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Understanding the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Man measuring his blood pressure feeling sick.

Those who suffer from alcohol addiction depend on the substance to function normally. Our bodies are able to quickly adapt to the substance, creating adverse effects when we abstain from it. Mental, physical, and emotional changes occur when the body stops receiving it’s “normal” intake. Effects can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days and include:

  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of appetite
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion


Alcohol withdrawal is not just some internal process but is made obvious by the side effects. Everyone is different and the body is unpredictable. It is important to seek help from professionals who are there to help with any complications and to avoid relapses.  Withdrawal can be difficult and painful, but eventually, the body heals and the side effects subdue.


Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

Acute Alcohol Withdrawal happens when an individual abruptly quits or significantly cuts back on consumption of alcohol. This stage of withdrawal usually happens within the first hours after quitting. At this time, the individual is at risk of suffering from more extreme side effects such as tremors, heart palpitations, and vomiting. Acute alcohol withdrawal reaches its peak during the first 10 to 30 hours and typically subside within a couple of days.

This is a sensitive time for the body as it rids itself of alcohol. Other complications can arise, it is important that the individual is in the care of loved ones to help them through the process.


Post-Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

The next phase, known as Post Acute Alcohol Withdrawal, sets in after the initial side effects subside. Some are lucky enough not to experience this second stage, but for others, they can experience Post-Acute Alcohol Withdrawal from as little as a few weeks to up to a year. These symptoms can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Emotional outburst
  • Anxiety
  • Lapse in memory


Unfortunately, with Post-Acute Alcohol Withdrawal, symptoms may subside, but then pop up randomly. It is frustrating because recovery is not a rapid process, but can take time with many ups and downs. The body takes time to recover and heal from the substance.


Why Seek Treatment

Anyone who has experienced alcohol dependency and withdrawal knows how hard it can be. The symptoms of withdrawal differ from person to person, including the severity. Symptoms can be random, making the individual believe it is over, but can suddenly re-occur. The up and down, back and forth can become frustrating, defeating, and tiresome, making it even more important to have a strong support system and professional help.