Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

People suffering from alcoholism need to understand the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, with delirium tremens (DTs) being the worst. The DTs can last quite a long time and are very serious. The symptoms usually begin within 48 to 96 hours after the person has had their last drink, however it can take even longer for them to appear.

In addition to the typical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, the DTs may include some or all of the symptoms listed here:

– Being in a stupor

– Delirium

– Extreme fear

– Feeling disoriented

– Impaired cognitive ability

– Hallucinations

– Inability to focus or concentrate

– Overly active or exhibiting manic behavior

– Rapidly changing moods

– Seizures, most often tonic-clonic seizures

– Sleeping soundly for a day or longer

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can quickly get worse.   Individuals going through alcohol withdrawal experience this in their own way; therefore there is no predicting how long detox will last when someone tries to stop drinking. Certain individual factors play a role in determining how long their detox will last as well as the kind of alcohol withdrawal symptoms they will experience and how severe their symptoms will get:

– How many months or years the individual has been drinking.

– Do they use alcohol in combination with other addictive substances?

– How often they drink and how much they consume on a daily basis. Do they drink all day long, everyday? Or do they periodically go on binges?

– Do they have co-occurring mental health issues, caused their long-term heavy drinking or due to a diagnosed mental health disorder?

– Are they dealing with co-occurring medical issues, such as a chronic illness, depression, chronic pain, etc.?

Depending on how these factors play out in combination, or don’t, determines how long someone’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms last.

Medical Health Can Cause Complications

A medical emergency may cause alcohol detox to last longer and this is often unexpected. When blood pressure, breathing rate or heart rate suddenly rises, or if these slow down it can cause seizures and other medical issues to appear without any notice. In most cases, the proper medical intervention will stabilize the patient and if they continue to be monitored that issue shouldn’t happen again. In cases of alcoholism, when the person is going through the DTs, also known as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, medical complications are more apt to happen.

Mental Health Problems 

Mental health issues often complicate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These can be:

– Agitation

– Anxiety

– Confusion

– Depression

– Fatigue

– Insomnia

– Irritability

– Mood swings

– Paranoia

Furthermore, the individual will continue to crave alcohol and this too is a symptom of alcohol withdrawal, something very hard to overcome without good medical intervention. If the person’s mental health is an underlying problem, they can get worse while going through detox, and this will usually extend the process. This can be managed with proactive treatment and should not prevent recovery.

You can see why someone experiencing alcohol withdrawal requires medical stabilization prior to beginning treatment.  Once medically cleared, treatment should begin immediately.  Our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN has been proven to be effective in the treatment of alcohol abuse and drug treatment in peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center  provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one has recently experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms and is now medically stable, or if you have stepped down from a higher level of care, and needs continuing drug treatment rehab, we can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for substance abuse can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.



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