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Alcohol Withdrawal: Anxiety and Other Symptoms Vary Among Individual Users

  • Asks ...

    I have been a heavy drinker for about 25 years. I drink 10 or 12 beers a day. I don’t get drunk and I know what the alcohol does to me and how it affects me. I am probably what you would call a functional alcoholic and at this stage in my life I am not interested in stopping. Lately I have been having a lot of anxiety and I went to my doctor to get some medication for it. He said that it could be the alcohol that was making me anxious and that he didn’t want to prescribe me anything until I tried quitting the drinking first to see if that made the anxiety go away.

    I do not wish to quit drinking and I have been drinking for long enough that I know what it does to me and what it does not do to me. Alcohol actually makes me feel less anxious and it’s pretty much the only thing I’ve got now to deal with the anxiety since he would not give me any medications.

    I do not wish to go against medical advice, if it is sound, but it simply makes no sense to me. Is it possible that alcohol would not make me anxious for 24 years and then all of a sudden it would start to make me feel anxious now? It just seems crazy to me.

  • Delisted Expert Says ...

    Although you have gone against medical advice, I do honor your right to choose whether to continue drinking at your own possible high risk. However, you have describe three of the clear symptoms of alcoholism:

    1. increased tolerance as evidenced by you inability to become intoxicated after drinking 10 or 12 beers per day,
    2. little or no motivation for sobriety or recovery, and
    3. withdrawal symptoms as indicated by recent incidents of anxiety.

    I will admit that I may be limited in my feedback because I do not have information concerning what triggers your anxiety, when your anxiety manifests itself, or the length of time which anxiety has troubled you.

    Most people, who have been drinking for a long time or drinking frequently, will often experience some form of withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can begin when the body is craving more alcohol than is being consumed. Mild to moderate psychological withdrawal symptoms include: anxiety, irritability or easily excited, emotional volatility or rapid emotional changes, and depression. For more information about this, go to websites: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/alcoholism-000002.htm, http://alcoholism.about.com/cs/withdraw/a/aa030307a.htm. Did your doctor discuss alcohol withdrawal symptoms, their psychological and physical symptoms, and the dangers of severe withdrawal symptoms, such as hallucinations, delirium tremens, agitation, fever, convulsions, and blackouts. So to answer your question, the medical research in alcohol withdrawal symptoms has indicated that anxiety is one of the mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Yes, anxiety can appear as a withdrawal symptom after 24 years of self-reported untroubled drinking.

    Since you have gone against medical advice and have made it clear that you are not motivated to stop drinking, I would recommend that you look at your progression by getting more information about alcoholism, its physical and psychological consequences, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms. A positive first step towards this goal would be to identify what symptoms could be expected from progressive alcoholism by taking an inventory, such as, the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Quiz.

    The Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Quiz indicates reveals if your symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe. It is completely confidential and your answers are not recorded. After you answer the 20 questions, you will be provided an assessment of the severity level of the withdrawal symptoms that you may be experiencing. You can find this quiz at this website:


    You sound like you made the decision to continue drinking on your own. Would it be possible for you to ask people close to you as to whether they think you should stop drinking or not? Use the people who care about you or you pay for advice from, to help you make important life changing decisions. Although you did use good judgment to seek medical advice from a physician, it would be excellent if you would talk to an addiction specialist and have a professional assessment with recommendations. Alcoholism is being treated more often on an outpatient basis. Please do not rule out treatment while your symptoms reportedly are mild to moderate.

    I wish you every success in the future. Best of luck to you, your decision-making ability, and willingness to accept outside support.

    John W. O’Neal, Ed.S, LPC,NCC

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