alcohol withdrawal
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Alcohol Withdrawal: What is It?

Alcohol withdrawal can be challenging to deal with, but full recovery is highly possible with appropriate and immediate treatment. This withdrawal occurs when an individual has been consuming a large amount of alcohol over a long period and suddenly stops drinking.

While withdrawal from most substances is difficult, alcohol withdrawal has the potential to have fatal consequences if the right help is not given. You might have the best intention to stop drinking or want your loved one to stop drinking to change their life for the better, but stopping suddenly might not be the best way to go about it.

Getting professional help and support can play a significant part in managing alcohol withdrawal safely, allowing you or your loved one to recover and heal with lasting results.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal refers to what the body goes through when a long-time heavy drinker suddenly stops consuming alcohol. Alcohol creates a slowing effect on a person’s brain. In a long-term heavy drinker, the person’s brain is continuously experiencing this depressant effect.

Gradually, the brain starts adjusting to this effect by modifying its chemistry to compensate for the alcohol’s effect. It starts producing a larger amount of stimulating chemicals, like norepinephrine or serotonin.

When the person stops drinking alcohol suddenly, it creates havoc in the brain as it struggles to catch up with the imbalance. This results in multiple symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The more you drink over a long time, the higher your chances of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. This is particularly true if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or have any health issues.

Prevention is the key to avoiding experiencing severe symptoms. Alcoholism can be caused due to multiple reasons, including family history, trauma, grief, and sudden life changes. It is integral to get the help you need immediately, particularly if you have a family history, to avoid forming a dependence on alcohol.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The duration and severity of these symptoms can vary based on multiple factors, including the medical history of the individual, duration of drinking, the number of drinks consumed, drinking frequency, and co-occurring health problems. These can also be mild to severe and can manifest over time.

Here is the timeline of the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:

Within 6 to 12 hours:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Shaking
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

Within 12 to 24 hours:

  • Hand tremors
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures

Within 48 hours:

  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Excessive sweating
  • Visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Delirium tremens
  • High fever

Typically, these symptoms start improving within five to six days, but in some cases, they could last longer.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

The physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can last up to five days or more, but the emotional withdrawal could last much longer. Some people might experience symptoms for months or even years if not treated. Some major emotional withdrawal symptoms may include insomnia, anorexia, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and even death.

Safe Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal

There are multiple safe treatment options available for alcohol withdrawal, no matter how severe or minor the symptoms are. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can swiftly change and progress within hours, which is why having a professional medical team with you is integral to coping with the symptoms safely.

When it comes to alcohol withdrawal treatment, there is no one correct treatment, but it generally includes a combination of the following programs:

Inpatient Treatment

This is the rehab treatment in a supervised environment for individuals dealing with a severe case of alcohol withdrawal or alcohol addiction. These treatments include constant monitoring of the individual, medication, and other activities for at least 30 days.

Outpatient Treatment

This is an ideal treatment for individuals who have less severe symptoms. They can get treatment while also managing their everyday activities.


In some cases, the health care provider prescribes medication to help the individual manage their symptoms and recover efficiently. These might also be required for existing health issues or co-occurring mental health issues, like anxiety and depression.

Individual Therapy

Therapists and counselors offer support to the individual to help them deal with the highs and lows that are associated with alcohol withdrawal. They help establish an effective plan to guide the individual through the many underlying issues with healthy coping mechanisms.

Support Groups

The treatment for alcohol withdrawal often includes group therapy or support groups as a way to provide an outlet for the individuals experiencing the symptoms to discuss their issues, challenges, and goals with others going through the same thing.

It is encouraged to continue attending the support groups and getting the therapy even after you have recovered from the symptoms to help you avoid triggers and enjoy a well-balanced life.

Can You Treat Alcohol Withdrawal on your Own?

Treating alcohol withdrawal at home without supervision might not be a wise idea since when you suddenly stop drinking after a prolonged time, it could result in an alcohol withdrawal seizure and other severe symptoms.

Getting the right treatment under the supervision of a professional ensures you safely recover and get immediate treatment in case of a complication. One must particularly avoid self-treatment for alcohol withdrawal if you are at higher risk of getting delirium tremens, which causes confusion, shaking, fever, and hallucination.

  • The factors that increase your risk of developing delirium tremens include:
  • Drinking daily in high amounts for an extended time
  • Experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms before with delirium tremens
  • Having an infection
  • Having a history of seizures or experiencing seizures as a withdrawal symptom

Getting Professional Help

Alcohol withdrawal is a painful and dangerous process, but it is one of the most significant steps toward recovery and healing. It is vital to get treatment for alcohol withdrawal and alcohol addiction from a health professional to ensure you undergo an easier and safer recovery process.

It is essential to remember that getting treated for alcohol withdrawal is only a short-term fix, and you must deal with the root cause of the problem. Continuous therapy can help you avoid relapse and manage your triggers in a healthy manner.

About the author
Jason Klimkowski
Jason Klimkowski enjoys leading our SEO and Content strategy. He credits his comfort in navigating the Digital Marketing space to his spontaneous curiosity and broad industry background. Jason earned his MBA from the University of South Florida and his BBA from the University of North Florida. When not creating content, he enjoys pursuing pelagics, reading about mental health, working inside with ample natural light, and being outdoors.

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