Heavy drinkers who cut back or try to quit drinking may experience acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Acute means the symptoms come on suddenly and worsen quickly.
Some of the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms are irritability, sweating, fast heart rate, and hand tremors (“the shakes”).
These symptoms are a sign of alcohol dependency and are potentially dangerous. They’re a warning sign that you are drinking too much. The more you drink on a regular basis, the more likely you are to experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome.
If you are concerned that you or a loved one might be dependent on alcohol, it’s important to seek help from a qualified treatment provider that offers medical detox. This means a trained healthcare provider oversees your care to ensure you are safe and comfortable throughout the detoxification process.
What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be both physical (affecting the body) or psychological (affecting the mind). Symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on how long a person has been drinking heavily, and other factors.
Common acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include:
For most people, mild symptoms start 8 to 24 hours after their last alcoholic drink. Severe symptoms usually take longer to set in and can include hallucinations, delirium tremens (“DTs”), and even seizures.
Delirium tremens is a severe symptom of alcohol withdrawal. It causes severe disorientation and physiological problems that can affect a person’s blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate, and cause severe restlessness.
Only a small percentage of people (3% to 5%) with alcohol use disorder experience this potentially life-threatening reaction. However, seizures are a critical warning sign. Around 1 in 10 people with alcohol withdrawal syndrome experience seizures, and untreated seizures lead to delirium tremens in around 1 in 3 people.
It’s critical to get immediate medical help if you or a loved one experiences seizures, hallucinations, severe shaking, or repeated vomiting after quitting alcohol.
What causes alcohol withdrawal syndrome?
Alcohol suppresses the “fight or flight response” in your brain. This phenomenon helps you respond to danger by preparing you to either fight or flee. When you drink regularly, your central nervous system gets used to this repressed response.
When you stop drinking, especially suddenly, the brain can go straight into “fight or flight” mode. This is what causes symptoms like anxiety and shaking.
How is acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome treated?
People with moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually need care at a hospital or qualified addiction treatment center that offers medically supervised detox. The goal of treatment is to safely manage withdrawal symptoms, avoid complications, and prevent relapse.
Inpatient addiction treatment providers use a variety of tools to help people recover from alcohol addiction. Treatment usually involves a combination of addiction education, one-on-one counseling sessions, group therapy, and, in some cases, family involvement and mental health care.
People with mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be treated in an outpatient setting. This typically involves a combination of medical care and counseling to discuss the long-term issue of alcoholism.
The main difference is that you do not receive round-the-clock care in an outpatient program. You live at home while in treatment, and you may be able to continue working or going to school.
Getting the Right Care for AUD
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol use disorder, it’s time to get help. If you are experiencing acute symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, such as repeated vomiting or shaking, call your doctor right away or go to the emergency room.
Most people with moderate to severe alcohol use disorder need professional help to get well. Del Arroyo Recovery Center offers comprehensive, compassionate care at our luxury alcohol rehab center in Agoura Hills, California. We have thoughtfully designed our six-bed treatment center in Southern California with your comfort in mind.