Alcohol withdrawal is a term used to describe a number of symptoms that can occur when someone who is dependent on alcohol suddenly stops drinking.
This can develop as a result of someone trying to quit drinking or begin when someone with an alcohol dependence has been at least six hours without a drink.
Alcohol withdrawal can cause physical symptoms such as nausea and sweating, as well as psychological symptoms.
The experience of withdrawal be mild, moderate, or severe in nature depending on:
- how long someone has been drinking
- how much they drink and how often
- other medical or mental health conditions
- detox setting
Without the support of medical professionals, some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can become severe and potentially life-threatening.
If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol, it is important to understand the signs and risks of alcohol withdrawal. Learn more about the signs of alcohol withdrawal, health risks during withdrawal, and treatment.
Alcohol Withdrawal Signs And Symptoms
Withdrawal is a key sign of alcohol dependency, which can develop as a result of alcohol abuse and addiction. Early signs of alcohol withdrawal can begin within as little as six to eight hours after a person’s last drink.
Later symptoms can arise in the following days, with the person growing more uncomfortable before symptoms reach their peak.
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Withdrawal is an uncomfortable experience that can disrupt a person’s work or domestic life, making it difficult to get through the day without drinking. In this way, people who are dependent on alcohol may feel like they have to drink just to feel normal.
The primary sign of alcohol addiction and withdrawal is being unable to go a day without drinking. As a result, you may notice a person drinking during the day, sneaking drinks at work, or joking about how sick they feel if they do not drink.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal is a condition that occurs in the body and can affect your physical, emotional, and mental state.
Early signs of alcohol withdrawal (6-12 hours after last drink):
- loss of appetite
- mood swings
- stomach pain
- heart palpitations
Later symptoms (24-48 hours after last drink):
- increased blood pressure
- suicidal thoughts
Symptoms typically peak two to three days after withdrawal begins. Following this peak period, most physical symptoms will gradually reduce and disappear.
The most significant concerns during withdrawal include risk for dehydration, malnutrition, and a severe form of alcohol withdrawal.
Severe or chronic alcohol abuse can put a person at risk for a severe type of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens (DT). Symptoms of DT can become life-threatening without medical support.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- severe confusion
- seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
- high fever
- rapid or irregular heart rate
Symptoms of DT most often begin within the first 48 hours of alcohol withdrawal. This form of alcohol withdrawal is rare, but more common among chronic alcoholics and people without a strong support system to help manage symptoms.
Other factors that can predict the likelihood of DT include: older age, co-occurring disorders, history of severe alcohol withdrawal, very heavy drinking, and dehydration.
How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
The acute stage of alcohol withdrawal generally lasts a week. However, the exact timeline can vary for each person based on how severe their alcohol dependence is, if they have any other drugs in their system, and other personal factors.
Acute withdrawal refers to the initial phase of your body adjusting to the lack of alcohol in your system. It’s within this stage that most symptoms begin and later dissipate.
Due to the potential health complications that can arise, entering a detox program for alcohol withdrawal is recommended.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
Detoxification, or detox, is the process of allowing drugs or alcohol to leave a person’s system. The safest way to detox from alcohol is to enter a medical detox program. This is offered within many addiction rehab centers as the first step of alcohol abuse and addiction treatment.
Detoxing within a formal detox program is highly recommended, as trying to do so at home can be uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst. Trying to detox without professional support also increases the chance of relapse.
Medically supervised detox programs for alcohol withdrawal offer:
- 24-hour monitoring
- secluded setting
- hydration and nutritional support
- use of medications to ease withdrawal symptoms
Detox programs typically last between 5 to 7 days to cover the acute stage of alcohol withdrawal. However, it is not uncommon for certain symptoms—such as depression, alcohol cravings, and anxiety—to continue for weeks or months afterward.
The best way to get support for these continuing symptoms and to avoid relapse is to enter an inpatient or residential treatment program for alcohol addiction.
This can connect people to treatments for managing symptoms and provide a supportive space for people to learn how to remain sober.
Alcohol Detox And Treatment At The Treehouse
The Treehouse rehab center offers a peaceful and secure environment for people to detox from alcohol under the supervision of medical professionals.
Our detox services provide patients with a strong support system and access to treatments for symptom-relief as they undergo the initial stages of withdrawal.
However, we also recognize that recovering from alcohol addiction can be a long-term process that requires additional support beyond detox.
Through our residential alcohol rehab program, patients at The Treehouse are able to receive treatment for persisting withdrawal symptoms and learn healthy coping skills for sobriety.
Treatment within our alcohol abuse and addiction program includes:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
- motivational interviewing (MI)
- group therapy
- family therapy
- medication-assisted treatment
- mindfulness and stress management practices
Alcohol treatment at The Treehouse is tailored to meet each person’s needs for treatment and recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our alcohol detox services and residential treatment program for addiction.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine — Clinical management of alcohol withdrawal: A systematic review
- American Family Physician — Outpatient Management of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome