Guide to Detoxing Safely From Alcohol

 

Substance abuse can wreak havoc on a person’s physical and mental health. The only way back to health is through sobriety. For many, long-term recovery is only possible with an inpatient treatment program.

 

alcohol abuse facts

Alcohol addiction can be devastating to a person’s life, yet it is the third leading preventable death in the United States. The NIAA reports that alcohol is accountable for a third of all driving fatalities, yet is abused by more than 15 million Americans each year. Alcohol abuse cost the United States nearly $250 billion in 2010 and, in 2015, almost 40,000 people died of alcohol-related liver disease.

So why do people keep doing it?

Because the alcohol withdrawal symptoms are insanely intense and lead people to continue with their alcohol consumption in order to avoid them. The alcohol detoxification process is downright miserable and can even be deadly.

It is important to understand the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal so that you know when it is time to seek medical help. If the withdrawal process is bad enough, then it may be best for inpatient treatment.

If you or a loved one struggle with alcohol dependence, then please seek medical help for both treatment and recovery.

 

symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal do not happen for people who drink occasionally. Instead, it occurs in users who drink for prolonged periods of time, usually alcoholics. The withdrawal process happens because the body has become dependent on alcohol. When you remove the substance, then the body must withdrawal from alcohol and restabilize.

Withdrawal from alcohol can be both physical, in the body, as well as psychological, in the mind.

What Causes the Symptoms?

Alcohol has a depressive effect on your body, meaning that it slows down the central nervous system significantly. It severely reduces brain function and impairs nerve functioning.

With long-term alcohol use, the Central Nervous System (CNS) becomes accustomed to the depressive effects and adjusts for the daily alcohol intake. The brain begins to overstimulate itself so that it can remain at a functioning level, even under the depressive effects.

Heavy drinkers eventually become dependent on alcohol as the CNS learns to expect the depressive effects of alcohol.

When there is a sudden abstinence from alcohol, such as when a person decides to become clean, the brain continues in the over-stimulated state. Without the depressive effects of alcohol, this excited state can be unbearable to experience. These are the experienced symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to severe. The earliest of symptoms can occur after a bout of heavy drinking, such as with binge drinking, and is often referred to as a “hangover”. Severe withdrawal symptoms occur with long-term alcohol use, such as with alcoholics. Sometimes, the alcohol detoxification process can be deadly.

Heavy drinkers or those who partake in binge drinking will all experience mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms, sometimes called alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Mild withdrawal symptoms, like those of a hangover, often include:

  • The shakes
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Inability to sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Racing heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever

More severe withdrawal symptoms can be downright terrifying.

Sometimes, alcoholics will experience hallucinations about 12 to 24 hours after they quit drinking. Some will experience seizures within the first two days after the last drink.

When the onset of symptoms is severe, they may be delirium tremens, or DTs as it is commonly called.

Delirium tremens is a rapid onset of confusion, vivid hallucinations, and possibly withdrawal seizures within 48 to 72 hours after your last drink. DTs can occur in up to 10% of alcoholics that go through the withdrawal process.

Delirium tremens have a mortality rate of nearly 35% when not treated medically, making alcohol one of the most dangerous substances to detox from.

Many alcoholics, up to 20 percent, experience hallucinations but are not at the same risk as those who experience DT. In this instance, it is called alcoholic hallucinosis. In the case of alcoholic hallucinosis, the user will experience auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations. These hallucinations will begin 12-24 hours after the last drink.

alcohol withdrawal timeline

Though the severity of the symptoms of withdrawal range for each individual, the withdrawal timeline generally lasts about a week. Heavy drinkers who have long-term alcohol use may have withdrawal symptoms for much longer.

In many cases, even after a full detox, patients may never fully recover their brain capacity.

alcohol withdrawal

Stage 1: 8 Hours

About eight hours after the last drink, users typically begin to experience the symptoms of withdrawal. This usually includes nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, depression or anxiety, slowed thinking, irritability, and heart palpitations.

Stage 2: 1-3 Days

Symptoms typically peak between 24 and 72 hours after the last drink and are much more severe for users with high alcohol intake for longer periods of time. The symptoms often include increased blood pressure, sweating, irregular heart rate, confusion, volatile mood swings, and increased body temperature.

Stage 3: 4-7 Days

Between 5 and 7 days after the last drink, the most severe withdrawal symptoms begin to occur. This may include auditory or visual hallucinations, withdrawal seizures, severe confusion, fever and severe agitation.

Stage 4: 1 Week

Depending on the user, the physical symptoms of withdrawal typically begin to dissipate. Users with a long-term alcohol addiction may continue to experience the symptoms for longer. Psychological disturbances will remain in recovering alcoholics for much longer, often years after the last drink. Mental capacities, such as cognitive functioning and mental clarity, are severely diminished in users with alcohol use disorder.

symptoms of alcohol detox

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be incredibly uncomfortable and even extremely dangerous. It is best to go through the detox process under the guidance and care of healthcare professionals.

If you are ready to break free of your alcohol use disorder and begin the path toward recovery, we can help. Search through our directory for the right treatment facility for you or send us a message for some personalized recommendations.