Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: The Common Signs

Alcohol addiction and alcoholism are becoming more and more prevalent in America.

Withdrawal from alcohol often causes mild symptoms like depression and anxiety, however it can also lead to seizures, hallucinations, and even death.

According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, it is nearly impossible to predict withdrawal symptoms in a patient since they vary from person to person. This leads to a wide range in withdrawal symptoms and risks associated with them.

Extended alcohol use leads to a chemical alcohol dependence, which is what causes alcohol withdrawal. As the body becomes dependent on the chemical interaction that alcohol causes, it loses the ability to function normally without it. When people with a dependence suddenly stop drinking, the body reacts to the lack of alcohol, resulting in withdrawal.

Alcohol Abuse is a Nationwide Issue

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death, killing nearly 100,000 Americans nationwide. More than 100 million people used alcohol in the last month, and more than 10% of those people were drinking heavily.

There are millions of Americans who are also considered to have an alcohol use disorder, or AUD. An AUD is characterized by someone who has an impaired ability to stop drinking. It is often the precursor to alcoholism.

Due to this rampant spread of alcohol abuse and use, there is an increasing number of people experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal is both uncomfortable and dangerous. It is vital to treat alcohol withdrawal in a medical setting whenever possible.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

The first symptoms of withdrawal can occur as soon as 4 hours after the last drink. Symptoms usually worsen as time goes on, until they peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last drink.

The first 24 hours of alcohol withdrawal are usually accompanied by sweating, shakiness, irritability, and anxiety. These symptoms are also coupled with intense cravings for more alcohol.

After 24 hours, symptoms begin to worsen, sometimes leading to fever, insomnia, and confusion. Some people also experience delirium tremens, or DT’s during this time which can be life threatening.

After the first 24 to 72 hours, symptoms begin to decrease and become more tolerable. However, nobody should ever try to detox on their own. Alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous and cause a number of different serious health concerns.

Delirium tremens occur in about 5% of heavy drinkers who are detoxing from alcohol. DT’s cause convulsing, hallucinations, and can be deadly. This increases the risks and dangers of alcohol withdrawal. The risks of DT’s require that alcohol detox and care be provided in a setting that can handle such cases.

The best way to overcome alcohol withdrawal is to do so in a detox facility. Detox facilities can provide medications that alleviate withdrawal symptoms and treat other conditions as they occur. The medical supervision also ensures the safety of the individual.

Long-Term Withdrawal Symptoms

While the worst symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually pass after a week of stopping, other symptoms can still afflict people for months after use. These long term symptoms are usually referred to as PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome.

PAWS are often a reason that many people relapse. PAWS symptoms include cravings, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. These factors often lead people to drink again, thinking it will be helpful or different this time. Unfortunately, this frequently leads back to alcohol abuse and eventually back to addiction to alcohol.

Thankfully, a medical detox followed by treatment and a program of recovery help to fight withdrawal symptoms long term and also prevent relapse.

Treatment for Withdrawal Symptoms

Many people find themselves wondering how to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Some people drink excessive amounts of water to try and flush out the alcohol from their system. Others try to stop the chills and shakiness by taking hot baths. People will often try to sleep it off.

However, this simply isn’t realistic.

Withdrawal symptoms are often so severe that people cannot sleep at all. Drinking water may help the body flush out toxins, but it cannot stop the chemical dependence in the brain that is causing withdrawal. While an at home detox or cold turkey approach is affordable, it isn’t practical.

Unfortunately, it is frequently unsafe to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms at home. The dangers of withdrawal are too severe to risk self-care. A medically supervised treatment facility is always advised to help overcome alcohol.

Treatment Programs for Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol treatment programs also vary depending on the person. These are called individualized programs. Some people need intensive care in an inpatient setting, while others with more mild issues can simply go to outpatient care. The combination of care, therapy, and other programs the person participates in is what makes up their treatment plan.

Inpatient programs provide alcoholics and addicts receive 24 hour care, while outpatient programs are less intensive. After detox, it is recommended that people remain in inpatient care for some time to ensure their safety and monitor them for continued withdrawal symptoms.

After inpatient, individuals should always continue treatment wherever possible with outpatient care. This allows for continued structure and therapy. Outpatient care used in conjunction with 12-step support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous are quite effective. They also help to build a network of sober supports.

Our Alcohol Rehab Programs

At The Recovery Team, we have been providing treatment for alcohol addiction and alcoholism for nearly 3 decades. Our experienced staff know how to treat every case, mild to severe. Our facility is updated, comfortable, and most importantly safe. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol, we are here to help.