Menu Close

The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

Once one has grown physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol or drugs, attempting to quit can be an uncomfortable and even painful experience. The prolonged use and abuse of alcohol creates changes at the chemical level, making long-term users prioritize drinking over just about anything else in life. At Northpoint Colorado, our goal is to help those struggling with alcohol addiction successfully make it past that first battle with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

What are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

During detox and early recovery, alcohol withdrawal can produce a combination of symptoms physical and mental. These symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can vary widely in severity, depending on the person’s physical and psychological makeup, as well as how long the person had been using substances. Also, complicating medical conditions, like heart disease or a history of seizures, may increase the severity of withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms might be as mild as a headache or as severe as seizure. With some substances, such as opiates or alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms can prove fatal. It is this very unpredictability of withdrawal symptoms that makes medical supervision necessary.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased heart rate or heart palpitations
  • High blood pressure

Long-term alcohol abuse can force the brain and body to grow accustomed to the presence of alcohol. This creates a “new normal” for the body’s neurological pathways so that it can function with alcohol in its system. Remove the alcohol, and the body is likely to respond with discomfort and pain.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the name for the symptoms that often occur among long-term alcohol addicts. These symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Hyperthermia or overheating
  • Rapid, abnormal breathing
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Tremors and Delirium tremens (DTs)

What is Detox, and Why Is It Important?

Detoxification is the process of flushing toxic substances like alcohol from the body, while at the same time managing any possible symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The time it takes to detox from substances varies, depending on the substances that are being detoxed as well as the person’s age and body type. Most medically supervised detox programs last between three and seven days.

Detox represents the first step in recovery from alcohol use disorder. What follows detox can be anything from a 30-day stay in a residential rehabilitation facility to biweekly visits to outpatient treatment that provides therapy, coaching, and recovery support.

The terms “detox” and “rehab” are sometimes used interchangeably, but detox differs from rehab in that it aims to stabilize patients and minimize their withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, rehab refers to the ongoing services that promote long-term recovery from alcohol addiction through therapy, counseling, and peer support.

Detox centers provide a safe, medically supervised environment for people to undergo detox from alcohol and other drugs. They also help transition patients into the next stages of addiction treatment and minimize the possibility of relapse. This is why detox is important.

The Benefits of Detoxing at a Detox Center

Detoxing at a dedicated detox center has a ton of benefits over home detox or solo detox. These include:

  • Regular monitoring of vital signs during the detox process
  • Access to specialists who can provide therapy and support
  • Access to prescription medications that can lessen the severity and discomfort of withdrawal symptoms

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

For many people in detox, access to prescription medications sets a medically supervised detox apart from home detox or solo detox efforts. Medication-assisted treatment, or MAT, focuses on administering medications to address symptoms of alcohol withdrawal while also implementing behavioral therapy.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are among several medical authorities that MAT during detox as well as to help people maintain their recovery over the long term. Still, MAT is not a “silver bullet” cure for addiction. It is essential for those taking medications for withdrawal symptoms to also participate in therapy to continue with their recovery.

In short, a dedicated detox center makes the detox process safer, more comfortable, and better positioned to succeed than solo or home detox. After all, this type of detox can be tailored to the specific needs of the client. This makes it effective at reducing withdrawal symptoms and offering future support for those beginning their recovery.

What to Expect at an Alcohol Detox Facility

The process of alcohol detox can vary from person to person. However, almost everyone moves through the following three stages:

  • Evaluation. Patients are screened for physical and mental health issues. This includes a comprehensive review of the patient’s medical and psychiatric histories, as well as their history of substance use.
  • Stabilization. Patients are stabilized with medical and psychological therapies. It is during this process that a doctor may prescribe medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Preparing entry to treatment. With detox completed, preparation for the next steps in the recovery process begins.

What Comes After Detox?

During detox, most acute withdrawal symptoms peak between three and seven days before beginning their decline in both frequency and severity. However, a second withdrawal phase can occur after those first few days. This second withdrawal phase is known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS.

PAWS is related to the more psychological aspects of alcohol and drug addiction. PAWS symptoms may not be felt until weeks or even months after detox. Once they do appear, though, a person can experience them for months on end. This is why a comprehensive addiction treatment program, immediately after detox, is a wise move. Addiction treatment can help people discover what motivated them to abuse alcohol or drugs initially. It can also impart practical coping skills to avoid relapse, even in the face of PAWS.

Learn More About Why Detox is Important at Northpoint Colorado

If you are looking for a safe and caring environment to receive medically supervised detox that effectively address and treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, Northpoint Colorado can help. Our team specializes in comprehensive, patient-focused care, offering the best first step toward lasting addiction recovery. call us today at 888.231.1281 or contact us online. We’ll gladly provide more information or help you create your customized treatment plan.