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Alcohol Addiction Withdrawal

If you drink heavily, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit drinking. The symptoms can be mild to life threatening, and to get through alcohol withdrawal safely, you may need to go through medically supervised detox.

What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary depending on how much you drink and how long you have been drinking. The first symptoms appear about 6 hours after you stop drinking, and they include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling queasy
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Nightmares
  • Pale skin
  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating

Between 12 and 24 hours after their last drink, some people experience hallucinations. About 5% of people who go through alcohol withdrawal get delirium tremens (DTs). DTs are one of the most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They start 48 to 72 hours after your last drink and may be accompanied by confusion, racing heart, elevated blood pressure, and fevers.

In extreme cases, people can have seizures or even die from alcohol withdrawal. Reach out and talk with someone about quitting. They can let you know if you are at risk of these symptoms and help you decide if you need detox.

Why Do People Experience Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol is a depressant. It slows down your brain functions. When you consume alcohol regularly, your brain adjusts to having it in your system. Your brain activity increases, and your brain tries to stay in a more awake state to counteract the effect of the alcohol.

When you quit drinking, your brain needs time to adjust. Initially, your brain stays in its hyper-alert state. But because your body is no longer consuming a depressant, this excess brain activity manifests as the withdrawal symptoms explained above.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

As explained above, alcohol withdrawal symptoms start about 6 hours after your last drink, and the most serious symptoms start within 3 days after you quit drinking. Typically, most people feel better within 5 days, but in rare cases, people have withdrawal symptoms for weeks.

Are You Going to Experience Alcohol Withdrawal?

There are no tests that can tell you if you’re going to experience alcohol withdrawal. Talk with your doctor or an addiction counselor. They can help you determine if you’re likely to have withdrawal symptoms.

People who have had withdrawal symptoms in the past are more likely to experience these symptoms when they quit. If you quit drinking on your own, be aware of the risks of withdrawal symptoms. If you start to have serious symptoms, call 911 immediately.

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Detox is the first step of getting past alcohol addiction. Detox refers to the process that happens as your body detoxifies from alcohol. Detox isn’t a type of treatment. Instead, it’s a program that helps you get through physical and mental withdrawal symptoms.

Detox varies based on your needs. People who only have mild withdrawal symptoms may be able to be at home during detox. They need a supportive environment, soft lighting, healthy foods, lots of fluid, and a quiet place they can rest without a lot of interaction or stress.

If you are going to a rehab facility, you may be able to detox there before you start treatment. Some people need to be in an intensive care unit (ICU) to ensure that they don’t have seizures or die when they quit drinking.

In medically supervised detox, healthcare providers monitor your vitals to ensure you are okay. They check your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing throughout the process. In some cases, you may take medicine during detox. Some people take anti-anxiety or insomnia medication. Others take anti-seizure meds or antipsychotics.

The role of detox is to help you become mentally and physically stable. Once you finish detox, you can start treatment for alcohol addiction.

Do You Need to Go to Detox?

Anyone who drinks heavily is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms, and whether you have mild or severe symptoms, detox provides you with the support you need to quit drinking and stabilize so that you can start treatment.

As explained above, you may be able to go through outpatient detox at your home, but many people need inpatient detox at a hospital or rehab center. Here are some signs you should consider inpatient detox:

  • You have tried to quit drinking before but have not been able to quit on your own.
  • You have experienced withdrawal symptoms in the past.
  • You have had seizures or DTs in the past.
  • You don't have a supportive or comfortable environment where you can detox at home. 
  • You want to start an inpatient rehab program.
  • Your healthcare provider recommends inpatient detox. 
  • You want extra support through the alcohol detox program. 

Alcohol abuse is a very serious problem, and alcohol addiction is a disease that requires treatment. If you drink heavily, quitting does not just require “will power”. Your body forgets how to function without alcohol, and you need support to quit. Detox is the safest option if you experience severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

At Bedrock Recovery Center, we can provide the support you need to quit drinking. We can help you get through alcohol withdrawal symptoms and start the treatment you need to reclaim your life. Reach out and contact us today. We can answer your questions and get you on the path to recovery.