The Cycle of Alcohol Use
For people with AUD, the cycle of alcohol use includes periods of being intoxicated (drunk) followed by periods of withdrawal.
Alcohol intoxication happens when the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream increases. The higher the concentration, the more likely you are to experience drunkenness or other ill effects. Intoxicated people may display slurred speech, poor judgment, unstable moods, problems with memory or focus, poor coordination, and inappropriate behavior.
If the intoxication is severe, you may experience blackouts, or periods you can’t remember the events. Once blood alcohol concentration reaches excessively high levels, it can lead to coma, permanent brain damage, or death.
Alcohol withdrawal follows intoxication and can occur within several hours to several days later. The symptoms may include hand tremors, rapid heartbeat, sweating, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness, and anxiety. Seizures may occur in severe cases.
Because there’s some overlap between a hangover – the ill feeling people may have after drinking – and withdrawal, it’s assumed that a hangover is withdrawal. However, hangovers can occur after a single time using alcohol, whereas withdrawal occurs after multiple times using alcohol.