Signs And Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person who drinks heavily abruptly stops. Symptoms may be mild to severe, and can be treated in a medically monitored environment.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Alcohol has a depressant effect on the brain. When a person drinks alcohol heavily over time, the brain is almost always compensating for the depressant effect of alcohol.

Neurotransmitters such as serotonin are produced faster to counteract the effects of alcohol and maintain normal bodily function.

When alcohol is abruptly removed from the system, the resulting imbalance causes withdrawal symptoms.

Signs Of Alcohol Withdrawal

The signs of alcohol withdrawal will begin within a few hours of a person’s last drink. Mild symptoms will affect motor skills, cognitive abilities, mood, and the gastrointestinal system.

Nausea And Other Stomach Issues

During the digestive process, alcohol that is not absorbed by the intestines is discarded by the body through feces and urine.

Due to the speed with which water is processed when alcohol is in the system, feces will often take on a watery consistency, increasing dehydration, and making withdrawal symptoms worse.

Alcohol-induced nausea is caused by alcohol’s irritating effect on the mucous membranes in the stomach. Vomiting, heartburn, and ulcers may follow the onset of nausea.

Withdrawal Headaches

Alcohol withdrawal headaches are one of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Mild headaches occur within the first few hours of the last drink consumed.

Headaches from alcohol withdrawal are caused by chemicals in the brain recalibrating to adjust to the lack of alcohol in the body.

Other Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

While mild withdrawal symptoms are quite common after drinking alcohol, when a person with alcohol use disorder stops drinking abruptly, withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening.

Other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include:

  • insomnia
  • high blood pressure
  • elevated heart rate
  • hallucinations
  • fever
  • hand tremors
  • disorientation
  • withdrawal seizures
  • agitation
  • confusion
  • profuse sweating

Withdrawal symptoms for a person with alcohol dependence will increasingly get worse typically over the course of a three- to four-day period, and can result in a medical emergency.

One of the most severe withdrawal symptoms a person may experience is delirium tremens (DT). DT is a dangerous health condition that includes symptoms such as seizures, vivid hallucinations, and more.

Treatment Options For Alcohol Withdrawal

If you or someone you know has an addiction to alcohol, it’s extremely important to seek the help of a medical professional at an evidence-based rehab program.

Treatment programs for alcohol withdrawal may include:

  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using naltrexone and benzodiazepines such as diazepam or lorazepam
  • medically monitored alcohol detox programs
  • inpatient treatment until acute withdrawal symptoms subside
  • IV fluid administration

Any treatment for alcohol addiction recovery will also include dietary changes to ensure that the body is replenished with any vitamins and minerals that it was lacking due to alcohol abuse.

After the management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, people are encouraged to transition into outpatient or inpatient medical care where they can continue the recovery process.

Ongoing addiction treatment may include psychiatry appointments, substance use support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and more.

Find Alcohol Abuse Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

Call Bedrock Recovery Center today for more information on our residential treatment program for alcohol addiction.

The healthcare providers on our team can answer your questions about heavy drinking, substance abuse, detoxification, and put you or your loved one on a sustainable path to sobriety.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI),alpha%2Dcells%20to%20beta%20cells.
  2. National Institute of Health (NIH)
  3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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