June 2, 2023

Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal

A man stands on a hillside looking out a the scenery to represent signs of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which can be life-threatening, occurs when someone abruptly stops drinking after chronic alcohol use. Signs of alcohol withdrawal present on a spectrum from mild to severe.

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Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are a clear sign of alcohol dependency. When a person abruptly stops drinking after prolonged or heavy alcohol use, their body goes through withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal effects can be physical and psychological. The body and brain become dependent on the frequency and patterns of drinking, making it challenging to quit. 

The effects of alcohol withdrawal include shakes, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety.

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can lead to life-threatening health complications. Regardless of the duration of alcohol consumption, anyone can experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome symptoms. It is always advisable to seek professional care from a specialized alcohol rehab facility when attempting to quit drinking due to the potentially severe effects of alcohol detox.

Common Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal

Here are some of the most common signs of alcohol withdrawal:

  • Tremors or shaking: Uncontrollable trembling or shaking, typically affecting the hands, can be a prominent sign of alcohol withdrawal.
  • Anxiety or nervousness: Feelings of restlessness, anxiety, or unease are frequently experienced during withdrawals from alcohol.
  • Irritability or mood swings: Rapid changes in mood, irritability, or emotional instability are common during alcohol detox.
  • Sweating or clammy skin: Excessive sweating or a clammy sensation may occur due to the body’s response to alcohol withdrawals.
  • Headache: Persistent headaches or migraines are among the most common effects of alcohol cessation.
  • Nausea or vomiting: Gastrointestinal disturbances like nausea and vomiting are common symptoms during alcohol withdrawal.
  • Insomnia or disturbed sleep: Difficulties falling asleep or maintaining a restful sleep pattern are often reported during withdrawal from alcohol.
  • Increased heart rate: Rapid heart rate or palpitations may be experienced as the body adjusts to the absence of alcohol.
A woman stands looking out at a lake to represent the signs of alcohol withdrawal.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

The symptoms of detoxing from alcohol may vary in intensity and duration. Understanding these symptoms is crucial to ensure appropriate medical care and support. Here are some common alcohol withdrawal symptoms:

  • Mild symptoms: Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically appear within 6 to 12 hours after the last drink and may include anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • DTs (delirium tremens): In severe cases of alcohol withdrawal, a condition called delirium tremens can develop. Symptoms of DTs may include severe confusion, hallucinations, fever, seizures, and agitation. Delirium tremens can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Psychological symptoms: As well as the physical effects of alcohol withdrawal, individuals may experience psychological effects like depression, irritability, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating during alcohol withdrawal.
  • Cravings: Strong cravings for alcohol can be a significant symptom of withdrawal, making it challenging for individuals to resist the urge to drink.
  • Fatigue and weakness: Feelings of exhaustion, weakness, and lack of energy are common during alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Seeking professional help from a specialized alcohol addiction treatment facility is recommended to ensure a safe and supportive environment during the withdrawal process.

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal

When it comes to managing alcohol withdrawal, proper treatment is crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals going through this challenging phase. Here is an overview of the treatment options for alcohol withdrawal:

  • Medical supervision: It is recommended that individuals undergoing alcohol withdrawal receive medical supervision to monitor their vital signs, manage symptoms, and intervene if complications arise.
  • Medications: Proper treatment for alcohol withdrawal often involves the use of medications that are approved to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, agitation, and seizures. Anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine and valproate may be used as alternatives or adjuncts to benzodiazepines in the treatment of alcohol withdrawal, particularly to prevent seizures. Naltrexone can be used to help individuals maintain sobriety and reduce alcohol cravings by blocking the pleasurable effects of alcohol in the brain. Acamprosate is used to support abstinence from alcohol by reducing cravings and helping individuals maintain their sobriety. Disulfiram is a medication that, when taken in combination with alcohol, produces unpleasant side effects (such as nausea and flushing) to discourage drinking.
  • Fluids and nutrition: Proper hydration and nutrition are essential during alcohol withdrawal. Intravenous fluids may be administered to prevent dehydration, while a balanced diet is encouraged to support the body’s healing process.
  • Counseling and therapy: Mental health support is a vital component of alcohol withdrawal treatment. Counseling and therapy, such as CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), can help individuals understand and address the underlying factors contributing to their alcohol use and develop coping strategies for sobriety.
  • Supportive care: Creating a supportive environment is important for successful alcohol withdrawal treatment. This may involve the involvement of family, support groups, and a comprehensive aftercare plan to facilitate long-term recovery.
  • Dual diagnosis treatment: If an individual has a mental health condition co-occurring alongside alcohol addiction, integrated treatment of both conditions is essential. Dual diagnosis treatment addresses the interplay between mental health and addiction to ensure comprehensive care.
  • Long-term treatment: Alcohol withdrawal treatment is just the beginning of an ongoing recovery journey. Long-term treatment options, such as inpatient or outpatient rehab programs, sober living communities, and ongoing therapy, are recommended to support sustained sobriety and prevent relapse.

Treatment for alcohol withdrawal should be individualized based on the person’s specific needs and circumstances. Seeking professional help from a reputable alcohol addiction treatment facility is essential to receive personalized care and support throughout the recovery process.


What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms like?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary but commonly include anxiety, tremors, sweating, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and restlessness. Severe cases may experience hallucinations, seizures, and DTs (delirium tremens).

What are the effects of alcohol withdrawal?

The effects of alcohol withdrawal can be both physical and psychological. Physically, it can lead to dehydration, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and potential seizures. Psychologically, it can cause anxiety, depression, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. In severe cases, delirium tremens, a life-threatening condition, may occur. It is important to seek medical assistance when experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

A man looks out at a landscape to represent treatment for alcohol withdrawal, and rehab for alcohol addiction.

Get Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal at Gratitude Lodge

Begin your recovery journey with Gratitude Lodge in Southern California for alcohol withdrawal and addiction treatment. Our pet-friendly rehab centers in Newport Beach and Long Beach offer supervised medical detox and personalized treatment programs:

  • 30-day inpatient program
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)

We also provide dual diagnosis treatment for those with co-occurring mental health conditions. Our treatment plans include medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy (CBT or DBT), group and individual counseling, family therapy, and holistic therapy.

After completing your program, you can transition to a less intensive therapy or sober living. Our team will equip you with relapse prevention strategies and an aftercare plan. Call admissions at 888-861-1658 to start your journey to recovery at Gratitude Lodge.

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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 Russe 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.

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