Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms are almost always a feature of alcohol dependence. They are potentially dangerous and should be treated as a serious warning sign that you are drinking too much. Find out what these symptoms are, what causes them and what to do if you’re experiencing them.

What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

If you get any of the following after drinking heavily, it’s ly you’re experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

Physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

  • hand tremors (‘the shakes’)
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • visual hallucinations (seeing things that are not actually real)
  • seizures (fits) in the most serious cases 

Psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • insomnia (difficulty sleeping) 

Withdrawal symptoms are dangerous and you should seek medical attention if you or someone you’re looking after is experiencing repeated vomiting, severe shaking or hallucinations / confusion. 

If you‘re experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it’s a sign that you are becoming physically dependent on alcohol.

Alcohol dependence, sometimes known as ‘alcoholism’, is the most serious form of drinking problem and can lead to a whole range of serious health problems.

People who are suffering from alcohol dependence may experience a strong, often uncontrollable, desire to drink and feel they’re unable to function without alcohol.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms several days a week, it’s very ly you are already dependent on alcohol.

You must seek medical help — talk to your GP about how to reduce your drinking, and find out more about alcohol dependence and how other organisations can help.

If you think you may be drinking too much, or that your drinking is beginning to have a damaging effect on your life, we have a quick test that can help you understand if there is cause for concern.

Take the alcohol self-assessment

If you have regular withdrawal symptoms, you will almost certainly need medical supervision to help you reduce or stop your drinking, and prescription medication, to avoid the danger of having a fit, which could result in permanent injury or death. 

Although severe withdrawal symptoms can take up to a year to fully recover from, most people feel better within 3-7 days of stopping drinking. The first 48 hours are ly to be the worst. 

To relieve your symptoms once you’ve stopped drinking:

  • Keep yourself hydrated with plenty of non-alcoholic drinks (but avoid caffeine)
  • Try to eat regularly
  • Your GP may prescribe medication to help relieve your symptoms 

For some people, insomnia caused by stopping drinking can be challenging, resulting in the urge to start drinking again ‘to help get off to sleep’. If you experience this, remember that your sleep patterns will almost certainly start to return to normal once your brain recovers its normal functions.

Withdrawal symptoms are caused by the way your brain reacts when you drink heavily. Alcohol affects the area of the brain responsible for what’s known as the ‘fight or flight’ function. This is the way in which our brains respond to danger, preparing us to either fight or run away. 

When you drink alcohol, the fight or flight response in your brain is suppressed, making you feel relaxed. And when you stop drinking, the alcohol gradually leaves your brain as your body processes it.

But if you regularly drink excessively, the alcohol’s effect on your brain’s chemical balance can mean you go straight into fight or flight mode as the alcohol leaves your brain, even when there’s no danger present1. 

Withdrawal symptoms – both the psychological ones (e.g. anxiety) and the physical ones (e.g. the shakes) are all caused by your brain going into fight or flight mode. The more you drink, the more you’re ly to be affected by withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are most ly to be experienced by people drinking 8 or more units of alcohol, 5 or more nights a week. 

If you continue to drink excessively, regularly, despite experiencing withdrawal symptoms, you may find your symptoms get more and more severe. This is known as the kindling effect2. 

Doctors and scientists don’t yet fully understand how this process works. However, you must  take action to reduce the amount you drink if you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms, to prevent them getting worse.

If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has a problem with alcohol there is a lot of help available. Here you can find useful links and phone numbers to get the support you need.

Support services


What Are The Signs Of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal is a term used to describe a number of symptoms that can occur when someone who is dependent on alcohol suddenly stops drinking.

This can develop as a result of someone trying to quit drinking or begin when someone with an alcohol dependence has been at least six hours without a drink.

Alcohol withdrawal can cause physical symptoms such as nausea and sweating, as well as psychological symptoms.

The experience of withdrawal be mild, moderate, or severe in nature depending on:

  • how long someone has been drinking
  • how much they drink and how often
  • age
  • other medical or mental health conditions
  • detox setting

Without the support of medical professionals, some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can become severe and potentially life-threatening.

If you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol, it is important to understand the signs and risks of alcohol withdrawal. Learn more about the signs of alcohol withdrawal, health risks during withdrawal, and alcohol withdrawal treatment.

Alcohol Withdrawal Signs And Symptoms

Withdrawal is a key sign of alcohol dependency, which can develop as a result of alcohol abuse and addiction. Early signs of alcohol withdrawal can begin within as little as six to eight hours after a person’s last drink.

Later symptoms can arise in the following days, with the person growing more uncomfortable before symptoms reach their peak.

We are here to help you through every aspect of recovery. Let us call you to learn more about our treatment options.


Withdrawal is an uncomfortable experience that can disrupt a person’s work or domestic life, making it difficult to get through the day without drinking. In this way, people who are dependent on alcohol may feel they have to drink just to feel normal.

The primary sign of alcohol addiction and withdrawal is being unable to go a day without drinking. As a result, you may notice a person drinking during the day, sneaking drinks at work, or joking about how sick they feel if they do not drink.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal is a condition that occurs in the body and can affect your physical, emotional, and mental state.

Early signs of alcohol withdrawal (6-12 hours after last drink):

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • loss of appetite
  • headache
  • shaking
  • mood swings
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • heart palpitations

Later symptoms (24-48 hours after last drink):

  • insomnia
  • sweating
  • disorientation
  • increased blood pressure
  • hallucinations
  • suicidal thoughts

Symptoms typically peak two to three days after withdrawal begins. Following this peak period, most physical symptoms will gradually reduce and disappear.

The most significant concerns during withdrawal include risk for dehydration, malnutrition, and a severe form of alcohol withdrawal.

Delirium Tremens

Severe or chronic alcohol abuse can put a person at risk for a severe type of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens (DT). Symptoms of DT can become life-threatening without medical support.

Symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • severe confusion
  • seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • high fever
  • seizures
  • rapid or irregular heart rate

Symptoms of DT most often begin within the first 48 hours of alcohol withdrawal. This form of alcohol withdrawal is rare, but more common among chronic alcoholics and people without a strong support system to help manage symptoms.

Other factors that can predict the lihood of DT include: older age, co-occurring disorders, history of severe alcohol withdrawal, very heavy drinking, and dehydration.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

The acute stage of alcohol withdrawal generally lasts a week. However, the exact timeline can vary for each person how severe their alcohol dependence is, if they have any other drugs in their system, and other personal factors.

Acute withdrawal refers to the initial phase of your body adjusting to the lack of alcohol in your system. It’s within this stage that most symptoms begin and later dissipate.

Due to the potential health complications that can arise, entering a detox program for alcohol withdrawal is recommended.

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Detoxification, or detox, is the process of allowing drugs or alcohol to leave a person’s system. The safest way to detox from alcohol is to enter a medical detox program. This is offered within many addiction rehab centers as the first step of alcohol abuse and addiction treatment.

Detoxing within a formal detox program is highly recommended, as trying to do so at home can be uncomfortable at best and dangerous at worst. Trying to detox without professional support also increases the chance of relapse.

Medically supervised detox programs for alcohol withdrawal offer:

  • 24-hour monitoring
  • secluded setting
  • hydration and nutritional support
  • use of medications to ease withdrawal symptoms

Detox programs typically last between 5 to 7 days to cover the acute stage of alcohol withdrawal. However, it is not uncommon for certain symptoms—such as depression, alcohol cravings, and anxiety—to continue for weeks or months afterward.

The best way to get support for these continuing symptoms and to avoid relapse is to enter an inpatient or residential treatment program for alcohol addiction.

This can connect people to treatments for managing symptoms and provide a supportive space for people to learn how to remain sober.

Alcohol Detox And Treatment At Vertava Health Texas

Vertava Health Texas rehab center offers a peaceful and secure environment for people to detox from alcohol under the supervision of medical professionals.

Our detox services provide patients with a strong support system and access to treatments for symptom-relief as they undergo the initial stages of withdrawal.

However, we also recognize that recovering from alcohol addiction can be a long-term process that requires additional support beyond detox.

Through our residential alcohol rehab program, patients at Vertava Health Texas are able to receive treatment for persisting withdrawal symptoms and learn healthy coping skills for sobriety.

Treatment within our alcohol abuse and addiction program includes:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • motivational interviewing (MI)
  • group therapy
  • family therapy
  • medication-assisted treatment
  • mindfulness and stress management practices

Alcohol treatment at Vertava Health Texas is tailored to meet each person’s needs for treatment and recovery. Contact us today to learn more about our alcohol detox services and residential treatment program for addiction.


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