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How Severe is Alcohol Withdrawal?

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    How Severe is Alcohol Withdrawal?

    How Severe is Alcohol Withdrawal?

    Alcohol withdrawal, one of the clearest signs of alcohol addiction, is a set of symptoms that occur when an individual suddenly stops drinking after a period of heavy drinking or greatly reduces their alcohol intake. These symptoms can be debilitating and even life-threatening. Keep reading to learn more about the severity of alcohol withdrawal and how to more comfortably experience it with the help of medical professionals and alcohol rehabilitation.

    Alcohol Withdrawal: What Happens to the Body?

    After a period of heavy alcohol use, the body and brain become chemically rewired to require alcohol. Alcohol is a sedative that triggers the reward center of the brain, which makes the user experience a euphoric feeling due to dopamine and other feel-good hormones being released.

    Tolerance and dependency build throughout addiction, meaning more and more alcohol is required to achieve the same intoxicated feelings. When alcohol consumption abruptly stops and the feel-good hormones are no longer being triggered by alcohol to release, the body goes through an adjustment period to learn how to function without it. This adjustment period causes painful side effects that can take days, weeks, or even months to overcome.

    Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

    Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur in stages. The severity of the withdrawal symptoms is dependent on each individual. Since no two people are exactly the same, everybody may experience different symptoms. Some may experience all of them, some may only experience a few, but by and large, they are generally the same symptoms. They can be exacerbated by existing health conditions and other factors.

    Some of the factors that can influence the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

    • Length of addiction
    • Severity of addiction
    • Age
    • Weight
    • Underlying physical health conditions
    • Underlying mental health conditions
    • Co-occurring drug use
    • Preferred alcohol to consume

    Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

    The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually peak at 48-72 hours and improve within five days. However, some symptoms may linger for weeks or months, depending on the severity of the addiction.

    6 hours after the last drink

    • Agitation
    • Anxiety
    • Headaches
    • Shaking
    • Nausea and vomiting

    12 hours after the last drink

    • Disorientation
    • Hand tremors
    • Seizures

    24-48 hours after the last drink

    • Seizures
    • Insomnia
    • High blood pressure
    • Tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations
    • High fever and excessive sweating
    • Delirium tremens


    • Acute alcohol withdrawal, which are ongoing effects such as anxiety that may take continual aftercare to manage

    Delirium Tremens

    An important and dangerous side effect of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is a severe and potentially fatal form of alcohol withdrawal. It involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes. It occurs most often in people who have a history of alcohol withdrawal, and also commonly affects people who have used alcohol for more than 10 years.

    Symptoms of delirium tremens progress quickly. They include:

    • Body tremors
    • Changes in mental function
    • Agitation
    • Irritability
    • Deep sleep that lasts for a day or longer
    • Excitement
    • Delirium
    • Fear
    • Hallucinations
    • Bursts of energy
    • Quick mood changes
    • Restlessness
    • Sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
    • Stupor
    • Sleepiness
    • Fatigue

    Medication-Assisted Detox

    Although alcohol is a legal substance, it is the only substance that can cause deadly withdrawal symptoms. This makes it especially important to never detox from alcohol alone, especially if you have a long, severe addiction history.

    Luckily, medication-assisted detox at alcohol abuse treatment centers can help you experience alcohol withdrawal safely and more comfortably. We have trained professionals who have dedicated their lives to helping their patients overcome the deadly problems of addiction to drugs and alcohol, as well as helping their families to cope with the situation as well.

    Aside from around-the-clock medical supervision and care, medication-assisted detox can provide medications that help with:

    • Sleep
    • Anxiety
    • Nausea
    • Cravings

    Allowing your body the opportunity to heal and reset after addiction puts you on the best path toward successful long-term recovery and sobriety. Each individual who enters our alcohol rehabilitation center will be assessed on their specific, individual needs and cared for accordingly—not placed in a cookie-cutter program.

    About Seasons in Malibu

    Alcohol withdrawal is debilitating, severe, and life-threatening in many cases. There is no way to know for sure whether you will experience fatal alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and there is no reason to risk finding out by detoxing alone. Upon arrival at Seasons alcohol rehab programs, you will be seen immediately by an MD that specializes in addiction medicine and alcohol detox with many years of experience and they will carefully assess your risk and closely monitor your detox process. After the detox process, you will be able to jump right into your treatment program with one-on-one therapy, various group therapies, holistic therapies, and aftercare planning.

    Our philosophy is grounded in the understanding that in order for the client to heal, the entire system needs the opportunity to heal along with them. Whenever practical, we try to include close loved ones in sessions and in the entire process of recovering from addiction and/or addressing mental health issues.

    We know how much strength and courage it takes to pick up the phone and ask for help. Our counselors are invested in your well-being and are ready around the clock to guide you or a trusted friend or family member through the initial steps of overcoming drug or alcohol addiction.

    For more information, visit