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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Noticing Alcohol Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms before an Alcohol Addiction becomes too severe, can help you towards a successful recovery. Contact Addiction Advocates and find out more about our Alcohol Addiction Treatment Programme. Enquire Now
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Updated on 01/04/2022
Medically reviewed by
Dr Alexander Lapa (Psychiatrist)

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms surface when an individual suddenly stops consuming alcohol.

Usually impacting those who have developed an alcohol addiction and have become reliant on the effects alcohol has on the brain, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating and often see many individuals at risk of relapsing.

When withdrawal symptoms arise, medical treatment is recommended.  However, a large proportion of individuals chose to withdraw from alcohol alone.

Otherwise known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome, alcohol withdrawal symptoms significantly impair an individual’s physical and psychological health and, in some instances, can be fatal.

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What Is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome, or AWS as it is otherwise known, refers to the physical, psychological, and behavioural symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Often peaking 72 hours after alcohol withdrawal begins [1], the severity of alcohol withdrawal syndrome greatly varies.

Although most individuals will only experience mild symptoms, up to 5% of individuals that withdraw from alcohol find themselves at risk of experiencing delirium tremens. [2]

What Are The Main Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

The symptoms encountered when an individual withdraws from alcohol differ considerably.  However, all symptoms can be categorised as either physical, psychological or behavioural alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

What Are The Main Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Physical Symptoms

Taking their toll on an individual’s general health, physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild symptoms, such as nausea, to moderate symptoms, such as delirium tremens.

Other physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Sweating
  • Reduced appetite
  • Pale skin
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures

 

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological alcohol withdrawal symptoms impact an individual’s mental well-being and ultimately change how they behave.

Commonly experience psychological withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Intense cravings

The psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be harder to overcome independently. 

As severe psychological symptoms induce mental health disorders and cause underlying mental health disorders to intensify, withdrawal symptoms can leave those struggling experiencing suicidal thoughts. 

 

Behavioural Symptoms

Although many alcohol withdrawal symptoms will only affect those withdrawing from alcohol, behavioural symptoms profoundly impact family members, friends and the wider community.  This is because an individual’s behaviour will drastically change when psychological withdrawal symptoms arise.

In some instances, those experiencing withdrawal symptoms will engage in harmful behaviours.  Others will isolate themselves and become extremely hostile.

Delirium Tremens

Though many of the physical, psychological and behavioural alcohol withdrawal symptoms subside within a matter of days when treatment is sought, delirium tremens arise three to twelve days after an individual stops drinking alcohol. [4]

Classed as a medical emergency, if delirium tremens are experienced, physical and psychological symptoms including altered mental state, tremors, anxiety, nausea, hallucinations and high blood pressure are frequently encountered [5]. These particular symptoms can be deadly and, as a result, require medical intervention.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment Options

Safely withdrawing from alcohol independently is almost impossible due to the symptoms that arise. However, many alcohol withdrawal treatment options enable those addicted to alcohol to withdraw from alcohol and overcome their addiction.

Typically including a medically induced alcohol detox, alcohol rehab, medication, therapy, counselling and aftercare, alcohol withdrawal treatment options can be accessed via inpatient and outpatient rehabs.

Inpatient and Outpatient Rehab?

 

Inpatient Withdrawal Treatment

Inpatient rehabs, or residential rehabs as they are often referred to as, administer medically induced detoxification programmes to individuals who wish to withdraw from alcohol and secure a long-term recovery.

Detox programmes are usually administered over seven days under the watchful eye of a doctor. Though withdrawal symptoms are still experienced when detoxification is medically induced, they are not as severe. Medication can also be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms experienced.

When alcohol detox is administered in inpatient rehab, clients must stay within the rehab facility until treatment commences. This reduces the risk of relapse and ensures that 24/7 care can be provided.

 

Outpatient Withdrawal Treatment

Unlike inpatient withdrawal treatment, outpatient withdrawal and detoxification treatment can often be completed at home or at an outpatient centre.

Mild withdrawal symptoms are treated at home with medications including chlordiazepoxide. However, if severe withdrawal symptoms are encountered, the NHS usually admit individuals to the hospital for additional treatment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is also provided when an individual chooses to take advantage of outpatient withdrawal treatment. Though both inpatient and outpatient withdrawal treatments are successful, here at Addiction Advocates, we advise those who contact us for support to attend inpatient rehab.

Contact Us Today For Immediate Help

When physical, psychological, and behavioural alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin to impact an individual’s life, immediate help and professional treatment are available.

Should you experience any of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms noted above, take advantage of the help and support that can be accessed by calling us on 0800 012 6088.

If you have attempted to withdraw from alcohol independently but have experienced a relapse, we can assist you in securing alcohol addiction treatment at a suitable rehab. To find out more, call us today or chat with us online now.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Last?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms last for approximately one week. However, individuals who have developed a severe alcohol addiction may experience withdrawal symptoms for one month.
Why Is Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment Recommended?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be so severe that they drastically impair an individual’s life. Without appropriate treatment and support, withdrawal symptoms can also be fatal. To ensure that withdrawal process is administered safely, treatment is recommended. Treatment is also recommended as those who attempt to withdraw from alcohol alone are at greater risk of relapsing. Attempting to withdraw alone also prevents treatment from being secured for the psychological aspects of alcohol addictions.
How Is Treatment Secured?
At Addiction Advocates, our referral service ensures that treatment can be sought when an individual experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms. If you are personally struggling with alcohol withdrawal symptoms, you can contact us directly. In doing so, our admissions team will discuss your symptoms with you, advise a suitable course of action and refer you to an inpatient rehab for addiction treatment. We also welcome family members and friends concerned about an individual to contact us to refer someone for alcohol addiction and withdrawal syndrome treatment.

References

  • [1] Often peaking 72 hours after alcohol withdrawal begins - https://www.webmd.com/connect-to-care/addiction-treatment-recovery/alcohol/how-long-does-alcohol-detox-take
  • [2] up to 5% of individuals that withdraw from alcohol find themselves at risk of experiencing delirium tremens. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482134/
  • [3] withdrawal symptoms usually arise - https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments#1
  • [4] delirium tremens arise three to twelve days after an individual stops drinking alcohol. - https://emergencymedicinecases.com/alcohol-withdrawal-delirium-tremens/
  • [5] altered mental state, tremors, anxiety, nausea, hallucinations and high blood pressure are frequently encountered - https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/166032-overview
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Seth is an author, addiction recovery expert and fully accredited member of the national counselling society. He has experience working with a wide range of addictions and mental illnesses using a number of evidence-based therapies and programmes such as the SMART models of addiction recovery.

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