Withdrawal From Alcohol Using Hydroxyzine


Published On: December 20, 2023

When an individual consumes alcohol consistently, it begins to take a serious toll on their body. Although it is abundantly available, alcohol can severely disrupt hormonal and chemical processes in the body.

Over time, this impact on the body can force it to become dependent on alcohol to function normally. Bodily processes can come to consider alcohol’s presence as the new normal, meaning that sobriety triggers a sudden imbalance.

This imbalance pushes the body to react adversely, prompting what we understand as withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal can be particularly dangerous, triggering symptoms such as [1]:

  • Headaches
  • Restlessness, agitation, and aggression
  • Sensory difficulties
  • Nausea, vomiting, and stomach complications
  • Shaking
  • Disorientation and poor balance
  • Heightened anxiety
  • Profuse sweating
  • Insomnia

Alcohol withdrawal can also threaten life. Delirium Tremens can be triggered, a condition often associated with the risk of sudden death.

Treating Alcohol Withdrawal

Mixing Pills

When an individual undergoes rehab for their alcoholism, they will need to go through detox to kick the physical dependence that they have developed on the substance. This treatment, however, often leads to withdrawal symptoms surfacing.

While alcohol detox is usually conducted at a slow pace to limit or prevent withdrawal from causing too much of a problem, symptoms can still arise. To protect an individual from harm or relapse, benzodiazepine drugs are often used.

These substances dampen withdrawal, eliminating symptoms and sparing individuals from the discomfort or pain which would otherwise compel them to slip back into alcohol misuse.

Hydroxyzine: Everything You Need to Know

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Hydroxyzine – otherwise referred to as Atarax or Vistaril – is an antihistamine. When taken, the drug counteracts the effects of histamines within the body, alleviating several negative symptoms.

Generally, the drug is used to help individuals manage feelings of anxiety and stress inflicted upon them by mental health conditions. It can also be used to aid the process of falling asleep.

Although they can also be used more commonly for allergy treatment, individuals must take caution when using antihistamines like Hydroxyzine with other medications. Antidepressants, indigestion tablets, and common cold medicines can cause complications.

Does Hydroxyzine Have Side Effects?

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If taken without supervision or appropriate dosage adjustments, Hydroxyzine can have several side effects. This means that individuals must take great care when using it, and those with concerns should talk to their GP before consuming.

These side effects can include:

  • Poor coordination and slow reaction times
  • Urination problems
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Tight chest and breathing difficulties
  • Fatigue and loss of consciousness
  • Increased heart rate

Can Hydroxyzine be Used to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal?

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Hydroxyzine has a long history of being used to treat alcohol withdrawal. For many years, its effects were deemed the most effective form of handling the symptoms, but benzodiazepines have since replaced them as the most effective means of doing this.

Before the 1960s, Hydroxyzine was recognised as a sufficient form of treating alcohol withdrawal because of its ability to reduce several of its most common symptoms. Just as it would with an allergy, it eliminated feelings of anxiety, shaking, and insomnia.

The Risks Associated with Hydroxyzine

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If Hydroxyzine was an effective means of treating alcohol withdrawal, then why did it eventually become replaced by benzodiazepines? The simple answer is that Hydroxyzine carries several risks.

1. Missing key withdrawal symptoms

Primarily, Hydroxyzine was replaced because of its ineffectiveness to treat all alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

When alcohol is consumed, it enhances the impact of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, a chemical which triggers relaxation. This is why an individual feels calmer and more at ease when under the influence.

Consistently consuming alcohol means that GABA has a greater impact on the brain, slowing brain signalling. Glutamate, the chemical with the opposite effect of GABA, has little to no presence.

This, however, means that the brain is highly sensitive to any increase in glutamate, meaning that sobriety triggers an increase in the chemical which the brain struggles to cope with.

Hydroxyzine does nothing to help the brain with this chemical problem. As a result, it offers no support when it comes to one of the largest sources of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Benzodiazepines, on the other hand, help ease the brain during this period.

2. The dangers of mixing

Alcohol detox is very often a gradual process whereby individuals slowly reduce their consumption to ease the body into sobriety. What this means, however, is that low levels of alcohol can still be ingested, which is a problem when Hydroxyzine is used.

These two substances should not be mixed. Alcohol can exacerbate some of the effects of Hydroxyzine, and this can be dangerous.

The drug has sedative effects, and alcohol’s presence can lead to individuals losing consciousness and experiencing breathing problems. Drowsiness can increase the risk of accidents, and an individual may fall victim to a Hydroxyzine overdose.

Overdose can be characterised by a wide range of symptoms and effects. Individuals can experience headaches, nausea, or fatigue; and the risks can escalate to seizures, comas, and even death.

3. Vulnerable individuals

Anyone can fall victim to alcohol abuse. A variety of risk factors can contribute to an individual becoming dependent, and therefore medications which facilitate alcohol detox need to be suitable for everyone. Unfortunately, this is not the case with Hydroxyzine.

Antihistamines such as Hydroxyzine cannot be taken by anyone. There are risks for those who are required to consume other medications or have underlying health conditions.

Especially since alcohol use can worsen these conditions, those with heart or liver problems must avoid Hydroxyzine.

Why You Don’t Need to be Afraid of Benzodiazepines

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Hydroxyzine is a problematic medication for alcohol withdrawal, and individuals might wonder whether any drugs are suitable for treating it. If Hydroxyzine was used for years before being replaced by an alternative, what’s to say the same won’t happen again?

Benzodiazepines are now the preferred method of treating alcohol withdrawal, but individuals do not need to fear falling victim to their side effects or unknown properties. Alcohol detox is a careful and monitored process which protects individuals at all times.

1. Brief prescriptions

Individuals might imagine themselves falling victim to the side effects of benzodiazepines as a result of having to consume them regularly within treatment. What they misunderstand, however, is that these drugs are by no means a long-term solution.

Benzodiazepines are only prescribed to those who experience withdrawal which is deemed as threatening to their well-being or progress. Detox is paced so slowly as to minimise this need, and even if the drug is required, doses are provided as little and as quickly as possible.

Rather than a crutch which replaces alcohol’s role in propping up the body’s functionality, benzodiazepines are designed to offer short and sharp relief, allowing individuals to get through withdrawal and then proceed soberly once they feel better.

2. Constant supervision

Along with benzodiazepines replacing Hydroxyzine, alcohol rehab has also progressed in terms of the quality of support it offers. As a result, individuals who fear that new drugs might pose unforeseen problems for their health need not fear.

Detox is a medical process, meaning that individuals are constantly receiving the guidance and medical advice of doctors and addiction specialists. Rather than relying entirely on a drug to get them through it, they are offered top-quality monitoring.

Even if a benzodiazepine begins creating a problem, doctors will be so fast to react that the risk of damage will be immediately counteracted.

3. Wider range of alternatives

For many years, Hydroxyzine was the primary option for treating alcohol withdrawal, and this meant that those reacting poorly to the drug had no alternative option. However, that is not the case anymore.

Benzodiazepines offer individuals several drugs to turn to to facilitate their alcohol detox. If they respond poorly to one drug, doctors can swap to a better alternative, eliminating the risks associated with continued use of an inappropriate medication.

One of the most popular benzodiazepines is Librium (chlordiazepoxide). However, if an individual finds that it prompts side effects, they have multiple options to turn to, such as diazepam, lorazepam, and oxazepam [2].

After Withdrawal – Where Does Alcohol Rehab Turn Next?

Support groups

Successfully detoxing from alcohol is an incredibly important stage of treatment. Not only is using the right medication essential for keeping an individual safe and on track as they become physically sober, but it is instrumental in getting them to the next stage of recovery.

Once an individual has rid their body of their need for alcohol, they can then begin looking into the triggers which led to the development of their condition in the first place. This stage of rehab is conducted via therapy, and it is just as important as detox.

Within therapy, an individual is supported in identifying, working through, and combatting the negative influences in their day-to-day life. Thoughts, feelings, friends, family, health problems, financial issues – whatever the triggers, therapy helps individuals cope better.

Once therapy has successfully provided some mental and emotional stability, rehab shifts to its final stage: relapse prevention. Here, individuals are supported in devising and practising techniques to manage their triggers after rehab and sustain the progress they have made.

Struggling With Alcohol Misuse/Withdrawal?

Intervention

Fears surrounding alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal can cause many individuals to ignore a problem. Even thinking about withdrawal-dampening medication can lead to nervousness and anxiety, but those who need help must ask for it.

Part of what makes rehab so important is that alcohol is a very dangerous substance to become dependent on. Due to how the body develops a tolerance for substances, continued drinking will only lead to a condition becoming worse.

The longer a condition is allowed to continue, the worse and harder to treat it will become. As a result, those who develop an addiction must seek help as soon as they can to facilitate an easier and faster recovery process.

Getting help from Rehab 4 Alcoholism

Support network

Alcohol withdrawal is a daunting problem to tackle, and the thought of facing it can make individuals avoid seeking the help they need. However, those struggling with alcohol misuse must seek help as soon as possible to avoid the problem getting worse.

If you need advice, support, or more information about benzodiazepines and the alcohol detox process, reach out to us at Rehab 4 Alcoholism. Our dedicated and knowledgeable team are here to help.

Whatever your situation or concerns, give us a call at 0800 111 4108 and let us kickstart your road to recovery.

References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441882/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606320/

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