The decision and process of getting sober from alcohol can be scary. Most people who drink, especially heavily, have a hard time quitting because alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to navigate.
Often the fear of alcohol detox can send people right back into their habits of alcohol abuse. Learning how to overcome alcohol withdrawal is the first step towards long-term recovery.
It’s important to understand what to expect when alcohol withdrawal happens, how to cope with the symptoms and natural ways to help alleviate the discomfort of the experience.
What Is the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?
Understanding the timeline for alcohol withdrawal can help a person be more prepared for what they can expect, which can help reduce some of the anxiety they most likely might be experiencing.
According to the National Library of Medicine, “Alcohol withdrawal usually occurs within 8 hours after the last drink, but can occur days later. Symptoms usually peak by 24 to 72 hours, but may go on for weeks.”
The body begins to go through the chemical changes as the stages of withdrawal begin to unfold. During this timeframe, you may experience a variety of signs that you are beginning to experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
According to American Addiction Centers, alcohol withdrawal can be broken down into three stages:
Anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and abdominal pain characterize this stage, which begins 8 hours after the last drink.
High blood pressure, increased body temperature, unusual heart rate, and confusion come with this stage, which begins 24-72 hours after the last drink.
Hallucinations, fever, seizures, and agitation come with this stage, which tends to begin 72+ hours after the last drink.
It is very important to be aware of a fatal symptom in withdrawal known as Delirium Tremens (DTs), which does require medical treatment. The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 3-5 percent of individuals facing alcohol withdrawal experience DTs.
How You Can You Cope with Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Understanding what to expect during withdrawal from alcohol can significantly affect how a person pushes through. Being prepared for what to expect is a good way to cope with withdrawal symptoms.
Coping with alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be rough. The most common symptoms people have are nausea, alcohol withdrawal headache, anxiety, vomiting, and insomnia. However, some symptoms can be much more acute and those facing that level of detox should seek medical treatment.
Some healthy coping strategies for alcohol withdrawal that anyone can practice include:
The best way to come off alcohol is to taper off of it. This is most helpful for heavy and daily drinkers. Instead of cold turkey quitting, lessening the amount you intake over time can be very helpful to avoid extreme withdrawal.
Doing relaxing activities such as meditation, deep breathing, hot showers or baths, and stretching can help keep your body calm.
Sleep and rest are always the best medicine as the body is repairing itself during shut-eye hours.
Intense cravings are a major part of alcohol withdrawals. “Urge surfing,” is a great concept to get familiar with, where instead of trying to fight against cravings, you ride the wave. The idea is to allow yourself to feel your way through the urge but to refrain from giving into it. This is a tool for active recovery as well.
Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Acknowledge that you are doing hard work.
Make sure your loved ones are mindful of what you’re going through so they can support you.
Seek Medical Attention
If your symptoms become unbearable or should you experience seizures, high fevers or DTs.
Natural Ways to Alleviate Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
- Stay Hydrated: Drink lots of water to avoid becoming dehydrated, which can be a dangerous side effect of withdrawals.
- Reduce Other Stimulants: Stay away from coffee, tea, and sugar.
- Keep Your Blood Sugar Balanced: Eat healthy foods such as fruits and veggies to help your liver balance out the loss of sugar it will face as alcohol exits the body.
- Avoid Using: Stay away from alcohol and other drugs. Allow your body to stabilize itself.
Keep in mind that while these kinds of approaches to alcohol withdrawal are helpful in the moment, they are simply a coping strategy and do not address the underlying factors contributing to alcohol abuse.
Long-term recovery and treatment for alcoholism should be implemented after withdrawal symptoms have subsided. Treatment programs for alcohol abuse can help people identify what caused their dependence on alcohol and, therefore, provide sustainable recovery.
If you are struggling with alcohol addiction or have experienced the upsetting effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, Orlando Recovery Center can help. We can help you determine if our alcohol treatment program is a fit for you. Our process is completely confidential and the initial assessment is free. Contact us today to schedule an intake interview and begin getting the treatment you need.
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Alcohol Withdrawal, Martin, Laura J., National Library of Medicine, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000764.htm
Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment, Signs & Symptoms, American Addiction Centers, http://americanaddictioncenters.org/with[…]-treatments/alcohol/
Recognition and Management of Withdrawal Delirium, Schuckit M.D., Marc, The New England Journal of Medicine, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1407298 , Nov. 2014
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.