alcohol withdrawal symptoms

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Millions of people across the UK show the signs of alcoholism.  In 2017, over 7,500 people died from alcohol-related causes There is no doubt alcohol addiction can destroy a person’s life, and it can be just as much upheaval when you decide to stop drinking and face the inevitable alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

If you have been imbibing for a long time and cease consuming alcohol, you may be susceptible to alcohol withdrawal symptoms, otherwise referred to as AWS. You will feel the effects if you are a heavy drinker and stop suddenly, leading to both physical and psychological symptoms. The extent of which may depend on the length and severity of your addiction and can have grave effects on your health and wellbeing.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline of Symptoms

You will first display the characteristics of alcohol withdrawal symptoms between 6 to 12 hours after you have your last drink. You will be racked by powerful cravings when you stop drinking alcohol.   If you are going ahead with detox, you should appreciate the fact the symptoms of withdrawal can be unpleasant, even painful in some cases, but help is available. If you are undergoing treatment at a residential rehab centre, the staff may administer the appropriate medication to help you deal with the symptoms.

The time it takes to complete alcohol withdrawal may differ from person to person. In some cases, it may take a long time to recover, while others may overcome their withdrawal symptoms in a short while. However, if you have been drinking to excess, you can expect to go through three distinct stages. It usually begins with a mild period, which can occur 8 hours after stopping drinking. You will then experience what is called the moderate period, which you will feel after 24 hours, culminating in suffering severe symptoms, manifesting with Delirium Tremens (DTs) after three days.

Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal

But what exactly brings on the signs of withdrawal from a medical point of view? It is an unavoidable outcome of stopping drinking alcohol, therefore depriving the body of an addictive substance, it has gotten used to. The very heart of the matter relates to how the brain reacts to alcohol. Experts agree it brings about the release of chemicals, required to alleviate the alcohol. However, if you drink to excess over a matter of weeks or months, the brain grows accustomed to compensating for the alcohol, creating certain chemicals allowing the body to keep working as usual.

However, if your alcohol levels should fall, the brain will increase the number of chemicals it requires to make up for it, which invariably leads to withdrawal, which can be overcome through detox. If you have decided to proceed with detox and stop drinking, then you will experience a wide variety of physical withdrawal symptoms. It is not uncommon to feel physically sick, abdominal pains, nausea or sweating, especially after dark, where you can have night sweats.

Some believe you evacuate all the alcohol from your body through urine, but this only accounts for about 10%. You will remove most of your alcohol by breaking it down through your metabolism or sweat it out of your body.

Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

There is another physical symptom which many people associate with stopping drinking, and that is hand or body tremors, usually referred to as `the shakes` You may succumb to this condition as drinking to excess can have an impact on your nerve cells.

If you stop drinking alcohol after a prolonged period and experiencing withdrawal, you could suffer from the condition called Delirium Tremens, widely abbreviated as the DTs, brought on by a change and shock to the nervous system.

If you are feeling the effects of delirium Tremens, you may endure physical side effects such as seizures or convulsions, shock or dehydration, as well as a chance in some cases of cardiac arrest which could be potentially life-threatening if left unchecked. This only highlights the possible ramifications of the DTs during detox.

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Vivid hallucinations
  • Extreme tremors
  • Autonomic hyperactivity, including shortness of breath, sweating, dry mouth and palpitations
  • Rapid heart rate or tachycardia
  • Agitation

In some instances, while undergoing detox, you may suffer seizures or fits and experience visual hallucinations, which can be disconcerting, if not frightening. Drinking too much could also lead to more serious health issues such as heightened blood pressure and heart rate.

There is no question alcohol is widely regarded a depressant, which decreases activity in the brain, and, over time, you can grow accustomed to a constant drop in stimulation as you drink a lot, regularly. However, after you stop, your brain will become over-stimulated, inundated with more activity and information than it is prepared for. This can leave your nervous system feeling overwhelmed, leading to signs of hyperactivity like tremors and shaking.

The shakes are often a physiologic tremor, which can dissipate when you have completed detox. However, although tremors are a common physical symptom of withdrawal, physiologic tremors can also result from a rise in intense emotions, where your trembling may increase if you are exhibiting anxiety about the detox process.


Seizures occasionally occur as a side effect of Delirium Tremens. However, seizures can occur outside the presence of the condition as well.

With alcohol withdrawal, generalized seizures and partial seizures are triggered in the brain and cause symptoms like blackouts, stiffness and intense jerking motions. These seizures are different from epileptic-style seizures because they are not triggered in the neocortex part of the brain

If you are going through alcohol withdrawal, you will also display a broad spectrum of psychological, as well as physical, side effects which can often be difficult. Anxiety, depression and irritability are among the most widespread mental side effects of detox. These are alongside suffering changes in mood and a loss of appetite. You may become agitated and quick to lose your temper, while some of the most common psychological symptoms of withdrawal are a feeling of restlessness and problems sleeping.

There are various explanations why you may be suffering from insomnia while experiencing detox, where, in many instances, it may be attributable to a drop in serotonin in the brain bringing on depression, while people struggling with a mental disorder may already find it hard to get to sleep.

Is it safe to do it on my own, withdrawing from alcohol?

It absolutely is not. The above-mentioned symptoms are minor compared to what some heavy drinkers can develop. For instance, delirium tremens. This is a serious condition, and the symptoms are all of the above, but much worse.

You could possibly die if you decide to suddenly withdraw from alcohol. We advise you to find a rehabilitation clinic and do this under the supervision of health professionals.

How long will it take for me to withdraw from alcohol?

The timeline can differ per person. There are many people who could take a while before they feel normal again. Some people will only have symptoms for a few days. This varies per person, but the average heavy alcoholic will suffer from three stages of withdrawal.

How To Treat Alcohol Withdrawal

As you can see from the symptoms mentioned above, it can often be an upheaval to experience withdrawal. However, many people are prepared to endure those symptoms, to free themselves from the pain of alcohol addiction.  You should be aware it can be dangerous to your health to carry out detox at home on your own. It is recommended you proceed with detox under the supervision of medical professionals, who will keep a close eye on you and help you deal with the symptoms of withdrawal. So, if you are ready to stop drinking alcohol and make a fresh start, then contact Detox Plus UK we can connect you with a local residential rehab centre in your area.



Alcohol faq

There Is No Rehab Centre Near Me, What Should I Do?

Whilst location is an important factor for all of us, please understand, that recovery from addiction is a journey, and a commitment and the initial foundations should not be compromised.
This means seeking advice to find the best rehab centre and therapeutic program that fits you (or your loved one) personally.

Clearly, it’s vital that you find a rehab clinic that offers the right treatments for you. Don’t worry, you can call the Detox Plus UK hotline today, and our advisors will talk you through the different options. This allows you to figure out what treatments will benefit you the most so you can find rehab centres that suit your needs.

When we talk about going to rehab, this assumes that you’re willing to pack your bags and move into a rehab centre. This is known as residential rehab, and it basically means that you live in an environment that’s closed off from the outside world.

It’s been proven that this benefits patients as it restricts you from coming into contact with things or people that trigger your addiction. As a result, it allows the people there to carry out detox treatment without worrying about relapses.

We strongly advise that you give us a call if you’re having trouble figuring out which option is best for you. We’ll talk to you on the phone to help come up with a treatment plan that benefits you the most. As a result, you’ll soon know the best course of action to kick your addiction.

We offer locations for rehab centres nationwide, call our team on 02072052734 or view our locations for Rehab centres

I Can’t Afford Private Residential Treatment. What Should I Do?
Contact your own GP and accurately & honestly explain to him or her your addiction problems and express your desire for help and treatment. Your GP should activate your local ADAT Addictions team who will offer you whatever NHS/Social and treatment routes are available. You should also attend AA or NA recovery groups for support and guidance.
How Long Is The Average Residential Stay in Rehab?

Residential stays vary from between 7-28 days depending on the specifics of your circumstances and historical usage. e.g. An average alcohol detox may last 7 days, with a further 2-3 weeks in the therapeutic program to resolve the psycho-social and behavioural aspects of addiction. As above, most experience the best outcomes and lasting long term sobriety following a minimum 28-day residential stay

What medication is used for alcohol addiction?
Medication can include replacement drugs such as lorazepam or phenobarbital, which are administered in tapering doses to help with alcohol withdrawals. Drugs such as Naltrexone, Disulfiram or Acamprosate can help prevent a return to alcohol use.

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