Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol detox is the process of removing all harmful toxins that alcohol brings into the body. Because detox involves the quitting or reduction of heavy or prolonged alcohol use, it causes alcohol withdrawal.

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms, or the physical side effects of discontinued substance use, range from mild to potentially life-threatening. They include:

  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Shakiness
  • Nightmares
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Mild anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Insomnia
  • Clammy skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Paleness
  • Sweating
  • Tremors (especially hand tremors)

Withdrawal symptoms can be more severe in the elderly and those who have repeated withdrawals that lead to repeated intoxications. Other health issues can also impact symptom severity.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically develop within several hours to a few days of quitting and usually worsen after 48 to 72 hours. Some symptoms—such as insomnia, mild anxiety and tremors—can occur while the individual still has a measurable blood alcohol level, but most occur after alcohol has left the system. Depending on the severity of the level of alcoholism, withdrawal symptoms generally last from several days to several weeks to, in rare cases, months.

While physical withdrawal symptoms may disappear completely within a few weeks, psychological withdrawal can last for years. Many individuals experience the desire to drink (craving alcohol) with every new event or trigger they face.

Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens (DT) is a condition associated with severe alcohol withdrawal. DT typically occurs 3 to 5 days after cutting out alcohol. DT symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Severe confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Tactile
  • Hallucinations (may develop within 6 to 48 hours of not having alcohol and can last from a few hours to a few weeks.)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Extreme cardiovascular disturbances: racing heart, temperature control, dramatic increase in blood pressure, dehydration

Once DT begins, there is no known medical treatment to stop them. Grand mal seizures, heart attacks and strokes can occur during DT and are potentially fatal if not properly treated under medical supervision.

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