Since alcohol’s cultural references are primarily positive, many people see nothing wrong with drinking to relax or lower their inhibitions. While nobody purposely sets out to develop an addiction, casual drinking can become problematic sooner than you might realize. Withdrawal symptoms are one sign of a burgeoning substance use disorder.
What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?
If you become physically and psychologically dependent on drugs or alcohol, you can experience withdrawal when trying to quit. Alcohol is literally a mind-altering substance because it changes your brain’s built-in reward mechanism. When you quit drinking, your brain has trouble adjusting to the absence of alcohol. As a result, you may become anxious, irritable, nauseated and have insomnia. All these are hallmarks of alcohol withdrawal.
How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
The answer to this question depends on variables like your weight, metabolism, gender, age, overall health and how much you’ve had to drink. Mild withdrawal can begin as soon as your blood alcohol concentration drops below the standard your body is accustomed to.
An example timeline looks like this.
- Stage one: You might start feeling ill during the first six to 12 hours after your last drink, with headaches, mood swings, insomnia and suppressed appetite.
- Stage two: Withdrawal intensifies in the next 12 to 48 hours, and might include symptoms like hallucinations and seizures.
- Stage three: Up to 72 hours after your last drink, you could experience fever, excessive sweating, disorientation, a rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and a potentially fatal condition called delirium tremens. If any of these happen to you, seek immediate medical attention.
- Stage four: Withdrawal symptoms should begin improving after 72 hours and gradually subside over the next four to seven days.
Some people who quit drinking or taking other drugs go through a period called post-acute withdrawal syndrome, which includes several unpredictable symptoms like depression, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and sleep disruptions and can continue long after the initial withdrawal and stabilization period. While mental health professionals have yet to pinpoint what causes PAWS, you can learn to manage it with personalized care and long-term support in recovery.
Begin Your Path to Lifelong Recovery
Though withdrawing from most types of drugs is uncomfortable, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening for some people. That’s why quitting cold turkey is dangerous. However, a treatment plan that begins with medically managed detoxification will help you get through alcohol withdrawal safely.
At Cumberland Heights, our highly trained nursing team provides personalized, 24/7 monitoring for people experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Since our detoxification program is on our main campus, you can transition smoothly into inpatient care once you’re medically stable. We offer a full continuum of care that makes long-term recovery possible by addressing all facets of your well-being. If you’re ready to learn more about what we offer, reach out for help today.