March 7, 2024

Alcohol Withdrawal Headache

woman with hands on temples representing Alcohol withdrawal headache

Alcohol withdrawal headaches commonly manifest when someone discontinues use. An alcohol withdrawal headache normally subsides within 12 to 24 hours of the last drink. The severity and duration of these headaches can vary depending on factors like the quantity of alcohol consumed and hydration levels.

Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Headaches?

Detoxing from alcohol can often result in headaches, which are a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Initially, these headaches may be mild, but they can intensify significantly around 72 hours after the last drink. In some cases, these withdrawal headaches can persist for extended periods, ranging from weeks to months or even years, mainly due to the onset of PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome).

Additionally, alcohol detoxification can trigger other types of headaches, such as tension headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines. These headaches, along with the initial mild symptoms, serve as important indicators that your body is undergoing alcohol withdrawal.

When you stop drinking, your brain undergoes a state of shock as it strives to restore equilibrium in the absence of alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal typically commences within hours after your last drink, while the timeline for PAWS can vary based on factors like the specific type of drug used. Given the intensity of these symptoms at the outset, many people recovering from alcoholism may find themselves grappling with migraines during this phase.

woman with hands on head representing Headaches alcohol withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms headache

How to Treat Headache from Alcohol Withdrawal

Dealing with headaches during alcohol withdrawal can be challenging, but there are strategies to alleviate discomfort and manage symptoms effectively. Here are some tips for treating headaches associated with alcohol withdrawal:

  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can exacerbate headaches, so drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Avoid caffeinated and sugary beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration.
  • Get adequate rest: Rest and relaxation can help alleviate headache symptoms. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night to support your body’s recovery during alcohol withdrawal.
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help alleviate headache pain. Adhere to the recommended dosage.
  • Apply cold compress: Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the forehead or temples can help numb the pain and reduce inflammation associated with headaches. Wrap the cold pack in a towel to prevent skin damage and apply it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Utilize relaxation techniques: Stress or tension can inflame headache symptoms, so practice relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga to help reduce headache severity and frequency.
  • Maintain stable blood sugar levels: Skipping meals or consuming sugary foods can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels, triggering headaches. Eat regular, balanced meals containing complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent headaches.
  • Seek professional help: If headaches persist or become severe, seek medical attention from a healthcare professional. They can evaluate your symptoms, provide appropriate treatment, and offer guidance on managing alcohol withdrawal safely.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can effectively manage headaches associated with alcohol withdrawal and support your overall well-being during the recovery process.

Getting Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal can be a challenging and potentially dangerous process, especially for those with moderate to severe alcohol use disorders. While some people may attempt to withdraw from alcohol at home, there are risks involved and many potential benefits to engaging with professional treatment.

Withdrawal from alcohol occurs when someone who is dependent on alcohol stops or reduces their intake. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to severe and may include tremors, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, sweating, hallucinations, seizures, as well as DTs (delirium tremens).

Attempting to withdraw from alcohol at home, especially for those with moderate to severe alcohol use disorders, can be dangerous and even life-threatening. Without medical supervision, individuals may not receive adequate care for severe withdrawal symptoms such as DTs, which can lead to serious complications, including seizures, coma, and death.

Seeking treatment for alcohol withdrawal under medical supervision will ensure safety and minimize risks. Medical professionals can assess the severity of withdrawal symptoms, provide appropriate interventions, and monitor vital signs to prevent complications. In some cases, medications like benzodiazepines may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms and prevent seizures.

Inpatient treatment programs offer a structured and supportive environment for individuals undergoing alcohol withdrawal. These programs provide 24-hour medical supervision, access to medical detoxification services, behavioral therapies, and support from trained professionals. Inpatient treatment can be particularly beneficial for those with severe alcohol use disorder or co-occurring mental health conditions.

Outpatient treatment programs may be suitable for individuals with mild to moderate alcohol use disorder who do not require 24-hour medical supervision. These programs involve regular visits to a treatment facility for medical monitoring, counseling, and support. Outpatient treatment may include medication management, behavioral therapy, and participation in support groups.

Aftercare planning is essential for anyone completing treatment for alcohol withdrawal. Aftercare may involve ongoing counseling, participation in support groups such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), vocational training, and relapse prevention strategies. Continued support and monitoring can help individuals maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.


Can alcohol withdrawal cause headaches?

Yes, alcohol withdrawal can cause headaches. A headache from alcohol withdrawal is a common symptom resulting from the body adjusting to the absence of alcohol after prolonged use.

Can you get headaches from alcohol withdrawal during supervised medical detoxification?

While supervised medical detoxification aims to minimize withdrawal symptoms, individuals can still experience headaches as part of the alcohol withdrawal process. That said, medical supervision helps manage and reduce the severity of these symptoms.

gratitude lodge facility photo representing Headaches alcohol withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms headache

Get a Safe Medical Detox for Alcohol Withdrawal at Gratitude Lodge

At Gratitude Lodge, we treat alcohol withdrawal and alcohol addiction in an inpatient setting at our luxury beachside facilities in Newport Beach and Long Beach, California.

During alcohol detox, you can access medications approved by the FDA to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings. After addressing the issue of alcohol dependence, you can transition to ongoing treatment to tackle the psychological component of addiction.

Due to the unique nature of all addictions, you’ll engage with highly personalized treatments that might include:

When you are committed to embracing sober living, call Gratitude Lodge at 800-994-2184.

Want to learn more?

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.

Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.

Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.

Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.