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  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome happens when you try to stop drinking alcohol once you have already developed alcohol dependence. If your body is used to having alcohol in your system, it will react if alcohol is suddenly taken away.

    Acute withdrawal syndrome of alcohol has a wide-range of mild, moderate, and severe effects

    Leaving alcohol withdrawal symptoms untreated can put you at higher risk, as withdrawal tends to start mild and progress to severe without proper care. Professional treatment can reduce your chances of severe alcohol withdrawal.

    Mild Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal

    Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are also the most common symptoms. These symptoms can start only hours after a physically dependent person stops drinking alcohol. 

    Mild symptoms may include:

    While most mild symptoms are not very serious, they can be a warning sign that acute alcohol withdrawal is starting. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal tend to start off mild and get more severe over time.

    Moderate Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal

    Mild symptoms may be followed by moderate symptoms. Moderate symptoms often start about 24 hours after your last drink. Alcohol withdrawal seizures and alcohol hallucinosis are two of the most well-documented moderate symptoms.

    Alcohol withdrawal seizures are seizures caused by a lack of alcohol in the body. Alcoholic hallucinosis can include visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations, or seeing, hearing, and feeling sensations that are not actually there. 

    In some cases, these symptoms may require medical attention.

    These symptoms may be linked to alcohol’s interactions with the GABA neurotransmitter. GABA is a chemical that can help moderate brain activity. If alcohol consumption stops, GABA floods the brain, which can result in an overactive central nervous system.

    Severe Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawal 

    Delirium tremens, also known as DTs or alcohol withdrawal delirium, is a severe side effect of withdrawal unique to alcohol. 

    DTs is associated with a more severe form of seizures, and can include side effects such as: 

    DTs has also been linked to serious long-term medical conditions, such as persisting seizures, heart arrhythmia, changes to your mental health, respiratory failure, and even death.

    DTs tend to start about 2 or 3 days after your last drink, and lasts for about 2 or 3 days. Patients who are at a higher risk of seizures may be preemptively recommended for treatment, but delirium tremens can still be life-threatening and ultimately fatal for about 1% to 5% of patients.

    Why Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Vary

    Almost no one will have the same alcohol withdrawal experience. 

    Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and the effects of alcohol can reach both your brain and entire body. Withdrawal can vary depending on your drinking habits, metabolism, family history, and other factors.

    Treating Alcohol Withdrawal

    If you are looking for treatment options for alcohol withdrawal, it will almost always involve a detoxification program, or detox, from alcohol. 

    While anyone quitting alcohol will go through a detox, a medical detox program can help medical professionals monitor your condition and manage your withdrawal symptoms.

    Detox program treatments may also include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam and diazepam for severe withdrawal. After detox, you can access a professional rehab program. 

    Alcohol Addiction Treatment

    Some experts recommend an inpatient treatment program for patients suffering from severe withdrawal, or for patients at a higher risk for severe withdrawal symptoms, such as patients with a history of drug abuse.

    Before experiencing alcohol withdrawal, if you suspect yourself or a loved one has a drinking problem, you may want to seek treatment. Looking for treatment before serious health effects happen can help you avoid a stressful medical emergency.

    Finding treatment can also help you prepare for protracted withdrawal, a long-term form of withdrawal that can come back over the course of a year. To find the best treatment options for yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor or contact us today.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.

    Industrial Psychiatry Journal - Alcoholic hallucinosis​​​
    National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder
    StatPearls - Alcohol Withdrawal
    StatPearls - Delirium Tremens

    Medically Reviewed by
    Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on June 23, 2021
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