The Kindling Effect In Alcohol Withdrawal

By Midwest Detox Staff

MD Stacked color Logo

Despite the prevalence of alcohol abuse and the research surrounding the Kindling Effect, many people are unaware of this dangerous phenomenon. It affects thousands of people every year and makes it increasingly difficult to recover and stay sober. But if you’ve never heard of the Kindling Effect or are unsure what it means, you’re not alone — and you probably have a lot of questions.

For example, what is the Kindling Effect? Does it produce unique symptoms? Can symptoms differ between your first alcohol withdrawal and any subsequent withdrawals? What can you do to avoid experiencing more intense withdrawals? Finally, where can you go to detox from alcohol?

In today’s guide, we will answer all of these questions and more, so let’s get started.

In This Article
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents

    What Is The Kindling Effect?

    The Kindling Effect is a neurological condition that has been observed in the context of substance abuse and withdrawal. Based on evidence from various long-term studies, it results from repeated episodes of withdrawal from alcohol (and a few other types of drugs). Research of the Kindling Effect indicates that, with each subsequent withdrawal, the symptoms of withdrawal become more intense and severe. This makes it increasingly difficult to recover, as detoxing and withdrawal become riskier and harder to manage.

    The Symptoms Of The Kindling Effect

    While the Kindling Effect is primarily associated with more intense variations of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, it can also bring about completely unique symptoms that wouldn’t be seen in someone’s first detox. Before we look at the unique symptoms of the Kindling Effect, let’s examine the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that can worsen over time:

    Symptoms Of The First Alcohol Withdrawal

    Here are some of the most common symptoms of a person’s first alcohol withdrawal that can worsen with each subsequent withdrawal:

    • Anxiety
    • Irritability
    • Insomnia
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Headache
    • Sweating
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Tremors (particularly in the hands)
    • Loss of appetite
    • Sensitivity to light
    • Sensitivity to sound

    In severe cases, withdrawal symptoms may include the following:

    • Seizures
    • Hallucinations
    • Delirium Tremens (DTs)

    Delirium Tremens are by far the most dangerous consequences of alcohol abuse and withdrawal. DTs are generally characterized by severe confusion and agitation, high fever, rapid heartbeat, and high blood pressure. With high levels of alcohol dependency, DTs become a more prevalent risk factor. In any case, Delirium Tremens are always treated as a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

    Finally, it’s important to consider the prolonged effects of alcohol withdrawal, which can often continue for days, weeks, or even months after the initial withdrawal has subsided. Like any of the aforementioned symptoms, prolonged symptoms can also worsen with subsequent withdrawals. Here are some of the most common prolonged symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Mood swings
    • Fatigue
    • Poor concentration
    • Restlessness

    Potential Symptoms Of Subsequent Alcohol Withdrawals

    It’s important to note that the Kindling Effect is not guaranteed on subsequent alcohol withdrawals. In fact, it is relatively uncommon to experience Kindling symptoms on the second withdrawal, and in some cases, even the third. However, each subsequent unsuccessful attempt to quit using alcohol increases the risk of experiencing the Kindling Effect at some point.

    As previously mentioned, the Kindling Effect is characterized by more intense withdrawal symptoms, which can include some or all of the symptoms outlined in the previous section. Additionally, some people experiencing the Kindling Effect may have completely unique symptoms, such as:

    • Difficulty recognizing or distinguishing between facial expressions in others
    • Psychosis, which could potentially develop into schizophrenia
    • Severely reduced impulse control
    • Negative effects on emotional behavior, which could make addiction therapy less effective

    How To Avoid The Kindling Effect & Relapse

    The Kindling Effect is most common in people who binge drink and repeatedly attempt to stop drinking without success. One of the best possible ways to avoid the Kindling Effect is to commit to treatment with professionals for the long term. So, here are some tips to help you avoid the Kindling Effect and alcohol relapse:

    • Seek Professional Help - If you have a history of alcohol dependence, you can reduce the risk of relapsing by seeking out professional guidance as soon as possible. You can reach out to your healthcare provider or an addiction specialist so that they can assess your specific needs and recommend an appropriate treatment plan. In the vast majority of cases, this will include a combination of detox, counseling, therapy, and support groups.
    • Check Into Detox - A supervised detox is the only safe way to get through alcohol withdrawal. This is true whether you’re trying to quit drinking for the first time or the fifth time. Always ensure that you are under the care of trained professionals while you detox so that they can monitor your health status and progress in a safe and secure environment.
    • Pursue Long-Term Treatment - While detox is often the best and most effective way to jumpstart recovery and avoid relapse, you must also pursue long-term treatment through inpatient and/or outpatient rehab, as well as ongoing support through therapy and support groups.
    • Work to Develop Coping Skills - As you advance through your addiction treatment, you’ll learn many useful skills to help you cope with the difficulties of alcohol withdrawal and persistent cravings. These skills will make you better able to manage stress, anxiety, and other issues that often lead to relapse.
    • Avoid Personal Triggers - Triggers can be unique to each individual. You may find that certain people, places, or situations increase your anxiety or make it harder to resist drinking. Work to identify your own triggers and then avoid them at all costs. This way, you can create a supportive and alcohol-free environment.
    • Self-Care - Addiction recovery is a long and difficult road. Though you will need to take accountability and work hard to stay sober, you shouldn’t punish yourself. Instead, prioritize taking care of your own needs by getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. Additionally, try to find hobbies or activities that you really enjoy so that you can reward yourself and find productive ways to avoid alcohol at the same time.

    Properly Detox From Alcohol With Midwest Detox

    The Kindling Effect is a very real and scary consequence of long-term alcohol abuse. But even if you have tried and failed to stop drinking in the past, you shouldn’t let fear of future withdrawals cloud your judgment. The only way forward is sobriety, and the first step you must take is a fully supervised detoxification.

    Fortunately, the experts at Midwest Detox are ready and willing to see you through the first days and weeks of your recovery. At Midwest Detox, we offer modern, state-of-the-art facilities and trained staff to help you recover as comfortably as possible. We monitor your status 24/7 to ensure that you remain safe, while also helping you develop the skills you need to avoid relapse. Finally, we work with you to develop a long-term recovery plan that can help you avoid the Kindling Effect and stay sober for life.

    Don’t wait until it’s too late. Reach out to Midwest Detox at 414-409-5200 or send us a message today.