Alcohol withdrawal symptoms after two months of heavy drinking

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Hello all.

I have been suffering from quite serios depression for exactly two years.  This was triggered by an HIV scare.

Initially, I did not drink much and had no real issues with alcohol.

However, I started to drink heavily periodically a year ago.  However, I did not suffer any withdrawal symptoms.

But I began to drink heavily quite constantly two months ago.

In particular, I drank very heavily last week: starting on 23th July and ending on 30th July, I drank three 1.5 litre bottles of vodka.

I ended-up in hospital on the morning of 1 August.  Surprisingly, my blood alcohol level was "only" 175mg, compared to the drink-drive limit of 80mg.

I was released from hospital the same evening.  However, I seem to have had quite severe withdrawal symptoms since then.

Initially, I could not keep food down.   Then I had severe diarrhoea.  I have been having quite serious sweating and dizziness.

Is this common?  How long can I expect these symptoms to last?

I have been very worried that I have damaged my liver, though I had a liver function test a few weeks ago after I had started drinking heavily (though I was sober at the time) and it was within normal limits.

A GP and a nurse, both of whom I saw yesterday, said that my liver would not be permanently damagd by two months of heavy drinking.  Would you agree?

I know that I risk becoming dependant on alcohol, and I have sought help from the local Addictions Team, and am even considering seeking a residential treatment programme.

Thank you. 

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  • Posted

    Hello Gav,

    It never ceases to amaze me how 'medical experts' can send a person away to go into alcohol withdrawal (which can kill a person).

    Have you been able to carry on abstaining from alcohol since? If you have, you will be past the point of severe withdrawal symptoms now. However, if you have had a drink (and that would be entirely understandable) then you need to ensure that you DO drink to stop the withdrawal symptoms and seek an alcohol detox in which medication would be given to you to counteract the withdrawal symptoms and make it safe and comfortable.

    I agree with the GP and nurse that 2 months of heavy alcohol use will not have damaged your liver irreparably. The liver has great powers of recovery, unless you cross that line into liver cirrhosis which cannot be reversed.

    The other thing to consider is that alcohol is a depressant so it won't help depression and any antidepressant medication you take is unlikely to be effective while you are drinking heavily.

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    • Posted

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your reply.

      I must admit that I was surprised not to have been kept in hospital on Sunday night for monitoring and to be given Librium and / or Valium.

      I felt absolutely awful when I was released.

      I don't feel so bad now and, no, I haven't had a drink since.

      It's probably a coincidence, but my heavy drinking started when my antidepressant was changed from Mirtazapine to Trazodone.

      I am due to see a psychiatrist next Monday, so will discusss same with her.  It hasn't helped that the psychiatrist I see keeps changing.

      I probably have the option, quite soon, of going into a residential treatment programme if I want to   However, it would be very testing -practically a retreat.

      I must admit that I would hate never to have a glass of wine with a meal or a beer or two with pals in the future, so I need to nip this (solitary drinking) in the bud before I become truly dependant.

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    • Posted

      Consider The Sinclair Method then, that is the most effective treatment, by far, with a success rate of 78% compared to less than 10% success rate for rehab. Google it smile
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    • Posted

      Hello again, Paul.

      How accessible is The Sinclair Method in the UK?

      I spoke to a GP at the local surgey yesterday and she said they only prescribe "anti-craving" medication when people are working with addictions programmes / operatives. 

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    • Posted

      It is not simple. They will also not call it The Sinclair Method.

      Anti-craving medication is not really an accurate description of the medication used for The Sinclair Method (Nalmefene or Naltrexone). There IS a medication which works to reduce cravings, called Acamprosate (Campral).

      Nalmefene was licenced for use in England last year and, in Scotland, the year before. However, guidelines say that it should only be prescribed along with 'psycho-social support.' The problem with this is that people are often sent along to the local alcohol counselling service where they have no understanding of how the drug works (that you need to drink with it or it won't work) and that means that most people don't benefit from taking it, because it is used the wrong way.

      The other issue is that Nalmefene is very expensive at the moment (although the cost WILL come down) and many local Primary Care Trusts won't approve it for use in their area.

      There are options to get it privately, but obviously that would cost you. It is not a case of simply buying it online as prescribers have to offer a package of care to satisfy the recommended guidelines.

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    • Posted

      Thanks, PauI,

      I understand the distinction now between Nalmefene and Acamprosate.

      I wonder if either are registered / licensed in Northern Ireland (that's where I am).

      The GP I saw on Tuesday wasn'r prepared to prescribe either for me - she said they only prescribe things like that as part of (my) participation in an Addictions' programme. 

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    • Posted

      Yes, Gav, their hands are tied, unfortunately, by the guidelines. Unfortunately, many addictions programmes do not recognise The Sinclair Method, despitre it's high success rate.
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    • Posted

      HI Gav. YOu seem to be improving and drinking less and getting it under control which is great. Read up on other peoples' experience and advice on this forum and I do wish you best of luck
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    • Posted

      Thank you, Robin.

      I have not been drinking since last Saturday, but feel physically awful.

      I don't think it has anything to do with alcohol withdrawal now.

      Six weeks ago, I fell and cut my head.  I needed stitches but, apart from soreness from the wound, I felt fine physically.

      But, for the past fortnight, I have been having increasing problems with severe headaches, vertigo, feelings of unreality, weakness in my legs, somewhat slurred speech, and some difficulty in articulating.

      I am worried that the head wound is the cause of this, and that I have late-onset concussion or similar.

      I don't want to be going back to A&E as I now feel like a regular there, but the advice with head injuries is to do just that ....

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    • Posted

      Hi Paul (and others),

      I was back with the GP who I normally see today and we discussed the results of my blood test from 4 August.

      I cannot remember the details or the names of the tests or what was being tested for, but both results were approx 100 - whereas the upper limit of normal was about 60 for both.  (He also showed me my historical results and, until last year, the scores for both tests were in the 20s or 30s.)

      He said one of them was more important than the other (sorry this is so vague) and I needed to cut-down on the alcohol.

      He's said I should have bloods taken again in September.

      I haven't been drinking anywhere near as much as I was in July.

      Cheers,

      Gavin.

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    • Posted

      I understand how you don't want to go to A&E. They are too busy to listen properly and help you.

      I couldn't cope without my medication for nerves and depression.

      Has your doctor given you something?

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  • Posted

    Hi gav,

     many people turn to alcohol  during stressful or traumatic times in thier lives, the fact that you have drank heavily for two months does not mean you are addicted to alcohol - the fact you are suffering from withdrawl's is simply down to the fact that your body has become used to alcohol in the last couple of months - you can get withdrawls from many substances, drink alot of coffee for a few days then quit- you will get one hell of a headache - there is a huge difference between being (temporarily) physicaly dependant on alcohol - once you have been through the withdrawls you should be fine - and being an alcoholic - many people confuse the two- i am a chronic alcoholic as soon as withdrawls kicked in i would be craving alcohol, physicaly and mentaly - been there many times - so i would talk to somebody who knows about addiction before commiting yourself to a treatment program - you dont want to do this if you dont have to - i have been in many treatment centres - they are not fun - talk to your GP- see how you feel in a week - do not make any decisions while suffering from withdrawls - all the best 

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    • Posted

      Hi pmcg21,

      I believe my solitary drinking has been largely out of boredom.

      I don't think I'm an alcoholic - but I don't want to carry on like this or I will surely become one.

      I have too much time on my hands - I took voluntary redundancy from work 3 years ago and was really content at the time.  But then a serious health scare triggered depression and lots of self doubt, anxiety, insomnia, morbid and intrusive thoughts, etc.

      The place that I would be going to has no TV, patients are not allowed things like personal radios, mobile phones, etc.  So it would be very much a retreat for 12 weeks.

      I really need to be occupied, but can't easily find a job.  Perhaps a return to full-time education would be a good idea - though I don't know what I would want to study.

      I'll check-out what Paul (above) has suggested and not make any hasty decisions. 

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  • Posted

    Hi have done well so far keep it up, did u test positive for hiv, if so its no longer a death sentence, so do not worry.
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    • Posted

      Hi Richard,

      No, I did not test positive for HIV, though my experience since is surely worse than HIV alone would have been - and I do not say that lightly.

      Until July 2013, I was serious about serious things but loved travelling and was otherwise content with simple things in life and often appreciated my own company.

      I also never really drank at home, apart from maybe a glass or two of red wine if I made spaghetti bolognaise or a pizza.  I did drink socially, but only a few beers.  I never drank to get drunk - I only drank things where I appreciated the taste, especially real ale.

      The HIV scare changed everything - I knew I had had a risk and, when I started to have night sweats when abroad in July 2013, severe anxiety, insomnia and then depression soon followed.  I then started to have morbid thoughts.

      When I had a modern HIV test in July 2013, I had already diagnosed myself as having HIV, was sure the test result would be positive and then could not accept the negative result.

      I had two further HIV tests but the genie was out of the bottle.  I wasn't drinking at that stage, just increasingly depressed, withdrawn and hyper-anxious and on an increasing cocktail of meds.

      The whole experience has had me harking-back to the past.  I simply don't seem able to look-forward or, if I do, it is just fearful and hopelessness.

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