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How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Last?

It’s difficult to stop drinking. If someone quickly stops drinking, numerous symptoms result. Ranging from mild to severe, the effects of alcohol withdrawal should be taken seriously.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

When someone dependent on alcohol suddenly quits or drastically reduces the amount of alcohol they consume, they may experience what is known as alcohol withdrawal. alcohol withdrawal is a serious condition that can affect one’s physical and mental well-being. 

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary from mild to severe and in many cases will require attention from a medical professional. Symptoms include and are not limited to:

  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Tremors
  • Rapid and/or irregular heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures 

Symptoms and the duration will vary from person to person. Inpatient and outpatient treatments are available for those who experience any of these symptoms. Often, recognizing withdrawal symptoms and seeking medical treatment can be the first steps in the recovery process. 

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

alcohol withdrawal is caused by immediately stopping or drastically reducing the amount of alcohol consumed by someone with alcohol dependence. Symptoms are caused by an imbalance in the brain due to alcohol dependence, leading to increased neuronal activity once alcohol is no longer being consumed. 

Since alcohol is a depressant, continued alcohol abuse will force the brain to overcompensate by creating neural pathways to deal with the effects. Often, the brain will pump additional hormones, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, to counterbalance the depressant effects. When alcohol consumption stops, excessive neuronal activity can cause symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

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How Soon Do Symptoms Start?

alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start within the first several hours of stopping alcohol consumption. The next several days and weeks can involve a progression of symptoms from mild to severe. 

Symptoms will vary from person to person, depending on the length of one’s alcohol dependence, the severity of their alcohol dependence, and their history with previous attempts at periods of sobriety. 

First eight hours:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Mood swings

The first 6-8 hours can involve mild symptoms similar to a hangover. Mild symptoms may be easy to ignore, but those who have severe alcohol dependence may notice the onset of withdrawal symptoms more quickly. 

Mild symptoms can include mood swings, upset stomach, anxiousness, and headaches. However, it is important to note that even severe symptoms such as seizures and hallucinations can arise during this period. Other factors such as the use of different substances and the quantity of alcohol consumed before this period can further complicate early withdrawal symptoms. 

First several days:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Irritability 
  • Respiratory distress

As the mild symptoms begin to subside, more severe complications can arise. Again, the timing at which moderate symptoms arise can vary depending on the individual’s history. Moderate symptoms can include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and increased irritability and mood swings. 

It is at this point that medical attention may become necessary. If symptoms continue to get worse or do not subside, medical intervention may be required for there to be an improvement. Risks of a medical episode may begin at this stage and get worse as time progresses.  

Next several weeks:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Delirium 
  • Heart failure
  • Body tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Fever

At this stage, if the person is experiencing such severe symptoms as those listed above, medical intervention is necessary. 

These symptoms may decrease on their own at around the 72-hour mark, unless a medical episode such as cardiac failure occurs, in which death may occur if medical aid is not provided immediately.

How Long Do The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

Severe symptoms can last for weeks or months if left untreated. It is important to seek medical attention before dramatically reducing or stopping alcohol consumption if you or someone you know has alcohol dependence.

Is it Necessary to Seek Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal?

alcohol withdrawal can be successfully treated with proper withdrawal management services and a full medical detox. Both inpatient and outpatient treatments are available for individuals experiencing these symptoms. 

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may decrease on their own, but they can be managed more easily with the help of trained professionals. One’s risk of a severe medical crisis can not be calculated as each person is different. Therefore, a person with alcohol dependence should seek help from professionals, as this is the best way to guarantee a healthy and long-lasting recovery. 

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