An alcoholic drink contains ethanol, commonly termed as alcohol. Alcohol is a psychoactive drug that is central nervous system depressant and rapidly absorbed in the bloodstream. It can be addictive and the state of alcohol addiction is known as alcoholism.
Physiologic Effects of Alcohol Use
When a person drinks alcohol, he or she may experience relaxation and loss of inhibitions initially. However, when large amount of alcohol is ingested intoxication may occur. The person who is intoxicated may experience the following manifestations.
- Slurred speech
- Unsteady gait
- Lack of coordination
- Decreased attention span
- Reduced concentration
- Impaired memory
- Impaired judgment
An overdose of alcohol in a short period of time can result to the following manifestations:
- Loss of consciousness
- Respiratory depression
Physiologic Effects of Long-term Alcohol Use
- Cardiac myopathy
- Wernicke’s encepalopathy
- Korsakoff’s psychosis
Treatment of Alcohol Overdose
- Gastric lavage or dialysis. The procedure is performed to remove the drug from the systemic circulation.
- Support of respiratory and cardiovascular functioning.
When an alcoholic withdraws from alcohol use, withdrawal symptoms usually starts at about 4 to 12 hours after a marked reduction or cessation of alcohol intake. The withdrawal may take 1 to 2 weeks. It can be life-threatening thus, prompt treatment and management is required or necessary.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:
- Coarse hand tremors
- Elevated pulse
- Increase blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
Delirium Tremens (DT’s)
In cases where the withdrawal signs and symptoms are not treated or becomes severe, the condition may progress to a condition called delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is an acute episode of delirium that is mainly caused after a long period of drinking and being stop abruptly and the person experiences withdrawal. It may also be triggered by head injury, infection, or illness in people with a history of heavy use of alcohol
Signs and Symptoms of delirium tremens:
- Transient hallucinations
Management for Alcohol Withdrawal
- Detoxification under medical supervision
- For mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the client can abstain from alcohol, home treatment is possible.
- For severe cases where the client cannot abstain from alcohol during detoxification, a short admission (about 3-5 days) is done.
- Safe withdrawal is accomplished through the administration of benzodiazepines such as Chlordiaxepoxide (Librium), Lorazepam (Ativan) or Diazepam (Valium) to suppress the withdrawal symptoms.