Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches: How Long Do They Last?

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to severe and oftentimes include withdrawal headaches. Treatment for alcohol dependence may include medical detox, medication-assisted treatment, and more.

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Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS


Alcohol withdrawal headaches are one of the most common side effects of withdrawal in heavy drinkers. Headaches typically begin around six hours after the last drink and can last days or longer.

The duration and severity of the headache, and what other alcohol withdrawal symptoms are present, will depend on the severity of addiction, other substance abuse issues, and more.

Causes Of Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches

When going through alcohol withdrawal syndrome, people will often be dehydrated due to diarrhea or vomiting. Losing fluid too fast in the body can cause headaches.

Headaches may also be caused by inflammation spurred by the immune system.

This is due to a chemical in alcohol called histamine which may take days or longer to rebalance from prolonged unhealthy drinking habits.

How Long Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches Last

For most people, alcohol withdrawal headaches will begin four to six hours after drinking and last around three days. In more severe withdrawal cases, debilitating headaches may last longer.

When people experience intense headaches from alcohol withdrawal that last for longer than a few days it’s advised to seek medical care from a qualified healthcare provider immediately.

Factors That Influence The Length Of Withdrawal-Induced Headaches

There are several factors that influence the length of alcohol withdrawal-induced headaches. These factors are influenced by the duration of heavy drinking, level of alcohol consumption, and more.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Following medical treatment for alcohol abuse, some people continue to experience withdrawal symptoms for weeks or even months after the toxins have left the body. This condition is called Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).

PAWS occurs as the brain attempts to recalibrate itself after addiction. Symptoms of PAWS may include physical symptoms, as well as psychological or emotional stress from withdrawal.

Despite the temporary nature of PAWS symptoms, they can be a driving factor for relapse.

Alcohol Headache Cycles

Withdrawal headaches from PAWS typically come back in recurrent cycles. While some people may be concerned about headaches, they are a completely normal side effect and may last up to a year.

There is no set answer on when the headaches from acute withdrawal will go away permanently. Some people experience them for a few days, while others may get headaches for a year or even longer.

Treatment Options For Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol use disorder changes the way the brain and central nervous system operate. When alcohol is removed from the body, intense alcohol cravings, nausea, vomiting, and headaches will likely ensure.

If you or a loved one need help with a substance use disorder, evidence-based treatment facilities can give you the assistance you need to overcome withdrawal and pursue sobriety.

Treatment programs may include services such as:

  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT) using benzodiazepines
  • IV fluid administration that includes electrolytes and thiamine
  • medically monitored alcohol detox
  • psychiatry for mental health disorders
  • support groups for alcohol abuse

More severe side effects may include a condition such as delirium tremens (DTS). Symptoms can range from increased heart rate to seizures, drops in body temperature, and other life-threatening symptoms.

Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

For additional information about substance abuse or the management of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, call Bedrock Recovery Center today.

Our inpatient treatment center offers the evidence-based care you need to overcome addiction and lead an alcohol-free life.

  1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  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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