Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Treatment

The easiest way to lookup drug information, identify pills, check interactions and set up your own personal medication records. Long-term and constant use of alcohol rewires the brain and changes its activity. It changes the functions of GABA (an inhibitory brain chemical) and glutamate (an excitatory brain chemical). Since alcohol slows brain function and nerve communication, the central nervous system (CNS) adapts.

  • Learn 18 ways to keep your mind occupied while facing alcohol withdrawal.
  • Addiction tends to make everything else in life seem less enjoyable.
  • In the United States, most states have low-cost or free rehabilitation programs for those who are uninsured.
  • Wernicke encephalopathy may occur in people who have a thiamine (vitamin B12) deficiency, a condition that is common among those addicted to alcohol.

The medical professional who evaluated your AWS symptoms may suggest daily follow-ups via telephone or video chat to check on your symptoms and progress. The likelihood of developing alcohol withdrawal increases with the amount and frequency of your alcohol intake. These symptoms usually begin 48 to 72 hours after you stop drinking and most commonly last 5 to 7 days. Still, people experiencing these withdrawal symptoms are generally fully conscious and can think clearly. In some cases, AWS can be a medical emergency and — if complications arise — potentially life threatening.

How Long Can Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Last? provides accurate and independent information on more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and natural products. This material is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Data sources include Micromedex (updated 4 Feb 2024), Cerner Multum™ (updated 4 Feb 2024), ASHP (updated 12 Feb 2024) and others. If the alcohol is withdrawn suddenly, the brain is like an accelerated vehicle that has lost its brakes. Not surprisingly, most symptoms of withdrawal are symptoms that occur when the brain is overstimulated. Find out what the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are and how long they last in this article.

Eating nutritious food, exercising, and getting enough sleep can help reduce some withdrawal symptoms, such as mood swings. If don’t have much of an appetite, you may want to take a multivitamin or drink a beverage high in electrolytes, such as a sports drink. If you take prescription medication, continue to take it as directed. Symptoms can range in severity, and it’s essential to have your symptoms evaluated by a medical professional.

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Commonly used medicines in this group include chlordiazepoxide (Librium) and lorazepam (Ativan). If you have severe vomiting, seizures or delirium tremens, the safest place for you to be treated is in a hospital. For delirium tremens, treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU) is often required.

Consuming more than that can lead to liver damage and heart disease, and increase your risk for some cancers. This may include medications, therapy, or both and can be offered in a variety of settings, both inpatient, outpatient, or a hybrid model. This is why some people may be hesitant or afraid to quit drinking. Still, try to keep in mind that these symptoms — though uncomfortable — are temporary.

In the Next Few Weeks

On average, an alcoholic who doesn’t stop drinking can expect to decrease his or her life expectancy by at least 15 years. The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition. The results are vital in developing a comprehensive treatment plan for you.

Cure for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you are still experiencing withdrawal symptoms after three days, talk to your healthcare provider. Individuals experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome should receive treatment according to the severity of their condition. Those with very mild symptoms can receive treatment as outpatients but may require the support and help of family and close friends for help. Still, if you’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms, it’s essential to get evaluated by a healthcare professional. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may recommend monitoring a medical setting or at home.

Protracted withdrawal

An effective coping technique is to “fast forward” your relapse fantasy. Instead of thinking about the momentary relief that will come with the drink, think beyond that to the inevitable pain that will come after. Think about all your work thus far and how much of a setback that would be. Consider how drinking again will only prolong your addiction and create more pain as you enter detox again. Try to mentally connect your alcohol consumption to pain, not pleasure or relief.

Under the guidance of a health professional, the first step involves a series of exams. These physical exams, lab tests, and imaging tests assess organ damage from alcohol use. The worst or most intense symptoms generally occur within the first week.

However, sleep disturbances, irritability, and fatigue may continue for months. Some people can be treated at home, but others may need supervised care in a hospital setting to avoid potentially dangerous complications such as seizures. A high fever, hallucinations, and heart disturbances are all reasons to seek immediate help. The symptoms may worsen over 2 to 3 days, and some milder symptoms may persist for weeks in some people. They may be more noticeable when you wake up with less alcohol in your blood. It can be helpful to make a plan ahead of time for how to handle a relapse.

  • The body’s vital signs such as your heart rate or blood pressure can change dramatically or unpredictably, creating a risk of heart attack, stroke or death.
  • You may want to take a family member or friend along, if possible.
  • The more you drink on a regular basis, the more you’re likely to be affected by withdrawal symptoms.

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a serious condition that some people struggling with alcohol withdrawal go through. It is characterized by severe nausea, seizures and hallucinations. If you begin to experience DT, you always need to get immediate medical attention, as it can be life-threatening. Inpatient treatment, or staying at a hospital or care facility, may be necessary for someone with moderate to severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Inpatient treatment allows healthcare professionals to monitor you for DT or hallucinations, monitor your vitals, and administer fluids or medicine intravenously if needed. Treatment varies depending on the severity of withdrawal symptoms.


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