Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal occur when neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood and feelings of well-being are changed after prolonged alcohol abuse.
When a heavy drinker abruptly stops drinking, they typically experience mild to severe withdrawal side effects as the brain and central nervous system recalibrates.
Common Side Effects Of Alcohol Withdrawal
Side effects of alcohol withdrawal may range from mild to severe, depending on factors such as duration of alcohol abuse, genetics, environment, and frequency of heavy drinking.
Alcohol withdrawal itching is an uncommon side effect that occurs two to three days after the last drink. Itching may be related to histamine, a common element found in alcohol that the body also produces naturally.
Prolonged alcohol use may cause rashes, redness, skin flushing, and pervasive dryness during the detoxification process.
Diarrhea during alcohol withdrawal is caused by the effect alcohol has on the digestive system. Diarrhea is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
Alcohol Withdrawal Fever
Alcohol withdrawal fevers are typically mild and are attributable to underlying infections or illness. It’s advised to seek medical help if the withdrawal fever persists for more than 72 hours.
Alcohol Withdrawal Insomnia
Many people going through alcohol withdrawal report disturbances in their sleep patterns. Alcohol-related insomnia may last weeks or even months after initial symptoms begin.
Night sweats during alcohol withdrawal are caused by how alcohol affects the nervous system after your liver breaks it down.
During detoxification, blood vessels may constrict, which increases blood flow to the skin, increasing body temperature. This may lead to excessive sweating.
Anxiety And Panic Attacks
Heavy drinkers who quit will usually feel some level of anxiety, depression, and even panic attacks during alcohol withdrawal.
Anxiety and panic attacks may be related to a co-occurring mental health disorder, or may be exacerbated by the lack of alcohol in the body.
Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium
Alcohol withdrawal delirium, or AWD, is one of the most serious alcohol withdrawal side effects. It is caused by the central nervous system attempting to readjust during detox.
AWD, also called delirium tremens, typically occurs within three days of decreasing alcohol use, and may include symptoms such as chest pain, delusions, agitation, eye problems, auditory hallucinations, and more.
Withdrawal seizures may begin within a few hours of alcohol intake. They too are caused by the body’s attempts at adjusting to a lack of alcohol in the system.
Seizures are a very serious side effect and should be monitored by medical professionals to alleviate the risks of further injury.
How Side Effects Of Alcohol Withdrawal Are Treated
Treatment plans for symptoms of withdrawal will be highly dependent on the severity of the symptoms.
Mild symptoms may be treatable at home, while more serious side effects such as high blood pressure, hand tremors, and disorientation should be monitored in a medical environment.
For mild withdrawal symptoms, detoxing from alcohol at home may be safe provided that there are other people around to monitor the situation.
Treatments at home will typically involve hydration, a bland diet, and plenty of rest in a low-light and low-noise environment.
In cases of acute withdrawal, hospitalization may be required. Treatments in a clinical setting may include medically monitored detox as well as IV hydration, electrolyte supplementation, and more.
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
When side effects of alcohol withdrawal are serious, they can be managed with benzodiazepines such as chlordiazepoxide (Librium), lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax).
Medication-assisted treatment typically helps shorten the timeline of withdrawal, and decrease the probability of potentially life-threatening side effects.
Treatment Programs For Alcohol Addiction
Evidence-based treatment programs will help you or your loved one navigate recovery from alcohol addiction.
Treatment options for alcohol abuse may include:
- support groups for substance abuse
- dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental disorders
- medication-assisted treatment for alcohol
- individual and family counseling
- medical alcohol detoxification
- inpatient and outpatient treatment services
- 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous
Management of alcohol withdrawal by healthcare professionals is an important step in avoiding a medical emergency related to severe withdrawal symptoms.
Find Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder At Bedrock Recovery Center
Call Bedrock Recovery Center today for more information about residential addiction treatment for substance use disorders.
Our team can answer your questions about alcohol addiction or provide referrals for medical advice.
Bedrock Recovery Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.