Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Laura Smart - Author for Rehab Clinics Group

Laura Smart - Last Updated: September 27, 2022 | All Sources

Last reviewed: September 27, 2022 by Dr Alexander Lapa. All information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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Alcohol Withdrawal symptoms can be mild or aggressive and are often the most challenging aspect of any rehabilitation programme.

Here we look at what alcohol withdrawal symptoms are, why you get them and how long they last for.

By understanding what symptoms you may experience you can better prepare for rehab and under the watchful eye of our addiction specialists, complete this challenging phase of your recovery.

When a heavy drinker or alcoholic suddenly decreases their drinking or stops drinking altogether, withdrawal symptoms are commonly experienced as a result. The withdrawal symptoms which are caused by alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and should be treated with great care.Alcohol withdrawal person illustration

Withdrawal symptoms that are experienced once alcohol consumption has ended cause a condition known as ‘Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome’. This is a reaction that happens once a person dependent on alcohol becomes deprived of the substance.

The higher your intake of alcohol, the more likely you are to experience withdrawal symptoms when you reduce or stop your drinking altogether. If you are concerned that you may be dependent on alcohol, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible.


What Is Alcohol Addiction Withdrawal?

When someone is addicted to alcohol, they often find it difficult to control the amount that they drink and how often they consume alcohol. For people with alcohol addictions, it is very difficult to reduce or stop substance abuse because of the effect that alcohol has on brain chemistry.

Alcohol is a depressant which causes the chemicals and processes that are ordinarily in the brain to change. This can cause a decrease in mental health among a number of other health problems.

Alcohol withdrawal is the unpleasant experience that occurs when you attempt to reduce or stop your alcohol intake. When you’re constantly exposed to alcohol, this causes your body to get used to having the substance in your system. This means that the absence of the substance causes a variety of withdrawal symptoms which can be dangerous if not managed correctly.

There are several withdrawal symptoms that an addict may experience once they have ceased consumption of alcohol, and these will vary from person to person. Below, we will take a look at the various symptoms that may be experienced during alcohol withdrawal.


What Are The Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

There are several factors that can influence the severity of withdrawal symptoms from alcohol. These include the amount of alcohol consumption involved, the length of time that you have been addicted to alcohol, and your personal physical and mental health.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms often come in the form of physical and psychological symptoms. Below, we will go through a list of the potential physical and mental withdrawal symptoms that you may experience as a result of a lack of alcohol.

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pains
  • Diarrhoea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Shivers and chills
  • Fatigue
  • High temperature
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nightmares
  • Tremors
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased heart rate

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intense alcohol cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulties with concentration
  • Mood Swings
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Confusion

In some severe cases, an addict may experience severe withdrawal symptoms known as ‘delirium tremens’. During this type of withdrawal, the addict will usually experience visual or auditory hallucinations or seizures.

Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal and can lead to cardiovascular collapse and hypertension. This is why it is important to seek medical assistance whilst going through alcohol withdrawal.


What is The Cause of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms from drinking are usually caused by the way your brain reacts to the consumption of alcohol.

Alcohol affects certain areas of the brain including the part of the brain that is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ function. This helps our brains respond the threats and danger by preparing us to either react to the danger or run away from the danger. Since alcohol is a depressant, drinking can suppress the ‘fight or flight’ response.

As a result of long-term heavy drinking, over time, the central nervous system becomes accustomed to the suppressing effects of alcohol. This results in a tolerance to alcohol which causes the brain to be affected if you suddenly stop or reduce your alcohol intake. As soon as the alcohol leaves your body, you may go straight into the ‘fight or flight’ response, even if there is absolutely no danger around.

Regardless of whether the withdrawal symptoms are psychological such as anxiety or physical such as tremors, these are all caused by the brain’s reaction to a lack of alcohol.

If you are at all worried about your own or someone else’s drinking problem, it’s important to get professional help as soon as possible. Contact the experts at Rehab Clinics Group to get advice and guidance about alcohol addiction treatment.


How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Tend To Last?

The length of time that alcohol withdrawal symptoms last will depend a lot on the extent of the addiction and the length of time that the alcohol addiction has been present. It can also be influenced by weight, age and genetics.

The very first symptoms of withdrawal will usually occur within around eight hours of the consumption of the last drink. The withdrawal symptoms will tend to be the worst within the first 48 hours without alcohol.

However, after this stage, the symptoms should begin to gradually improve as the body starts to adjust to the change. The entire withdrawal process will usually last for between three to seven days after the consumption of the last drink. Some severe cases may experience withdrawal symptoms for around 10 days.


How Does Alcohol Withdrawal Relate to Alcohol Dependency?

If you experience any withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking, this is a clear sign that you have become dependent on alcohol. Also, if you are experiencing these symptoms multiple times each week, this means that you likely have a serious addiction to alcohol which requires treatment.

People who become dependent on alcohol will often experience a range of strong and uncontrollable desires to drink alcohol and will also often feel like they can’t function without alcohol.

Alcohol dependence is also sometimes known as ‘alcoholism’. Alcoholism is a serious condition which can lead to a range of long-term health issues, with liver disease, stroke, cancers and depression being common health problems caused by alcohol abuse.

If you believe that you or someone you know is dependent on alcohol, you should seek medical or professional help as soon as possible from a reputable alcohol rehab.


What is The Best Way to Relieve The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

If you experience withdrawal symptoms, you will need to get some medical support to help you through this time so that you can stop drinking. A professional will help you detox safely with medical support.

People with severe alcohol dependency may be given prescription drugs and medications to help with withdrawal and to avoid the danger of experiencing a seizure as they stop consuming alcohol.

The best ways to relieve alcohol withdrawal symptoms include the following:

  • Stay hydrated with non-alcoholic drinks
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Eat regularly
  • Find some ways to relax such as listening to music or going for a walk
  • Seek support from friends and family
  • Take any prescribed medication as needed

Seeking help for addiction at alcohol rehab is the best way to manage withdrawal symptoms. At private rehab, medical support will be provided around the clock to ensure that the detox phase is as manageable and pain-free as possible.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Rehab Expensive?

    A professional rehabilitation centre can be very expensive. However, the benefits that you reap from having a higher quality of care, such as that provided in all of the clinics that we are all to refer you to, cannot be understated. Also, here at Rehab Clinics Group we are able to work with all manner of budgets in order to get you into a treatment plan which is best for you and your finances. When it comes to your health you deserve the best possible care, which is what we can provide you with.
  • What Happens After I Leave Rehab?

    For most people who finish a course of inpatient treatment at a rehabilitation centre, there can be a real sense of trepidation about re-entering society. Finding yourself back at home after such an intensive course of treatment may be unsettling at first, but the important thing for you to do is start focussing on the positives that come with living free from addiction. Also, as mentioned above, Rehab Clinics Group refer to treatment centres that offer aftercare programmes, which will ensure that you have the support you had during treatment to ease the transition back to everyday life.
  • How Do I Prepare To Go To Rehab?

    In terms of preparation for rehab, the main thing that you need to be is ready to make serious changes to your lifestyle, thought patterns, and behaviour. The willingness to commit to recovery and give yourself over to the positive changes that specialist therapists can bring about is key to a successful stay at rehab. When it comes to your physical preparation, there is little that needs to be done as the facility’s detox clinic will get you in the best physical state for your recovery. We do not advise detoxing at home prior to arrival as this is extremely dangerous.
Dr Alexander Lapa - Psychiatrist & Clinical Reviewer for Rehab Clinics Group

Dr Alexander Lapa - Clinical Reviewer - Last reviewed: September 27, 2022

MBBS, PG Dip Clin Ed, OA Dip CBT, OA Dip Psychology, SCOPE Certified

Dr Lapa graduated in Medicine in 2000 and since this time has accrued much experience working in the widest range of psychiatric settings with differing illness presentations and backgrounds in inpatient, community and secure settings. This has been aligned to continuation of professional development at postgraduate level in clinical research which has been very closely related to the everyday clinical practice conducted by this practitioner as a NHS and Private Psychiatrist.
He is fully indemnified by the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) and MIAB Expert Insurance for Psychiatric and Private Medical practice. He is fully registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK with a licence to practice.

Dr Lapa is approved under Section 12(2) of the Mental Health Act (1983)

Member of Independent Doctors Federation (IDF), British Association for Psychopharmacology (BMA) and The Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)

Dr Lapa’s extensive experience has also concentrated on the following areas of clinical practice:
– Assessment, Diagnosis and Pharmacological Treatment for Adults with ADHD.
– Drug and Alcohol Dependency and maintaining abstinence and continued recovery
– Intravenous and Intramuscular Vitamin and Mineral Infusion Therapy
– Dietary and Weight Management and thorough care from assessment to treatment to end goals and maintenance
– Aesthetic Practice and Procedures