Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms – What You Need To Know

Last Updated: April 30, 2024

Withdrawing from alcohol can be a rather scary experience. Most people who go through withdrawals from alcohol have unpleasant physical, mental, and emotional effects that can be extremely difficult to manage. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary among people and are known to cause several different kinds of physical signs. Here’s what you need to know:

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be a life or death situation, setting it apart from most other types of withdrawals, as it can be deadly. It usually occurs in those who are heavy drinkers consuming for long periods of time whom either completely stop drinking or significantly reduce their alcohol intake and is most common among people who have become alcohol dependent.

The body’s neurotransmitters are in a perpetual tug of war with the alcohol being put into its system. As alcohol is being consumed, the body is trying to compensate and work harder to adjust. Once a person quits drinking, after the body has been used to working so hard against it, naturally as in a game of tug of war when one side lets go, it sends the other side rapidly backwards.

This is what happens in our bodies as the neurotransmitters that have been suppressed by alcohol try to fight their way back into our systems in an abrupt manner. As the body begins to detox and the neurotransmitter systems try to stabilize GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and glutamate back into the system, this is what sends people into withdrawal.

When Does The Onset Start?

Signs of withdrawal from alcohol can happen as quickly as two hours after the last drink, but usually the height of symptoms occur within 12 to 24 hours. As the stages of withdrawal set in and your body begins to go through the chemical changes, you may experience a variety of indications that you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal.

Symptoms Include:

  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Poor Sleep/Insomnia
  • Blurred Vision
  • Bloating
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Exhaustion
  • Fatigue
  • Jitters/Shaky Hands
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs)

How Long Do Symptoms Last?

The height of detox effects from alcohol can last for up to 48 hours. However, delirium tremens, which affects close to 5% of people, can have a delayed appearance of up to a week causing extreme hallucinations, delirium, seizures, confusion and high blood pressure among the top fatal threats. Should you experience this level of withdraw, please seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of symptoms, hospitalization and detox may be required. Medical attention is highly recommended, as alcohol withdrawal can be deadly if left untreated. Doctors will perform a physical examination and review all medical history to determine if you have alcohol withdrawal syndrome and it’s level of severity.

From there, outpatient detoxification and/or inpatient treatment will be recommended. Sometimes drugs containing benzodiazepines are also prescribed to help curb withdrawal symptoms and help alleviate any further medical complications.

While these approaches to remedy the immediate situation are viable, long-term recovery and treatment for alcohol abuse should be followed to treat the underlying factors that attribute to addiction. Addiction treatment facilities can help people gain their freedom back from the dependence built around alcohol.

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction or have experienced the frightening effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, contact us today at Orlando Recovery Center to schedule an intake interview.  We can help you determine if our alcohol treatment program is right for you. Our process is completely confidential and the initial assessment is free. Contact Us today to begin getting the treatment you need.


*Clinical Study found states that Delirium tremens (DTs) occurs uncommonly, perhaps in less than 5% of individuals withdrawing.


Photo courtesy of Flóra Soós, under Creative Commons License.

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