Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Every time you drink alcohol, it affects the brain. The more you consume and the increased frequency at which you drink can eventually lead to alcohol dependency and addiction. As you drink more often, the brain begins to adapt to functioning with alcohol to a point where it begins to feel normal. This raises your tolerance level which requires more alcohol to reach the same level of intoxication as before. After awhile, the effects of alcohol on the brain can lead to long-term damage. 

When a person reaches this point of alcohol addiction, it can be nearly impossible to stop. Depending on how long you’ve battled alcoholism and how much you drink on a regular basis, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours of your last drink. They manifest both physically and mentally and are painful and uncomfortable. As a result, many continue to drink rather than seek treatment to detox and heal. 

Seeking the help of a treatment facility is a safer route when you’re ready to detox. There are therapists and other trained staff to help make you feel as comfortable as possible as you go through withdrawal. Alcoholism withdrawal symptoms are often the most intense in the first few days and then begin to subside as the week goes on. In cases of prolonged addiction, it may take longer for the body to complete the process. 

Regardless of how long detox takes, it’s best to go through it with the assistance of a compassionate and caring team that will help to prevent relapse, provide emotional support, and work with you to reach the next stage of recovery. 

Physical Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The physical signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are intense. Each situation differs; you may experience several of the effects simultaneously or feel a few of them more than others. They can feel like an attack on your body as it tries to re-adapt to functioning without alcohol after being used to it for so long. Physical withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Body aches and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tremors
  • Seizures 

There’s no way of knowing exactly how your body will handle detox and the knee-jerk reaction may be to have a drink. If relapse occurs, know that it’s not considered failure or lack of willpower. Alcoholism is a disease and requires specific treatment and guidance before healing can begin. There’s a far greater chance of gaining sobriety under the supervision of a team of therapists at an alcohol addiction treatment center who are there to provide the tools and encouragement you need to come out on the other side alcohol-free.

Mental Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

It’s not just the physical side effects that make detox a challenging time. The mental aspect can feel even more draining. When addiction has changed the makeup of your brain to adapt to alcohol consumption, it takes time to return to your original norm. The first few days of alcohol withdrawal often result in the physical side effects. 

As you enter the middle half of the detox process, there are mental side effects that come into play as well. These symptoms may include:

  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings 

At any point during the treatment process, there may be a dual diagnosis. This is when a person suffers from a mental health disorder at the same time as being diagnosed with alcohol addiction. Some of the symptoms are similar, which makes it easier for a mental health disorder to go undetected or untreated in the presence of alcohol abuse. 

One of the main reasons for receiving treatment is identifying where your alcoholism stems from as well as identifying any triggers that are causing you to drink, which may be derived from a mental illness. Knowing what’s perpetuating the disease gives way to finding the proper care that will help treat it best.

Symptoms of withdrawal from alcoholism are unpredictable and it’s safest to go through the process in the presence of those who are trained to help treat the disease. There are additional steps following detox that must be taken in order to abstain from drinking alcohol in the future. 

As with any other type of illness, even though you begin to feel better, you must see your prescribed treatment the whole way through to reduce the chance of it occurring again. 

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms may intensify or last longer if you are battling other health problems as well. They can also be affected by how long you’ve had alcohol addiction. The typical symptoms of an alcohol withdrawal timeline last five to seven days. 

The first phase begins approximately six hours after your last drink. They may feel mild at first, like a lingering headache, but can turn serious right away if there’s a longer history of excessive drinking. The physical symptoms continue through the first day and into the second. You may start to experience high blood pressure, fever, and vomiting, among others.

Within the first three days, delirium may set in, as well as increased heart rate and hallications. It’s the first three days that are commonly the most intense. They generally taper off from there. However, any of these symptoms can last for longer at the same level of intensity throughout the entirety of your detox.

During these stages of alcohol withdrawal is when relapse is more common. The pain and discomfort of these symptoms are overwhelming as the body fights to get rid of all the alcohol. It’s a situation where it feels worse before it gets better. With that being said, having support readily available can be key. 

Detox treatment centers are set up to handle these situations with medical monitoring and compassionate care. It’s a safer, more comfortable environment than going through alcohol withdrawal at home. There are people who can walk you through what to expect and help you push through detox and on your way to healing. 

Following an Alcohol Treatment Timeline

Treatment is customized based solely on your needs and your individual situation. However, the actual steps to sobriety follow the same stages of the full continuum of care. You’ll have an entire team dedicated to your recovery and healing. The first step is always detox under medical supervision. The body must be free of alcohol in order to continue on with the next steps successfully. 

Detox typically lasts several days before you’re ready for residential treatment. This type of program requires a temporary stay at a rehabilitation facility where you’re able to fully concentrate on healing. Being in a peaceful environment is essential to your care. A treatment facility is free of outside distractions, influences, and temptations that may be haunting you in your daily life. It’s a place of calm and respite that provides tools and guidance necessary to complete the recovery process and also begin to build a new life sans alcohol. 

After your residential treatment program is complete, there is a transitional period that involves outpatient care. Outpatient care doesn’t involve living at the facility and requires less of a time commitment. There’s still a high level of commitment and accountability during this stage of your treatment to increase the likelihood of sustained sobriety. 

Once you’ve completed the program, there are additional addiction support services and programs available that will help you as you continue your recovery journey. When the symptoms of alcoholism are no longer present, it’s still important to be proactive about your health to prevent them from returning again. This makes treatment and self-care ongoing as a new part of your lifestyle. Alcohol withdrawal is not something that’s meant to go through alone. 

There are too many factors that can affect its success and how you feel throughout the process. You deserve to receive help from medical professionals who understand the pain you’re going through and can be the support you need. Part of substance abuse treatment involves creating structure. 

A typical day involves meditation, meal times, group therapy and meetings, as well as individual counseling and free time. The concept of getting back to a calm and productive routine helps to reset the mind to follow healthy habits and learn ways to fill the time that would normally have been spent drinking. 

Detox with the Help of Others

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can occur at any stage of alcohol abuse. You may feel hesitant to seek help, thinking you can or want to handle it on your own. However, you don’t have to feel ashamed about going through detox under the supervision of others. 

At a detox treatment center, you’ll receive assistance around-the-clock, if needed, from therapists and specialists who can monitor the unpredictability that comes with withdrawal symptoms. They are certain withdrawal symptoms that may be too much to handle on your own. Choose an alcohol addiction treatment center that’s safe and secure. The medical supervision you receive at your treatment program can play a major role in your overall recovery. When going through the detoxification process, make sure you are supported with experienced medical professionals that can guide you throughout the entire process.

Receiving alcohol treatment at our detox facility provides a safer environment and offers assurance that someone is always by your side when the detoxification becomes too intense. Together, you can determine the right type of treatment for your substance abuse to start healing.

Source:

https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/how-long-does-it-take-to-detox-from-alcohol#timeline

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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