When someone suffers from alcohol use disorder and they drink heavily, they may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms occur when a person suddenly stops drinking or shortly after their last drink. This process is called alcohol withdrawal and many people will have side effects such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, elevated blood pressure and in some severe cases delirium tremens.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcohol use disorder or known as “alcoholism” is when alcohol use turns into excessive drinking and it is difficult for the person to stop. Typically, people with alcohol use disorders have a hard time when they try to stop drinking and if they stop drinking completely after prolonged drinking they will suffer from mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. The reason why a lot of people have a harder time taking their last drink is due to these withdrawal symptoms.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the misuse and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, and prescription medications affect the health and well-being of millions of Americans.
Alcohol and Your Health
Abusing alcohol can be detrimental to your health and it can cause physical and mental symptoms if you drink frequently. First and foremost, excessive drinking excites and irritates the central nervous system. When you quit drinking it begins to affect your entire body, leading you to cravings and urges to drink more.
Excessive alcohol consumption can wreak havoc on a person’s body and in some cases a person may experience alcohol poisoning and will require professional medical advice or a physical exam to determine the extent of the damage.
Severe cases of alcohol withdrawal may result in delirium tremens which can be dangerous and fatal if not treated properly. Delirium tremens are a psychotic condition typical of withdrawal in chronic alcoholics, involving tremors, hallucinations, anxiety, and disorientation.
Symptoms of Alcoholism
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a trusted source, defines alcohol substance abuse as more than eight drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men. The Centers for Disease Control describe the following as the equivalent of one drink:
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor, including vodka, rum, gin, and whiskey
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
Binge drinking is the most common form of alcohol substance abuse. For women, it can be described having four or more drinks in one night. For men, it can be described as five or more drinks in one night.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who provides trustworthy health information, 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older (5.6 percent of this age group) had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2019. Among youth, an estimated 414,000 adolescents ages 12–17 (1.7 percent of this age group) had AUD during this timeframe.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
People who drink excessively and are dealing with alcohol addiction may experience alcohol detox symptoms or alcohol withdrawal symptoms after the effects of their last drink wears off. These effects can include mild symptoms like anxiety or sweating to more severe symptoms that are life threatening such as delirium tremens.
The most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is when someone has delirium tremens. Delirium tremens can cause a person to develop a fever, have seizures, high blood pressure, extreme confusion or even hallucinations.
Not everyone who drinks alcohol for prolonged periods or people with a drinking problem will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms or alcohol detox when they discontinue alcohol use suddenly.
Lots of people who suddenly stop drinking after drinking excessively will experience some type of symptoms of alcohol withdrawal that are mild to severe.
The most common detoxing from alcohol symptoms include:
- Clammy skin
- Sweating, especially the palms of your hands or your face
- Loss of appetite
- High blood pressure
- Tremor of your hands
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate or palpitations
- Mild anxiety
- Rapid emotional changes
- Bad dreams
- Severe confusion
- Irritability or becoming excited easily
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Feeling nervous or jumpy
Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
Acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the name for the symptoms that occur when a heavy drinker suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is more likely to happen to adults, but teenagers or children who drink excessively may develop it as well.
In order to diagnose alcohol withdrawal syndrome you will be medically reviewed by your doctor who will look at your medical history, ask about your alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and conduct a physical exam. Some alcohol withdrawal syndrome signs your doctor will look for include:
- A fever
- Hand tremors
- An irregular heart rate
If you or someone you know is experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome or alcohol related physical complications, please reach out to our team. These alcohol withdrawal effects can be life threatening and it might be a medical emergency or may be necessary to be medically reviewed by a physician. Our team is trained in medical detox and can provide advice, diagnosis or treatment when necessary.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
Below is the most common stages of alcohol withdrawal:
Stage 1 (mild alcohol withdrawal): symptoms might include hand tremor, headache, anxiety, heart palpitations, insomnia, anxiety, hand tremor, and gastrointestinal disturbances.
Stage 2 (moderate alcohol withdrawal): symptoms might include stage 1 mild symptoms in addition to increased heart rate or blood pressure, mild hyperthermia, confusion, and rapid abnormal breathing.
Stage 3 (severe alcohol withdrawal): symptoms include stage 2 moderate symptoms in addition seizures, impaired attention, disorientation, hallucinations and visual or auditory hallucinations.
Here are the typical timelines of alcohol withdrawal:
6-12 hours after drinking– the most mild symptoms of the beginning of withdrawal may begin to be felt, including anxiety, headache, insomnia, upset stomach and small tremors.
By 24 hours– some people may have begun to experience visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations.
24-72 hours– some of the symptoms and side effects have peaked but may have started to level off or resolve (some symptoms may stick around for longer) A risk of a seizure is the highest from 24-48 hours after the last drink. It is best to be monitored closely and watch for seizure prophylaxis. Withdrawal delirium (i.e., DTs) may occur from 48-72 hours after a person has stopped drinking.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
One of the most commonly abused substances in America is alcohol. Detoxing from alcohol is a dangerous and frequent occurrence in treatment centers. Withdrawal symptoms are not only severe but in rare circumstances, detoxing alone can be deadly. Because of the risks involved, it is always recommended that those who need to get sober utilize an alcohol detox center to manage the detoxification process.
Before deciding on treatment facilities or treatment centers for addiction, you will be medically reviewed by your doctor with the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA-Ar) scale to assess how severe your substance abuse is.
Mild cases of alcohol withdrawal may be treated at home under the care of a doctor who can provide routine exams or blood tests. During alcohol detox it may be necessary to be admitted to a medical detox facility where you can be closely monitored for life threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Addiction Treatment at Inland Detox
Inland Detox is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment center that is located in Temecula, California. We provide substance abuse treatment to those suffering from all types of addiction including drug and alcohol abuse.
Some of the services we provide include medical detox, family therapy, support groups, clinical management, and constant medical expertise from our addiction staff. Our clinicians and counselors can help provide medical advice to address better strategies for dealing with drug or alcohol abuse.
Before you begin treatment your personal data will be medically reviewed by our family physicians. They will conduct a complete medical history, and discuss common withdrawal symptoms.
If you, or someone you know is suffering from alcohol dependence and acute alcohol withdrawal, please call (888) 739-8296 for immediate assistance.
Withdrawal from Alcohol
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
Detoxing from Alcohol Symptoms
Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal