We have all the information you need on alcohol withdrawal, all in a single place.
For someone who has become alcohol dependent, trying to cut alcohol intake can be challenging. If you drink heavily, you risk an increased heart rate when you quit. The pressure on your nervous system can trigger mental and physical medical symptoms – but if you can get through the treatment for alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you will be on the right path.
Known as “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome”, the severity of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms you may experience when you quit drinking, vary. How long your recovery lasts is generally dependent on how long and how much you have been drinking. Most cases of acute alcohol withdrawal will be over within a week to ten days. If you have decided to quit on your own, we suggest you seek medical advice before you go any further.
Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal is a condition that affects your whole being. There’s a common misconception that alcoholism is just “in your head”, as if it were a mental health problem. The reality is that once the addiction has taken hold, it affects your entire body including your brain. Your mental health is affected as a result. You will need a doctor or rehab to recover.
Some of the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include a racing heart rate, a worn out nervous system, and physical movement becoming wearisome. When a person drinks all the time, recovery can seem impossible. Fortunately, the alcohol detox process is at its worst for the first 72 hours. After this 72 hour period, the medical symptoms stop being so severe and you can make your recovery.
You can call Help 4 Addiction on 0203 955 7700 at any time for more information.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is the official name we give to the symptoms experienced while going through alcohol detoxification or recovery. You can experience AWS whenever you lessen how much you are drinking. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome encompasses all of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms and ranges in severity between light and heavy drinkers.
You can experience alcohol withdrawal without completely giving up drinking. Alcohol addiction comes in many forms. A single drink taken at the same time of day, every day, can trigger the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when you try to quit.
How Does Alcoholism Affect the Brain and Muscles?
Alcohol can start to interfere with how the brain communicates with the rest of your body. These interferences will change the way you get at and react to certain functions, resulting in a lack of coordination or mood swings. This is commonly seen in drunk people and often seen as comical and light-hearted, recovery can cure it.
Your heart also suffers during this process. Drinking a high amount of alcohol over a long period of time or binging on drinks at a party can cause a person serious heart issues like high blood pressure. Your liver also takes a heavy toll when you drink a lot. You’ll find you could start experiencing liver inflammations if you’re too careless.
Alcoholism and Building a Tolerance for Alcohol
Unfortunately, most of these issues go unnoticed because experiencing alcohol makes people feel relaxed, happy and sleepy. Your brain compensates for these responses by trying to metabolize it. Experiencing excessive drinking will make you tired, so the brain tries to keep you awake.
As you drink more, your mind starts to support it and consider it a “normal” state. This is known as building a tolerance for alcohol. If you become tolerant of alcohol, then you need to drink more in order to experience the same relaxed and happy feelings.
If you don’t seek treatment, you will start experiencing drunkenness more often. The more you drink, the harder it will be to quit. Severe symptoms of drinking too much incur severe withdrawal pains. Nausea and vomiting. Search for support first, or risk experiencing much worse.
Building an Unwanted Dependency on Alcohol
Drinking also has the side effect of training your brain to search for more chemicals to keep you awake and in control. This eventually turns into dependence on alcohol, meaning that your body cannot function normally without alcohol. Many people that suffer from alcoholism will drink when they experience these symptoms instead of going through detox or withdrawal.
As you can see, this creates an unwanted relationship between your being and the alcohol that you are consuming. The alcohol is bad for your organs and causes damage, but you have become so used to alcohol that it cannot function correctly in withdrawal. This can spiral out of control easily, hence why it’s important to seek detox treatment and stop consuming alcohol.
Going “Cold Turkey” on Alcohol Use
The term “cold turkey” refers to people completely cutting off their alcohol use. When someone stops drinking all at once without recovery treatment, we call it cold turkey. The person has realised that they have an addiction or alcohol use disorder and wants to do something about it.
The dependency created during alcohol use disorder means that if you do not drink alcohol, your mind will continue to assume that there is alcohol in your system that needs to be metabolised. It responds (particularly if someone suddenly stops drinking) with a search, then by producing symptoms to indicate that something is wrong. This is what medical people refer to as withdrawal symptoms and it’s the main reason why you should seek out rehab treatment.
You can often cope with mild withdrawal symptoms if you’re not a heavy drinker. It may feel like you have the flu, you might have a fever and you may experience headaches. However, going cold turkey when you only have a mild case of alcohol use disorder can be an effective way to deal with your alcohol use. You just have to prioritise your physical and mental health carefully in case severe symptoms occur.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most people. Withdrawal symptoms could be severe or life threatening. People who have their situation medically reviewed before they start addiction treatment have a better chance to get help and stop drinking for good.
Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Signs of people withdrawing from alcohol can often be expressed in four stages.
Stage One – Stage 1 detox starts with light withdrawal symptoms that may include tremors, anxiety, headaches, sweating, abdominal pain, hating life, and fatigue. These may start within 12 hours of you last drinking. This is how you know detox (and recovery) has started.
Stage Two – Stage two introduces hallucinations. This often starts 12 hours after your last drink and you may find that the hallucinations will become increasingly vivid as the hours pass. Symptoms from stage 1 will typically overlap with these hallucinations, amplifying their severity.
Stage Three – Stage three of detox comes 48 hours after you stop drinking. You may start to experience seizures due to dehydration. Symptoms may include trembling.
Stage Four – Stage four is known as delirium tremens or DTs (Delirium Tremens). During this stage, you will experience confusion, delirium, continued hallucinations, seizures, fever, sweating and potentially even a stroke. This can start 48 hours after you stop drinking but is known to also start around two weeks after your last drink. There is currently no way to stop the delirium tremens stage once it begins and it is considered the most dangerous. Only a small percentage of heavy drinkers will experience Delirium Tremens but call or search for help if it happens to you.
The stage of withdrawal from drinking that you experience will depend on how much alcohol you consume. The withdrawal symptoms are serious regardless of their stage and it’s vital to seek medical attention. You keep your rights reserved even as an addiction sufferer who gets help.
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
These common symptoms tend to occur at around stage one to two, or within 24 hours to 48 hours. The common symptoms of withdrawal are not considered to be life threatening side effects for your health and will start to appear within 24 hours of your last drink. They include:
- A feeling of anxiety
- Depressive thoughts
- Excessive fatigue
- Easily irritated
- Drop or raise in blood pressure
- Regular nightmares
- Difficulty focusing
- Constant mood swings
These last withdrawal symptoms should be taken seriously by all people who care about their health. These may seem like common symptoms of other illnesses and conditions, but it’s vital to understand that these indicate a dependency on alcohol that is not being met, and the person should call for immediate medical attention or support. Addiction treatment is tough, but it is also worthwhile. You can find more information about alcohol detox on our ‘alcohol detox’ page.
Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
These are the severe withdrawal symptoms that occur during stage three and four of withdrawal from drinking. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Constant headaches
- Nausea and vomiting
- Profuse sweating
- A loss of appetite
- Delirium tremens
If you, a friend or a loved one experiences these withdrawal symptoms, then it’s vital to get help because these symptoms could easily escalate to DTs (Delirium Tremens). When that happens, you will need to be in the treatment of medical professionals in order to deal with the symptoms that may potentially be life-threatening.
Dealing With Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
If you are only experience stage one or two symptoms, then a comfortable environment in the care of a loved one or trustworthy friends will be all you need to deal with your symptoms. Alcohol dries you out so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids. You may want to search for someone to watch over you in case you express stage 4 symptoms in your sleep.
However, if you exhibit stage three or four symptoms, then it’s time to get help. It’s important to prepare so that in the event you do suffer from hallucinations and life threatening symptoms, you have professional medics that are ready to give you treatment.
The-long term solution for solvingalcohol withdrawal symptoms lies within your alcoholism itself. You need to work on training your digestive system to operate normally without alcohol. Specialised medication, detox, and alcohol rehab treatment can help deal with the symptoms, but it will not help the underlying issue of alcohol abuse or dependency.
Doctors can often refer you to an alcohol rehab clinic to help you overcome your alcohol withdrawal. If it starts to look hopeless, then getting in touch with someone and expressing your concerns is the best way to start the long healing process. This is known as alcohol detoxification and is often the first step to cleaning up your act so that you are no longer dependent on alcohol. However, as mentioned before, it cannot deal with the underlying issues that are causing you to drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and that’s something that an alcohol rehab centre may help you with.
Can your Body Recover if you stop Drinking?
Early-stage symptoms alcohol abuse can be dealt with at home. One night of drinking often isn’t enough to build dependency on alcohol, but it’s important that you do everything you can to stay hydrated and replenish the nutrients lost with healthy foods. You can experience withdrawal even after a single night.
What Happens to your body if you stop Drinking?
Your body will recover from your alcohol addiction if it was mild or middling. A severe alcohol addiction will take its toll on you, but it can heal itself. Alcohol withdrawal will eventually pass, leaving you free of your drinking problem. Treatment may help speed the process.
What happens to your body after three weeks of no alcohol?
Let’s end on a high note. Once you have been not been dependent on alcohol for three weeks or more, you will start to forget about your addiction. Gradually, one day at a time, you will wake up and think about other things. Your mental health will significantly improve.
Where to Go for More Assistance
If you’d like to learn more about alcohol withdrawal symptoms or want advice on treatment clinics to get in touch with, then feel free to contact us on 0203 955 7700. We’re always willing to offer impartial and non-judgmental advice and you can remain anonymous if it makes you more comfortable.