Alcohol is legal, easy to buy, and culturally acceptable – all factors that can make it easy to forget that it’s also an addictive drug. If you drink to relax, unwind, and cope with stress, you will likely experience uncomfortable side effects when you try to quit. Here’s what you need to know about alcohol withdrawal.
Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal
Withdrawal is a physical and psychological phenomenon that occurs after someone develops a dependency on a mood-altering substance. Multiple neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin combine to create the pleasurable, relaxed feeling associated with drinking. Over time, your neurotransmitters adapt to the presence of alcohol, which eventually leads to a dependency.
When you quit using alcohol, your brain chemicals become imbalanced, leading to withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, irritability, stomachaches, and nausea. In the absence of alcohol, you begin to feel ill because your body and brain can no longer regulate the neurotransmitters on their own.
How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
Alcohol stays in your system for varying periods, based on your weight, metabolism, and how much you’ve had to drink. Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as your blood alcohol concentration dips below the baseline level your body has learned to expect.
Your experience may vary depending on factors like your age, gender, genetics, overall health, and history of substance abuse. However, a general timeline looks like this.
- Stage one: In the first six to 12 hours after your last drink, you may start feeling ill, with headaches, mood swings, insomnia, and depressed appetite.
- Stage two: Within the next 12 to 48 hours, withdrawal becomes increasingly severe, and might include symptoms like hallucinations and seizures.
- Stage three: Up to 72 hours after your last drink, you could experience fever, excessive sweating, disorientation, and high blood pressure. If any of these happen to you, seek medical attention immediately.
- Stage four: Withdrawal symptoms should begin improving after 72 hours and gradually resolve over the next four to seven days.
What Is Delirium Tremens?
The most severe alcohol withdrawal symptom is delirium tremens. This condition affects people with a history of long-term, heavy drinking, and occurs due to changes in the central nervous system. Delirium tremens can be dangerous, and may involve:
- Body tremors
- Confusion and disorientation
- Decreased attention span
- Deep sleep lasting longer than a day
- Vivid hallucinations or delusions
- Mood swings
Start Your Healing Journey at Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers
While you may assume an at-home detox is the safest and most comfortable way to stop drinking, that’s a dangerous misconception. According to medical research, up to 25% of delirium tremens cases can be fatal.
To minimize the risk and severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, the best thing for your health and safety is to enter an inpatient treatment program, where professional clinicians who are experienced in addiction medicine can monitor your symptoms and offer a customized approach based on your comprehensive biopsychosocial assessment conducted during intake.
If you have abused alcohol for years and are ready to get sober, you need a secure, nurturing, and therapeutic environment to give you the best chances of making a full recovery. Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers provides comfortable surroundings in which you can address your addiction’s underlying causes, gain confidence, and learn a new lifestyle. Anyone struggling with long-term alcohol use can contact our admissions specialists today to make a fresh start.