Woman experiences withdrawal symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Basics - Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline and Dietary Changes That Help


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Woman experiences withdrawal symptoms

Making the conscious decision to get sober is the first and most important step towards recovery. However, doing so isn’t always easy and, when it comes to alcohol, withdrawals may be an unpleasant and even dangerous experience.

It is important to remember that detoxing from alcohol takes a toll on the body and, in some cases, disease processes or events that accompany acute alcohol withdrawal can cause significant illness and even death.

For most people, alcohol withdrawals are the most severe during the first three to five days after they quit drinking, but some symptoms can last up to a week.

Alcohol Withdrawal Basics

Like any other drug, removing alcohol (ethanol) from the body after prolonged, heavy, or daily use will lead to a period of withdrawal. Since your body is so used to having alcohol, taking it away can put your system into shock, so doctors often offer drugs to help reduce some of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Some of these drugs include Librium and Valium.

Always speak with a doctor before you enter any detox plan. A rehab center can also ensure that you’re taken care of as well as keep an eye on you by monitoring your heart rate, blood pressure and administering drugs if necessary. Quitting cold turkey is often advised against by the medical community.

Minor alcohol withdrawal signs include:

  • tremors
  • anxiety
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • insomnia.

Major alcohol withdrawal signs and symptoms include:

  • visual hallucinations
  • auditory hallucinations
  • whole-body tremors
  • vomiting
  • diaphoresis
  • high blood pressure.

Knowing what to expect helps ease the process and makes it easier to deal with all the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Delirium Tremens

About 5 percent of people who go through alcohol withdrawals experience Delirium Tremens (known as DTs) within the first three to 10 days. DTs is the rapid onset of confusion and is considered the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal and a medical emergency that could signal cardiovascular collapse.

The main symptoms of delirium tremens are nightmares, agitation, global confusion, disorientation, visual and auditory hallucinations, tactile hallucinations, fever, high blood pressure, heavy sweating, and other signs of autonomic hyperactivity (fast heart rate and high blood pressure). These symptoms may appear suddenly but typically develop two to three days after the stopping of heavy drinking, being worst on the fourth or fifth day. Early detection and intervention are essential. Call the doctor right away if you experience these major symptoms.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

For most people, alcohol withdrawals are the most severe during the first three to five days after they quit drinking, but some symptoms can last up to a week. Long-term effects of alcohol damage can last even longer. However, normal symptoms can look something like the following:

  • 6 - 12 hours after quitting: sweating, anxiety, headaches, vomiting, and insomnia
  • 12 - 24 hours after quitting: possible hallucinations
  • 48 - 72 hours after quitting: sweating, seizures, high blood pressure, irritability, confusion, and fever

Long-term effects of alcohol use can also take a toll on the body, so it's important to continue seeing a doctor after you have gotten sober to ensure that you're taking care of your health. Severe alcohol use can cause problems in your future including cirrhosis, impaired memory, a weakened immune system, and high blood pressure.

Because alcohol increases dopamine levels, when you remove alcohol from your life, these levels can drop significantly. The long-term effects of alcohol on your mental health can include anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and more.

Dietary Changes to Help Ease Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you do not manage your alcohol withdrawal symptoms properly, you may, on the contrary, cause harm to your body and mind. Having a professional to help you through this period is therefore important. In the meantime, you should also make some dietary changes that can help reduce these effects and help put you on a stronger foothold to recovery. Coping with minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms becomes easier when you begin to understand what constitutes healthy consumption of food and drinks.

Remove Junk Food

First, you will need to remove the junk foods and drinks as well as, coffee and dairy-related products. It is found that it is easier for many people to stay sober when they eat healthily at the same time. Wholesome foods in particular fruits and vegetables can help repair the damage wreaked by excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption. These components in the diet also help to reduce cravings for alcohol.

Drink Plenty of Water

Definitely, you need to drink plenty of filtered water. Water helps to flush out toxins from your body and that includes the excess alcohol stored in your body. You are rejuvenating yourself when you replace alcohol with good pure water.

Get Your Vitamins and Minerals

It is also necessary to provide some much-needed vitamin and mineral supplements for additional support. In particular, B vitamins are said to be especially helpful as people who use alcohol are likely to be deficient in these. You may also be suffering from internal injuries and damage as a result of alcohol use. Your doctor can help you identify which supplements to take to help repair the tissue cells of the affected organ. If you have ulcers, you would also need to eat many small meals.

Other Benefits of Eating Healthily

Once you begin to eat healthily, you may want to stay more at home to prepare these meals and away from the bars and pubs. Eating healthily is also good if you also have high blood pressures or cholesterol problems that you have to deal with.

By making changes to what you put into your body, you are more likely to remain alcohol-free.

Staying on the Path of Sobriety

It’s no secret that withdrawals are difficult to get through. It’s easy for some individuals to want to give up because symptoms can be extremely trying on the body, but, for the sake of your own health, it is a necessary process to go through. With the help of your doctor or a detox center, getting sober is possible and will positively affect your life for the better.

With time, your body will begin to heal itself and you’ll slowly begin to feel better not only about your decisions, but your physical health as well. Surrounding yourself with positive people and removing negativity from your life can make a world of difference when you’re choosing to stay sober.

Attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, group counseling, or finding a mental health doctor can help you deal with the problems you encountered during your drinking and will allow you to take steps in caring for yourself even after you have gone through the physical withdrawals from alcohol.

Help is Available

If you are suffering from alcohol addiction and are ready to make a positive change in your life, speak with your doctor, friends, family, or anyone who can help you take a step in the right direction to get clean and sober. Although it is hard to see past today, those who get sober find that there are success and life beyond alcohol and that you are not your addiction.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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