The Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal and Why Does it Happen?

When someone has been struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction for an extended period, they can develop mental and physical problems when they suddenly stop or significantly cut back on drinking. These health issues are called alcohol withdrawal syndrome and can range from minor to severe withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol is a depressive substance affecting the central nervous system, brain function, and nerves communicating back and forth. After a person abuses alcohol for an extended period, they may develop alcohol dependence which means the brain and the body rely on the presence of alcohol to function correctly. The body is also working hard to keep the brain in an awake state and to keep the nervous system message continually moving. When alcohol is no longer present in the system, and the brain is in this continued alert state, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal occur.

For more information on how our addiction treatment programs can help heal drug or alcohol dependence, please give The River Source a call at 866-294-9331.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the person’s alcohol addiction and use. Minor withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Tremors or shakes
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Severe withdrawal symptoms include:
  • Increased blood pressure or heart rate
  • Fever
  • Hyperthermia
  • Rapid abnormal breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal syndrome but is quite rare. However, there is no way of predicting who or when it will occur, and it can include symptoms such as impaired consciousness, hallucinations, tremors, aggression, and seizures.

Alcohol withdrawal timeline will look different in each person, but in general, it can look like this:

  • 6 – 12 hours after last drink, mild symptoms start
  • Within 24 hours, hallucinations can start.
  • Within 24 – 72 hours, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have peaked and then begin to level off. Seizure risk is at its highest, and delirium tremens may appear 48 to 72 hours after drinking has stopped.

Some people may experience lingering mild alcohol withdrawal for several weeks or months, referred to as Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).

How Is Alcohol Withdrawal Treated?

Minor withdrawal from alcohol can be treated at home or through an outpatient treatment program. However, individuals often relapse quickly because of cravings and withdrawals. Medical detox at a treatment facility is recommended when stopping heavy alcohol use because of the risk of dangerous and fatal symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Treatment of alcohol withdrawal at an alcohol detox center provides medical supervision and care around the clock. Medical personnel can administer medication-assisted treatment to help ease withdrawal symptoms and ensure the patient’s safety. Withdrawing from alcohol at a treatment facility will also ensure you successfully complete the withdrawal process.

What Happens After Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is just the first step in recovery and only addresses the physical aspects of alcohol addiction. It is essential to enter a comprehensive alcohol rehab program after detoxing to treat addiction’s psychological and behavioral aspects, which can help individuals achieve long-term sobriety. Treatment programs are available in several levels of care, including inpatient rehab and outpatient treatment, which are tailored to each individual’s needs.

Why Choose The River Source for Alcohol Detox and Rehab?

The River Source offers a full continuum of care to guide each person through the various treatment programs needed to recover from addiction recovery successfully. Our integrative treatment approach to alcohol and drug addiction incorporates holistic methods to treat the body, mind, and spirit, not just substance abuse symptoms. Detoxing from alcohol at The River Source is easier and safer than attempting it on your own through our medical detox program, which provides medication-assisted treatment and holistic treatments, including infrared sauna and vitamin IV therapy. You can then quickly transition into one of our alcohol rehab programs.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse and alcoholism, please give us a call at 866-294-9331 today to learn how a comprehensive treatment program can provide long-term sobriety.

About the Author

Director of Marketing and Admissions

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