What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

The long-term consumption of alcohol may lead to physical dependence and addiction.

Frequent or heavy drinkers who try reducing or stopping their alcohol consumption, experience Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) and exhibit both physical and psychological symptoms of varying intensity, including insomnia, headaches, sweating, and nausea.

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol affects your nervous system, slowing down your reaction rate and interfering with the way your brain analyzes its surroundings. It does this by replicating the action of a neurotransmitter called GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. GABA is responsible for blocking signals between your brain cells, making you feel relaxed and stress-free.

As the alcohol abuse continues, your body becomes used to its effects. You build up a tolerance and feel like you need more alcohol to get the same feeling. At this point, if you stop drinking or don’t drink enough alcohol to keep you in this relaxed state, you experience withdrawal symptoms.1

What Are the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol Detox Symptoms

The effects of alcohol withdrawal range from mild to severe or even life-threatening.2

These symptoms usually start around six hours to three days after your last drink, and the less serious ones may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shakiness
  • Nightmares
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Clammy skin
  • Fatigue

Delirium tremens (DT) occurs in the most severe cases of alcohol withdrawal. Its symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures

In this case, the effects of alcohol withdrawal are extreme and may be fatal if the person does not reach the hospital in time.3

What Is a Supervised Alcohol Detox and Can It Help?

Alcohol withdrawal is not the same for everyone. The severity and type of withdrawal symptoms experienced depend on how long they have been drinking, their medical history, or whether they have used any other recreational drugs.

Getting professional medical assistance from a hospital, rehab, or detox center if you want to stop drinking can help ease the stress going through withdrawal may cause.

Alcohol Detox Options

The first step of alcohol rehab is complete detoxification, achieved by either gradually tapering down the amount of alcohol you consume to ease withdrawal symptoms or quitting alcohol cold turkey.

The latter is riskier and can sometimes make relapsing more likely as the effects of withdrawal are more acute.4

At a specialized alcohol treatment facility, the personnel will do all they can to make you as comfortable as possible while experiencing the withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, alcohol withdrawal drugs like benzodiazepine will be prescribed to control the effects of withdrawal.

The majority of the symptoms experienced during alcohol detox last around one week, but this may vary from person to person.

Long-Term Recovery Plan

Recovery from alcoholism doesn’t end when your withdrawal symptoms do. It is a long-term commitment, and seeking support from groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other online organizations may be very beneficial.

Are you suffering from alcohol withdrawal? Our team of experts can help. Give us a call today.


  1. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments#1
  2. https://www.verywellmind.com/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-quiz-69485
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/symptoms-of-alcohol-withdrawal-63791
  4. https://www.verywellmind.com/alcohol-withdrawal-63792
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