peers) will also benefit from medical care.

Self-managed treatment

Detoxing alone can be dangerous. A medically-assisted treatment, however, offers professional management of the withdrawal process to lessen the symptoms and probability of relapse.

One downside to medically-assisted care is the cost of treatment. However, there are financing options available in the UK to benefit medical care.

This is one advantage of a self-medicated treatment since a person can do it at home.

However, private alcohol detox at home doesn’t have the advantages of 24/7 medical care. If anything went wrong during the withdrawal phase, the person won’t have attending doctors with him for emergency care.

What many people when self-managing their alcoholism at home is to taper off their alcohol consumption.

The gradual withdrawal from alcohol helps to lessen the symptoms associated with it.

Self-management treatment is ideal for people with mild to controlled alcoholism. Individuals with lesser triggers socially and environmentally will find self-managed treatment better to do.

Which is better?

Many people find that treating alcoholism with a long-term recovery effort helps them prevent relapse and live a sober life.

Medically-assisted treatment offers the support, medication, therapy programmes, and resources to carry the detox process.

At Abbeycare Scotland or Abbeycare Gloucester, medical professionals are committed to proper rehab care and manage symptoms without the individual relapsing to alcohol abuse.

A thorough treatment and support will help patients on their road to recovery.

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: October 4, 2021

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter 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. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.