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What are the symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Struggling with Alcoholism -Which Rehab

Alcohol withdrawal refers to the symptoms that manifest if you have an alcohol use disorder and you suddenly stop drinking.

Here we will discuss the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol (also known as Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, or AWS), what symptoms you might experience and how best to manage the alcohol detox process.



What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

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Long-term alcohol abuse can quickly cause you to build up a tolerance to the substance. This can result in various unpleasant psychological and physical symptoms and in some cases, these withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous.

Not everyone will experience the same symptoms or indeed symptoms of the same intenseness, however, regular alcohol consumption depresses the central nervous system which means that it slows down brain activity. This can cause changes to your mood, behaviour, and self-control without you realising it.

Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:

Psychological Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Impaired judgement
  • Nervousness
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Vivid dreams
  • Shakiness

Physical Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Clammy skin
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tremors
  • Paleness
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Rapid heart rate

Timeline of symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

It’s important to note that the information provided here will give you a rough idea of what to expect during alcohol detox and how long it takes for the side effects of alcoholism withdrawal to manifest. This timeline will vary for each person and is dependent on several factors.

6 – 12 hours

Signs of alcohol withdrawal typically start around 12 hours after your last drink. During this first stage, you might experience stomach cramps, vomiting, tremors, sweating and intense cravings for alcohol. It’s during this first phase that many people struggle to remain abstinent.

12 – 24 hours

At this stage, your original alcohol withdrawal symptoms won’t have subsided, and you may begin to feel more fatigued and feverish. Loss of appetite is common for someone experiencing alcohol withdrawal, but you might also be dehydrated due to vomiting and because your body is trying to process the alcohol. It’s important you remain hydrated for the duration of your withdrawal.

24-48 hours

Stage three is the most difficult and dangerous part of alcohol withdrawal. At this stage, some of the more severe withdrawal symptoms such as Delirium Tremens (DTs), may begin. Delirium Tremens is a condition that can cause confusion, seizures, and memory loss, and can even be fatal in rare cases. Your risk of Delirium Tremens is based on the severity of your alcohol addiction and how much you have been drinking.

In addition to intense alcohol cravings, you may also experience mood swings, irritability, anxiety and hallucinations. This phase of alcohol withdrawal is often referred to as acute withdrawal.

After 48 hours, certain withdrawal symptoms might begin to subside, however, in most cases, insomnia, anxiety, and other mental and physical signs of alcohol withdrawal may persist for days or weeks.


Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

PAWS relates to withdrawal symptoms that persist even after a long recovery period. Acute withdrawal refers to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and can last anywhere between 1 to 2 weeks. However, PAWS symptoms may be recurring, reappearing on and off for months.


How To Safely Treat Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

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Not only is AWS unpleasant, but it can also be extremely dangerous if not managed properly. The safest form of alcohol withdrawal treatment is to undergo a medically supervised detox. Detox is the term used to describe the process of the body eliminating alcohol. If possible, detox should be managed by a team of medical professionals in a rehab clinic.

A medically supervised detox means that you’ll receive around-the-clock care as you begin the withdrawal phase. Due to the risks associated with alcohol withdrawal, medications are usually prescribed to help ease the discomfort and ensure you’re in a stable condition.

What happens if I relapse?

Once you’ve been through alcohol withdrawal and have remained abstinent for some time, staying sober is recommended, as your risk of overdose increases significantly once you’ve detoxed.

Many people believe they can go back to drinking the same amount they did before they quit alcohol. Your body will be unable to process such a volume and you risk experiencing severe symptoms, overdosing or suffering alcohol poisoning, all of which can be fatal. 

Relapse is a common part of recovery, and doesn’t necessarily mean failure. Many people attend 12-step meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous for additional support following treatment and to help them maintain sobriety.

Treatment For Alcohol Withdrawal

The best type of addiction treatment for alcohol withdrawal symptoms is a combination of detox, followed by psychological therapy and addiction counselling. While a medically managed detox is crucial in treating the physical side effects of alcoholism withdrawal, therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, trauma therapy and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy are often used to identify triggers and underlying causes.

Alcohol, along with opioids and benzos, is considered one of the most dangerous substances when it comes to detox. Detox typically lasts between 7-10 days, however, this could vary based on several factors, including the amount you were drinking, how long you have had an alcohol addiction, as well as your age, sex and weight. 

If you drink heavily on a regular basis and have experienced any of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms mentioned above, then it’s likely you need alcohol addiction treatment.

Our team at Which Rehab are here to guide you through the next steps and find you the best rehab facility. Call us today to book a free telephone conversation with one of our team. 



 1 Introduction to Alcohol Withdrawal – NIH