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What is Brain Fog?

Heavy drinkers who suddenly decrease their alcohol consumption or abstain may experience alcohol withdrawal (AW). Signs and symptoms of AW can include, among others, mild to moderate tremors, irritability, anxiety, or agitation. Alcohol withdrawal brain fog commonly happens in the early stages of alcohol addiction treatment who are still going through withdrawal.

The most severe withdrawal manifestations include delirium tremens, hallucinations, and seizures. These manifestations result from alcohol-induced imbalances in the brain chemistry that cause excessive neuronal activity if the alcohol is withheld. [1]

Alcohol Brain Fog

Alcohol withdrawal brain fog is a common symptom in the early stage of quitting alcohol. Brain fog can interfere with your ability to think clearly. You may fear that you will never feel normal again, and it is very common for people in early recovery to wonder if they’ve done irreversible damage to their brains.

Alcohol Withdrawal Brain Fog

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Brain Fog Alcohol Withdrawal

Every year more than one-and-a-half million people in the United States either enter alcoholism treatment or are admitted to a general hospital because of medical consequences resulting from alcohol dependence. These patients and many others who stop drinking without seeking professional treatment experience alcohol withdrawal brain fog. Alcohol withdrawal is a clinical syndrome that affects people accustomed to regular alcohol intake who either decrease their alcohol consumption or stop drinking altogether.

In these people, the central nervous system (CNS) has adjusted to the constant presence of alcohol in the body and compensates for alcohol’s depressive effects on brain function and communication among nerve cells (i.e., neurons). Consequently, when the alcohol level is suddenly lowered, the brain remains in a hyperactive, or hyperexcited, state, causing withdrawal syndrome.

Alcohol Withdrawal Brain Fog
Alcohol withdrawal brain fog is one of the most common cognitive challenges associated with prolonged alcohol abuse.

Brain Fog from Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Like other withdrawal symptoms, brain fog will start to go away with time and patients should see improvements the longer they are in recovery. This brain fog in recovery results from the brain adjusting to functioning without the substance it has become dependent on.

Alcohol withdrawal brain fog symptoms in recovery include:

  • Problems concentrating
  • Short-term memory loss or forgetfulness
  • Racing thoughts
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Feeling disoriented
  • Repetitive thinking
  • Confusion
  • Slower mental processing
  • A general feeling of fuzziness

Does Alcohol Cause Brain Fog?

Brain fog during the initial stages of withdrawal is often just your brain trying to figure out how it used to function before it was flooded with alcohol regularly. In recovery, poor physical health and unhealthy habits can exacerbate brain fog. Early recovery can be stressful, and too much stress can make brain fog worse. 

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How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Brain Fog Last?

While the timeline is different for everyone, you should begin to notice differences in your mental stability as you make your way through the detox process. Most people in the early recovery find that they are thinking much better within the 1st week, and their ability to make decisions and clearly remember things only continues to improve as they progress.

Cognitive fog in addiction recovery is typically temporary but it can also last several months. If your experience is different, you can always ask the staff at the inpatient alcohol rehab center if your challenges with thinking are normal.

Alcohol Withdrawal Brain Fog
Fighting alcohol withdrawal brain fog starts with getting sober. 

What Happens After the Fog Clears?

The brain has an amazing ability to re-wire itself after damage, but these changes may take time. After the first few days of recovery or sobriety, you will start to notice that the brain fog seems to lessen. You may have breakthrough moments when you can suddenly think clearly, but then these are followed by moments of fuzzy thinking. This is all very normal, but the fluctuations in your thought process are a sure sign that you are getting better.

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How to Get Rid of Brain Fog from Alcohol?

Dealing with alcohol withdrawal brain fog during your early recovery can be frustrating, but there are some things you can do to try and minimize the effects of brain fog and help it go away faster.

  • Sleep – Sleep allows the body to rest and recover. It also helps to restore the body’s ability to get alcohol out of someone’s system.
  • Meditation – Meditation is a promising treatment for alcohol dependence. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information, Meditation may be an effective adjunctive therapy for relapse prevention. [2] Like deep breathing, meditation can help you stay balanced and relaxed during withdrawal. Meditation can help clear your mind to focus on what matters. It pulls you out of a reactive state of mind and into a proactive state.
  • Exercise – While you may not feel like exercising during withdrawal, a small amount of exercise is one of the best tools for coping with alcohol withdrawal. Exercise releases endorphins into your brain creating natural happy feelings within a person.

Alcohol Withdrawal Brain Fog Treatment

Traditionally, patients undergoing alcohol withdrawal brain fog have been treated in hospitals and inpatient alcohol and other drugs (AOD) abuse treatment programs. General hospitals and even intensive care units are appropriate for patients whose withdrawal is severe and/or who suffer from comorbid medical, surgical, or psychiatric conditions that require hospitalization.

Inpatient treatment settings are appropriate for patients without severe withdrawal or complicating illnesses. Fortunately, you can rest assured that brain fog goes away like your other withdrawal symptoms.

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We Level Up treatment center can help with inpatient therapy programs exclusively. Because each client is different and requires unique, comprehensive care according to their situation, our staff of well-trained physicians and nurses first begin the client relationship with a detailed one-on-one assessment.

Detox

Withdrawal from alcohol is an important first step to overcoming your alcohol-related problems. However, withdrawal isn’t an effective treatment by itself. You’ll need further treatment and support to help you in the long term.  [3]

There are two significant signs of alcohol addiction:  tolerance and withdrawal.  Alcohol addiction is a dangerous condition because it can ultimately become life-threatening.  So, alcohol detox allows the body to eliminate all alcohol in the body and return to its usual functioning.  An individual struggling with a moderate to severe alcohol use disorder (alcohol addiction) has a significant likelihood of developing withdrawal symptoms and could benefit from the help of a detox program.

The longer and heavier the drinking, the more prolonged and more severe detox will be.  For this reason, going through the process sooner than later, and getting help, is critical to recovery.

Once fully admitted and evaluated, the 2nd stage of detox gets underway:  stabilization.  Based on the data provided during the admissions process, patient feedback, and the symptoms observed;  our experienced team of medical addiction professionals will provide care to keep the patient stable and as comfortable as possible. [4]

Alcohol detox can be dangerous, mainly if you do it without the help of a professional because delirium tremens and other withdrawal symptoms that may afflict the detoxing patient are hazardous and fatal.  Therefore, it is advisable to detox in a rehab center to access qualified professionals who can manage comfortable alcohol detox and withdrawal complexities.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction to help individuals identify negative thought patterns, emotions, and problematic behaviors and learn how to make healthy lifestyle changes that decrease the urges to drink alcohol and use other substances; paying particular attention to symptoms of psychosis, depression, and other co-existing mental health-related problems or dual diagnosis that are exacerbated by stress.

Counseling Services

Individual, group, and family counseling services are offered in the majority of mental health and substance abuse treatment programs to “get to the root of the problems”, improve communications and relationships, and motivate the abuser toward positive changes. . The structured guidance of a counselor helps the patient stay on track and in the right perspectives as they strive to achieve their potentials and goals of recovery.

Alcohol Withdrawal Brain Fog
It’s important to realize that brain fog is not a medical condition but a collection of symptoms associated with other medical problems.

Increasing awareness of high-risk situations and warning signs and developing avoidance strategies and coping skills for handling those situations is an important part of treatment known as relapse prevention and knowing what to do should relapse occur is equally important to ensure any long-term recovery success.

Our FREE 24-hour Hotline can help you with the resources for alcohol withdrawal brain fog. Get a free consultation for your best-fitting treatment programs and free rehab insurance verification. Call We Level Up today and speak with one of our addiction specialists to check your rehab insurance coverage and benefits.

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Sources:

[1] Introduction to Alcohol Withdrawal – National Center for Biotechnology Information
[2] Mindfulness Meditation for Alcohol Relapse Prevention: A Feasibility Pilot Study – National Center for Biotechnology Information
[3] Alcohol Misuse – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/alcohol-misuse/treatment/
[4] Stabilization Treatment Program – We Level Up New Jersey