Find out how we can help you on your road to recovery.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Quitting alcohol abuse is worth it. You’ll soon learn that life in recovery is better than you could have imagined. Alcohol detox is the first step to sobriety, and it’s important you take this step under the care of medical professionals.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are some of the worst among addictive substances. They can be painful and dangerous, even deadly. You should never attempt to detox from alcohol on your own. Detoxing in a rehab facility ensures that you’re safe and as comfortable as possible while your body eliminates toxins and your central nervous system re-balances itself without heavy drinking.

What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Like?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are very uncomfortable. That’s why many people who drink heavily and try to quit cold turkey without medical help relapse. The effects of alcohol withdrawal prove to be so painful that they can’t resist the urge to drink to ease the discomfort.

Known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome, when you drink heavily for a significant amount of time and quit, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Delirium tremens (DTs), which can include seizures, confusion, and trembling
  • Psychological symptoms like extreme depression or anxiety
  • Headache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating and chills
  • Mood swings
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Agitation
  • Nightmares
  • Clammy skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Appetite loss
  • Cravings for alcohol

These could be mild, moderate, or severe withdrawal symptoms depending on factors like:

  • How long you’ve been drinking alcohol.
  • The amount of alcohol you abuse on a regular basis.
  • If you’re also using other drugs.
  • Your individual physical make up.
  • The presence of co-occurring disorders or medical conditions.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Take?

When you have an alcohol dependence, withdrawal symptoms can kick in swiftly. Some people addicted to alcohol will start going into withdrawal just hours after their last drink. Around 50% of alcoholics will experience severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. There’s no way to predict the severity of your symptoms, so you should always go through withdrawal and detox with health care professionals who can attend to medical emergencies.

Generally, the detox timeline for alcohol withdrawal is:

6 Hours After Last Drink

The first alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild to moderate and begin around six hours after you stop drinking. They may feel like an intense hangover that becomes progressively worse.

  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Inability to sleep

24-48 Hours After Last Drink

This is thought to be the most dangerous time during alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms may include:

  • Heart irregularities and palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Nightmares
  • Seizures/delirium tremens
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Alcohol cravings

One Week After Detox

For many people, after the second day of alcohol detox and withdrawal, the most uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms subside. As the body continues to adjust to the absence of alcohol you may experience:

  • Sleep issues
  • Poor mood
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Anxiety
  • Poor attention span

One Year After Detox

Some people with alcohol dependence have lingering effects of alcohol withdrawal up to a year after they quit drinking. Clinicians refer to this as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). These lingering symptoms are byproducts of your body repairing the damage of alcohol and learning to function without it. PAWS may include:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased tolerance to emotional or physical pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Why Does Alcohol Withdrawal Happen?

When you have an alcohol addiction it means that your body is dependent on alcohol. With regular, heavy alcohol consumption, your brain changes. Alcohol tells your brain to produce more chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Over time, your brain gets used to having alcohol help produce these chemicals. When you stop drinking, your brain must re-learn how to produce brain chemicals without the help of alcohol. The central nervous system goes into overdrive trying to rebalance. Because the disrupted chemicals are tied to physical and psychological functions, you experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal in body processes that rely on these chemicals.

Why Do You Need Medically Supervised Detox?

Behavior Therapy Program

One of the dangers of alcohol withdrawal is how fast symptoms can kick in. You may begin to experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal within six hours of your last drink. From there, alcohol withdrawal gets progressively worse. You can start to have issues that seem mild at first and grow painful and dangerous as hours pass.

More concerning alcohol withdrawal symptoms can set in after around 12 hours without alcohol. You’re at increased risk for hallucinations and vivid delusions during this time. This period of alcohol withdrawal can lead to conditions like seizures and dehydration, which could be fatal without clinical management of symptoms. You may also experience profuse sweating, confusion, high blood pressure, a racing heart rate, or fever, all of which can be dangerous and uncomfortable. A detox program lowers these risks with alcohol treatment medications to ease withdrawal symptoms, and 24/7 medical supervision to make sure you’re safe.

What Happens After Alcohol Detox?

Detox from alcohol is the first step in recovery, addiction treatment is the next. At an addiction treatment center, you’ll address the reasons behind your substance abuse so they no longer stand in the way of sobriety. These often include challenges like:

  • Co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Unhealthy relationships with caregivers in childhood
  • Poor coping skills
  • Significant stress or grief

You’ll also learn healthy coping skills to use in place of alcohol or drug abuse when you face triggers. Different levels of alcoholism treatment include:

The type of treatment you need depends on several factors such as the severity of your alcohol addiction and if your living environment is supportive of sobriety.

Ready to Get Help?

Vogue Recovery Center can help you turn your life around. We provide evidence-based treatment for alcohol use disorders that includes a range of traditional and holistic therapies, so you begin to heal the physical, emotional, and mental health effects of addiction. Our treatment programs include both inpatient and outpatient options and we offer medically supervised alcohol withdrawal treatment.

Alcohol addiction doesn’t go away on its own. We understand what you’re going through, and we can help. Call us for a free, confidential consultation.


Jessica Elbe

Medically Reviewed by Jessica Elbe, LCSW

Trusted & Accredited Addiction Treatment Centers

We’re Here 24/7