Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Table of Contents

Drinking alcohol can change the body and brain in more ways than you may realize. When someone has been drinking heavily for long periods, they often experience physical and mental withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. During detox, the body attempts to break its dependence on alcohol. As withdrawal symptoms intensify, you’re likely to need extra support. Whether you take advantage of at-home detox services or go to a medical facility to detox, it’s smart to be prepared for alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Any time someone becomes physically dependent on a substance, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, or caffeine, they risk experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the substance. If you’ve developed alcohol dependence, your body and brain have adapted to alcohol use.

This dependence significantly affects your central nervous system. Alcohol is a depressant, which slows down the speed of the central nervous system and acts as a sedative. If you continue to drink heavily regularly, your body and brain will work harder to stay awake by releasing more stimulating chemicals. Over time, this imbalance will affect your body’s biochemistry.

When you stop drinking alcohol, your brain will continue to produce these stimulating chemicals. The brain and body notice the absence of alcohol and struggle to function normally. At this point, you’ll feel the effects of the chemical imbalance, which appear as alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Who Experiences Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Some people experience only mild symptoms when they stop drinking alcohol. Others endure more severe symptoms. Many factors affect whether or not you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms and how these symptoms impact you, including:

  • How long you’ve been drinking
  • How much you drink at a time
  • How frequently you drink
  • Your age
  • Any other health conditions you have

Most people with alcohol use disorder will have some symptoms when they first get sober. One of the benefits of detox is that medical professionals can tailor your treatment plan to your specific situation, including your withdrawal side effects.

Early Symptoms of Withdrawal

Symptoms are usually relatively mild within the first six to 12 hours as alcohol leaves your system. In this stage, you might have side effects like:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Minor tremors or shaking, such as shaky hands
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue

Intense Early Withdrawal Symptoms

Between 12 to 48 hours after your last drink, other alcohol withdrawal symptoms may begin. These symptoms tend to be more serious and can include:

  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Rising heart rate
  • Rising blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Clammy skin

Later Symptoms of Withdrawal

By 72 hours after your last drink, alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually begin to resolve. However, between 24 and 72 hours, you may be at high risk for dangerous symptoms like seizures, fevers, mental confusion, or rapid breathing. Most people with alcohol use disorder don’t experience these side effects, but if you do, it’s important to seek medical attention. Ongoing medical monitoring and immediate treatment are benefits of detox in a professional environment.

A few people will experience a life-threatening withdrawal side effect known as delirium tremens (DT). Fever, hallucinations, confusion, heavy sweating, and seizures are some signs of DT. Seek medical treatment immediately if these symptoms occur.

Some psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms, like fatigue and depression, can persist for months. However, a strong recovery program can help you manage these symptoms.

Alcohol Rehab with Southern Sky Recovery

Starting your recovery journey takes courage. From the initial stages of detox and withdrawal to outpatient programs and alumni support, Southern Sky Recovery and our empathetic, compassionate staff members will be with you.

We offer at-home detox services as well as a range of outpatient programs. Each of our alcohol rehab programs includes personalized attention, ongoing education, and individual therapy. Handling the physical symptoms is just one step in the process; you’ll also learn healthy ways to manage triggers and coping techniques for a sober life.

If you think alcohol abuse treatment is necessary for you or someone you care about, contact us at [Direct] to learn more. We’re here to help.

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