Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms and Treatment
Alcohol is a widely-used substance, and may create both psychological and physical dependence. When dependence develops, an individual will experience withdrawal symptoms upon removing alcohol from the body. Withdrawal from alcohol can be severely uncomfortable and even dangerous in some cases. It’s important to understand the risks of cold-turkey alcohol withdrawal and how to find appropriate help to keep yourself safe through the detoxification process.
Alcohol Consumption in the United States
Alcohol is consumed by a little over half of Americans age twelve and over, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Alcohol is the most used substance in the United States, with over 55% of people 26 and over consuming alcohol in a given month. Although many people do not develop a problem with alcohol, an estimated 6.2% of American adults suffer from alcohol use disorder. According the same statistics on alcohol consumption, over a quarter of American adults engage in binge drinking behavior in a given month.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary depending upon the individual’s case. The most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are:
- Tremors and shaking
- Fevers and sweating
- Anxiety and irritation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Headache and muscle soreness
- Appetite changes
- Cravings for alcohol
Alcohol impacts the GABA receptors in the brain. GABA receptors are the main inhibitors of the central nervous system, the system in your body responsible for calming you and bringing you down. When you go through the detox process, your body essentially responds with agitation in the same system. Instead of calming, the body can become tense, irritated, anxious, and generally functioning poorly. In more severe cases, alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures and coma, ultimate resulting in death.
Like the withdrawal from any other substance, alcohol detox happens in stages. the timeline of alcohol withdrawal symptoms may depend on your individual case, but it will follow a general path based on the half-life of alcohol in the body.
First 24 Hours
During the first day after your drink, you’re likely to experience some anxiety, cravings for alcohol, and agitation. You may also experience intestinal discomfort and nausea. These may be symptoms very similar to a hangover, and may be worse than your normal hangover if you continue to not drink. The first day is difficult and a crucial period as many people seek alcohol out in order to manage symptoms of withdrawal.
First Couple Days
After the first 24 hours, symptoms may worsen. During the first few days, additional symptoms may develop. You may experience things like increased blood pressure, sweating and fevering, depression and loss of energy, mood swings, and cognitive problems with memory and attention. During this period, individuals may develop physical symptoms that can be dangerous if unmanaged. It’s important to have trained physicians and clinicians observing you to manage the symptoms you are experiencing.
Alcohol Withdrawal Day 3 and 4
People who go through alcohol detox often cite the third day of alcohol withdrawal as the worst. This is a time in which symptoms are likely to peak in severity, and many people relapse during this period. The good news is that if you can make it through this period, symptoms are likely to diminish.
3 Days – 2 Weeks
During the next week or so, symptoms will generally decrease. However, this is the period in which life-threatening withdrawal symptoms may arise in more severe cases of alcohol abuse. Users may experience delirium tremens, hallucinations, fever, mental confusion, and periods of intense agitation. Mood disturbances and fits of anger may occur.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment
Many people are able to drink alcohol normally, but those that develop an addiction may put themselves at risk. Alcoholism can be deadly, cause a lot of pain for individuals and their family members, and cause long-lasting effects on the mind and body. After going through the withdrawal process, it’s crucial to continue treatment for alcoholism. Moving on to a residential treatment center like Elevation Behavioral Health increases your chance at staying sober in the long-run.
It’s important to find the right help. You may want to consider if you need dual diagnosis treatment, medically-assisted detox, and/or long-term care. Although the medical and clinical communities have developed standards of care for alcohol addiction treatment, each person has an individual set of experiences and individual needs. As such, it’s crucial to find treatment that fits your specific needs in order to receive the best possible care and get the best chances at building a life in recovery.