Official warns of effects of sudden alcohol withdrawal

The inability to access alcohol could have dire consequences for people suffering from alcohol use disorder, including complications that could lead to hospitalization, warned substance abuse specialist Rochelle Basden.

Basden, who is the deputy director of psychological services at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre, stressed the importance of ensuring that people with alcohol dependence have access to help and know where they can turn if they require treatment or intervention.

“What happens to those people who may now go into withdrawal?” she asked.

“Withdrawal from alcohol is a serious thing. It’s a medical condition. It can develop into delirium tremens, or what we commonly refer to as DTs, requiring medical attention.

“So we have to be cognizant of these things. We have to make sure that we have access.”

She said withdrawal symptoms include increased blood pressure and irritability that could lead to hallucinations.

“In the extreme cases, persons can have seizures, stroke, heart attack, death. That’s how serious it is. It can manifest after two to three days of not having the substance for heavy users,” Basden said.

She said there are a lot of people in The Bahamas who have problems with alcohol use.

Last month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis ordered the closure of most businesses, including liquor stores, in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While she was not advocating for the government to reopen liquor stores, Basden, who was a guest on the Guardian Radio show “Morning Blend”, with host Dwight Strachan yesterday, reiterated that treatment options are paramount.

“So for instance, the community counselling assessment center, which is our outpatient arm of Sandilands, is [now] operational,” she added.

Basden said when the emergency orders were initially announced, there was some disruption in the services that Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre offered. However, she said operations have since resumed.

The clinic is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Basden said the clinic treats patients over the phone and through online video platforms.

She added that people who didn’t previously seek help for alcohol dependency may need to do so now.

“There are a lot of people who are out there, who are on the edge, who just manage it and they’re doing fine it would appear. But at times like this, they would come to the forefront because their usual supply chain is disrupted.

“Similar to what you see with some of the other banned substances, like marijuana; it quickly goes underground. So in the beginning, people may have a supply that they are able to rely on and go to, but as it starts to look serious…then people are scrambling to find the resources that are available. Not all of these people who are doing this have a problem with the substance.”

On Monday, Minnis said the decision to close liquor stores was based on the advice from medical professionals.

“Medical personnel feel that at this point in time, all resources should be utilized to fight the common enemy that we face, and that is COVID,” he said.

“It’s not unusual for a lot of resources during a given time [to be] diverted in the emergency room to deal with the effects of alcohol and ramifications.

“They feel this should not be the time when alcohol should be open, so that their resources would be diverted to the emergency room to deal with the effects of alcohol as opposed to consolidating it all for [COVID-19].”


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