A person whose body has developed a dependence on alcohol needs it in their system to feel and function “normally.” This is because the body and mind have become dependent on alcohol over a long period of excessive drinking. Therefore, if a person with alcohol dependence suddenly quits drinking, withdrawal symptoms are sure to follow.
What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is one of the primary reasons many alcoholics fear taking the first step towards sobriety. They’ve likely felt the effects of acute alcohol withdrawal when they’ve got sober the morning following drinking. These alcohol withdrawal symptoms can feel scary, and most people don’t know how to manage them. This is one of the biggest reasons people should receive professional substance abuse treatment during their initial detox and continue with therapies after.
General Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
During alcohol detox, people will experience a range of severe to mild withdrawal symptoms. Many factors will come into play that affect the length and severity of these symptoms. Symptoms will also vary depending on what stage of alcohol withdrawal a person is in. However, a few of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Tremors, twitches and muscle spasms
- Mood swings
- Anxiety, irritability and feelings of anger
- Depression, which may include thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Sleep issues, including insomnia, hypersomnia and nightmares
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Sweating, including cold sweats
- Loss of appetite, which may result in unexpected weight loss
- Dilated pupils
- Fast or irregular breathing (which could be a medical emergency if severe)
- Mental confusion
- Hallucinations (usually visual or auditory, but could also be olfactory)
No two people will experience the same set of symptoms. For example, someone recovering from short-term alcohol addiction may only have mild symptoms that last a few days. On the other hand, someone recovering from long-term alcohol addiction may have more severe withdrawal symptoms.
Alcohol Withdrawal Stages
There are three alcohol withdrawal stages: minor, moderate and severe. Each stage has its own unique set of symptoms and lasts a different period. For most cases of alcohol abuse, the withdrawal period (or detox period) will last between seven and 10 days. However, those who are recovering from severe alcohol dependence may take months to fully complete the detox process. When a person decides to stop drinking, several factors determine how long it will take to detox. These factors include:
- The length of time the person drank
- How often the person consumed alcohol
- Their history of substance abuse
- Whether polydrug use is involved
- Their age, sex, weight, health condition and other personal factors
- Whether the person has any preexisting physical or mental health conditions
Genetics can sometimes play a role in the length of detox and recovery, in the same way they play a role in how quickly or severely a person becomes addicted to alcohol or other substances. However, unlike the factors mentioned above, the role of genetics in detoxing and overcoming addiction can be challenging to measure.
Stage One: Minor
Stage One usually starts between six and 12 hours after a person has their last drink. Although uncomfortable, people in this stage will only experience mild withdrawal symptoms. Common symptoms at this part of the alcohol withdrawal timeline include headaches, sweating, mild tremors, heart palpitations and sleep disruptions. They may also have gastrointestinal problems like nausea and vomiting. The worst Stage One symptoms will happen within the first few days of recovery and continue throughout the duration of detox; however, they’ll slowly start getting better after peaking.
Stage Two: Moderate
Stage Two detox symptoms take between 12 and 24 hours to present. These are usually moderate symptoms, which are more severe and uncomfortable than Stage One. Still, they aren’t as dangerous as Stage Three. Typical Stage Two symptoms include mental confusion and hallucinations, which could be visual, auditory or olfactory. However, severe problems like seizures and high blood pressure aren’t uncommon. Anyone who experiences seizures or blood pressure problems during detox from an alcohol use disorder should seek medical attention if they aren’t already at an inpatient facility. For some people, Stage Two will be the final stage of detox.
Stage Three: Severe
Not every person reaches Stage Three of withdrawal syndrome. Those who’ve been drinking heavily for many years are most at risk of reaching this detox stage. If it does happen, Stage Three symptoms generally present themselves between 48 and 96 hours after a person’s last drink. Severe symptoms are known as delirium tremens and can come on unexpected. If left untreated, delirium tremens can be fatal. This is another reason addiction specialists suggest detoxing at an alcohol rehab facility. People who reach Stage Three of detox have access to medical attention as soon as they need it. Symptoms of delirium tremens include shortness of breath, dry mouth, mental confusion, violent tremors and vivid hallucinations.
If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol dependency, Spark To Recovery can help. Our center can treat alcohol withdrawal in a safe, encouraging environment and provide any necessary emergency medical treatments after you stop drinking. If your alcohol use is caused by a co-occurring disorder, our medical professionals can help treat the root mental disorders, drug abuse or other issues to give you the best chance at permanent sobriety.
Work with Spark To Recovery for Alcoholism Treatment
At Spark To Recovery, we provide a safe and supportive environment for all our clients to undergo alcoholism treatment. Our team of professional physicians, therapists, nurses and addiction treatment experts can help you start your journey to sobriety and provide ongoing support so you stay that way. Our comprehensive center is ready to support you from detoxing and diagnosing co-occurring disorders to inpatient rehab and ongoing support groups. Call Spark To Recovery at (888) 915-1103 today to schedule an appointment with us.