Man going through alcohol withdrawal Treating an alcohol addiction begins with a detox, where patients cease all consumption of alcohol. Since the bodies of those addicted to alcohol have become dependent on this substance, a detox often means that patients go into withdrawal. While the symptoms of withdrawal might be unpleasant, alcohol withdrawal is a vital and pivotal stage on the road to recovery.

What Happens Physically During an Alcohol Withdrawal

When individuals who have developed an addiction to alcohol stop drinking, the nervous system responds in a dramatic way. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, withdrawal can be described as the nervous system becoming hyperactive.

Over time, excessive drinking and alcoholism will lead to the brain adapting and altering its neurotransmitters. When alcohol consumption stops during a withdrawal, the brain is essentially reacting and trying to restore normal function.

During a withdrawal, both the brain and the body are in distress. They crave alcohol, which will end the temporary hyperactivity of the nervous system and restore the new adaptive balance of alcoholism. However, pushing through to complete a detox means that the withdrawal will eventually end, taking the symptoms with it and helping patients embrace sobriety for the future.

Onset of Withdrawal Symptoms

Individuals who are addicted to alcohol may already be familiar with the onset of withdrawal and its accompanying symptoms. After a night of heavy drinking, it’s not unusual to wake up and already feel withdrawal symptoms kicking in. Individuals struggling with addiction typically treat these symptoms with more alcohol in order to reduce discomfort and proceed through the day.

During a detox, the onset of mild withdrawal symptoms may appear roughly six to eight hours after the process has begun. Those with less severe addictions, or more recent addictions, may not notice any discomfort for 12 hours or more.

Typical Timeline for a Withdrawal From Alcohol

Once the alcohol withdrawal begins, physical symptoms will become increasingly pronounced. At 24 hours into the detox, virtually all patients will be experiencing withdrawal. By 72 hours into the detox, however, the physical withdrawal symptoms will begin to recede.

The duration of a withdrawal depends on a number of factors, including how long patients have been addicted to alcohol and how much they consume on a regular basis. Overall, most patients will take one week to detox completely, although that number can change slightly in some cases.

Common Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and psychological in nature. It’s normal for patients to have strong feelings of anxiety, depression, panic and even paranoia during withdrawal. Thankfully, these symptoms often fade by the end of detox. If they don’t fade, patients may receive treatment during rehab.

On a physical level, withdrawal symptoms can vary significantly. Many patients, however, should be prepared for common symptoms such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating and temperature regulation problems
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting and abdominal cramping
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Tremors or shaking

Alleviating Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Although withdrawal symptoms might be unpleasant, medical professionals can mitigate discomfort for patients. Some medications can be prescribed to eliminate pain or handle digestive troubles. Sedatives might be used to induce sleep and eliminate insomnia. In some cases of extreme dehydration, an I.V. might provide some much-needed fluids and electrolytes.

Without medical supervision, detox is a dangerous process. For maximum safety, patients ready to break free from addiction should only do so in an accredited detox treatment facility.

Alcohol withdrawal is never pleasant, but detox facilities can definitely improve the overall experience. At Beaches Recovery in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, patients can undergo withdrawal in a safe, supervised facility and begin their journey to sobriety. Call 866-605-0532 to learn more and to make the decision that could change your life for the better.