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What Are The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

The first step in beginning the recovery process for alcohol addiction involves detoxification. However, detoxification from alcohol brings along withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to severe. In a previous blog post, we discussed how long it takes to detox from alcohol, which can be read here. There are a vast array of withdrawal symptoms that may appear during the detoxification period. Additionally, the detoxification period has different phases of alcohol withdrawal. In this article, we go into detail of the possible withdrawal symptoms and the different phases a person may experience. It's important to realize, not all symptoms will appear and the extremity of the symptoms depend on the individual going through withdrawal.

Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when someone that drinks excess alcohol on a regular basis abruptly stops drinking alcohol. Symptoms occur most often in adults but appear in some adults and children. The more regularly a person drinks the higher the likelihood that they will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. A majority of people experience mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, people with other medical conditions aside from their alcohol addiction may experience more extreme symptoms.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

While symptoms usually appear within 8 hours after the person’s last drink, for some people they may appear days later. Additionally, the symptoms usually peak at 24-72 hours. But, some symptoms may go on for weeks.

Common Symptoms Include:
  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Jumpiness or shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Not thinking clearly
Additional Symptoms Include:
  • Sweaty or clammy skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale appearance
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremor of the hands or other body parts
Severe Symptoms (delirium tremens) Include:
  • Agitation
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations (Visual, auditory, or tactile)
  • Seizures
  • Severe confusion

Delirium Tremens is an extremely severe form of alcohol withdrawal that tends to require professional medical help. So, if these extreme symptoms are experienced by you or a loved one, go to the hospital immediately.

Phases of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal commonly follows a course of three distinct phases. These phases include acute withdrawal, early abstinence, and protracted abstinence. In time, a person will be symptom-free.

Acute Withdrawal

To begin with, the first phase of alcohol withdrawal includes the worst of the withdrawal symptoms. Acute withdrawal is dominated by tremors, hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system, and a risk of delirium tremens. Tremors and seizures usually occur within the first 48 hours of alcohol abstinence and peak after 24 hours. People experiencing the more extreme symptoms of delirium tremens usually peak 72 hours after symptoms begin. Also, common symptoms of acute withdrawal include increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and gastrointestinal problems.

Early Abstinence

In the second phase of alcohol withdrawal, the person will experience anxiety, depressed moods, and disturbed sleep patterns. At this point, the symptoms of acute withdrawal have generally passed. Moreover, anxiety is elevated for about three to six weeks after abstaining from alcohol. Woman tend to take longer to get through this stage than men.

Protracted Abstinence

Many people relapse in the final phase of alcohol withdrawal. This is mainly due to a large amount of anxiety being present along with a state of unease and negativity. Therefore, small challenges may provoke higher emotional responses than normal leading to alcohol craving and relapse.

It’s important to seek professional treatment if symptoms get extreme. To emphasize this point, people experiencing severe symptoms of delirium tremens are at risk of serious health issues and possibly death. Thus, detoxification from alcohol is something that should never be done alone. For more information on the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal go to this website.

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