Exercise reduces alcohol withdrawal symptoms

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Exercise for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

When excessive drinkers suddenly stop drinking, they will more than likely suffer from the symptoms of Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS). The central nervous system, which has been dependent on alcohol, goes into a state of shock. The drinker will suffer symptoms ranging from mild anxiety and headaches, to tremors, hallucinations, and even life-threatening seizures. The most severe symptoms of AWS is called delirium tremens (also known as the DTs). AWS symptoms can start within a matter of hours from the last drink, and can last for as long to four to six weeks. Unfortunately, the only medical treatments for AWS are monitoring, counseling, and sedatives. The good news is that studies have suggested that exercise may play a role in alleviating symptoms.

Exercise in Early Recovery

It is common knowledge that exercise improves overall physical health while lowering depression and anxiety. It also can copy the effects of drugs and alcohol; therefore, lessening an addicts desire. Many addicts who enter treatment facilities for rehabilitation are in poor shape, so any physical activity they perform must be tailored to their individual needs. Like any exercise program, addicts who stick to their exercise routines can expect several benefits.

Exercise boosts production of chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a role in how well the mind functions. These chemicals will help to clear up the mental haze that many addicts find themselves living in. In turn, they will be able to make better choices. Exercise will also produce better quality sleep, lift depression, and improve the overall outlook one has of their life. This new outlook is a key factor in preventing relapse. Continued exercise will raise the immune system and lower risk of heart disease, as it would for anyone else who has long been out of shape.

Dangers of Too Much Exercise

While plenty of exercise is a good thing, addicts must understand that they must not overdo it. Exercise, and the “natural high” that it gives can become an addiction as well. Too much exercise can cause a whole string of problems. An injury can prevent exercise. They can also experience depression, burnout or other long term problems can set in, which can lead to relapse or even suicide. Addicts should consult their doctor or treatment facility staff to ensure that they are exercising moderately.

Exercise vs. Drugs

A clinical study was performed using an animal model of  five different groups to see how they responded to exercise as treatment for AWS. One group received no alcohol, while the other four became dependent. Of these four, one received diazepam, another exercised on a treadmill, another received diazepam and exercise, while the last, as a control group, continued to receive alcohol. At the end of the study, blood cortisol (hormone released during stress) levels were measured. Researchers found that, while exercise alone did reduce cortisol levels, it was reduced even more when used with diazepam. The study suggests that exercise used in combination with drugs such as diazepam have the best chance of alleviating symptoms of AWS.


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