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COVID-19 lockdown leads to a surge in alcohol withdrawal symptoms: Here's how to overcome this

Alcoholics cannot control their urge and suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms if they don’t get their drink. @Shutterstock

Most hospitals are seeing an influx of patients with alcohol withdrawal symptoms post lockdown. Visiting a hospital is not without risks at the moment. Know how to deal with this problem at home.

Written by Jahnavi Sarma |Updated : April 22, 2020 11:12 AM IST

When the Narendra Modi government gave the call for the country-wide lockdown, this may probably have been the last problem they may have envisioned. Because of the lockdown, most liquor shops have downed their shutters and alcoholics are having a tough time getting their daily fix. If you are a casual drinker, you may not have a problem other than the occasional urge to sit down with a glass of your favourite drink. But for an alcoholic, getting a drink is often a matter of life and death.

Hence, now we see that doctors across the country are reporting a rather unusual fallout of the COVID-19 lockdown. Most hospitals are seeing an influx of patients with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This is putting extra pressure on healthcare professionals who are already overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Many regions of the country are also seeing an increase in suicide cases because of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This is a new challenge that is staring at the face of healthcare professionals across the country.

Alcohol withdrawal deaths surge after lockdown

Seeing the sudden surge in patients with withdrawal symptoms, the south Indian state of Kerala, which saw 7 alcohol-related suicides in the first 100 hours of lockdown, have now started the 'parchi system'. Under this scheme, individuals can buy liquor if they can produce a special doctor's prescription. This is meant for patients facing severe withdrawal symptoms. In Telangana too around 10 people died due to non-availability of liquor in the state. In Assam, two people apparently died after consuming industrial chemicals with soft drinks and water. And Karnataka reported seven deaths in seven continuous days due to the same reason. Many states are now considering partial listing of restrictions on liquor shops during the lockdown period.

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Withdrawal symptoms can cause severe health problems

Alcoholics cannot control their urge and suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms if they can't get their drink. Less severe symptoms may include sleeping problems, tremors, increased sweating, palpitations, headache and an upset stomach. Your appetite will go down and you will experience anxiety, irritability, restlessness and severe craving for alcohol. In severe cases, it can lead to seizures and heart attacks. Sudden increase in blood pressure and body temperature and a racing pulse rate are other symptoms that indicate that you need immediate medical help.

In most cases, early symptoms begin six hours after the last drink, and it may intensify six to 24 hours after the last drink. These symptoms may become less severe within a couple of days after the last drink. However, sometimes, late symptoms may start two to four days after the last drink and the symptoms becomes significantly lower four to six days after the last drink.

What you can do to lessen the severity of symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. Now, since we are in the middle of a lockdown, it is also not possible to rush to a hospital with risking COVID-19 infection. Therefore, we reveal a few tips to deal with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. But remember that these tips will help you manage the severity of symptoms only to a certain extent. If you have very severe symptoms, you need medical attention.

Stay hydrated

Drink water and beverages that contain electrolytes. This will help you deal with muscle spasms, numbness and seizures.

Eat healthy

Follow a healthy diet that includes a proper balance of carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats. This will help the brain and other organs function properly and give you the energy you need to recover from alcohol dependence.

Shower frequently

If your temperature rises dangerously high, take a refreshing shower. This will relax you and cool down your body.

Try deep breathing

You can also try some deep breathing techniques that can help in normalising heart rate and stabilizing blood pressure. But, you still need to seek help from a trained and qualified professional.

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