Alcohol addiction is a serious and increasing problem in current society. Although each and everyone has their individual habits and vices, some find it more difficult than others to stop habits that are detrimental.
Some bad habits need some adjusting to get rid of, and in some cases, withdrawal symptoms will ensue. The unpleasant sensations that commonly occur during the withdrawal period can entail a struggle, making it ultimately more difficult to stop reverting to bad habits.
Alcohol addiction constitutes a bad habit without having any control over your behaviour yourself. In many different cases, one might struggle with withdrawal symptoms, depending on your level of addiction of course.
Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) is when a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking. It will impact someone both physically and mentally. Depending on the level of addiction, you might suffer from things like mild anxiety or things like Delirium Tremens, which is a serious condition.
Alcohol withdrawal occurs when an alcoholic suddenly stops drinking, resulting in symptoms that range from mild to severe during detoxification. In cases of severe long-term alcohol addiction, it may be fatal. Withdrawal is most common in adults but can also occur in teenagers or children.
While a night of drinking may produce similar initial symptoms, alcohol withdrawal syndrome typically stems from heavy drinking over a long period of time. For some, drinking for months or even weeks then stopping abruptly can cause acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. For others, years of alcohol abuse can trigger more serious side effects.
At Rehab 4 Addiction, we offer high-quality alcohol rehab & detoxification services tailored to your individual needs.
To discover your road to recovery, call us today on 0800 140 4690.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur in response to altering neurotransmitters in the brain. When a person drinks, the relaxed, friendly feelings alcohol inspires is actually due to the brain increasing the amount of its chief inhibitory neurotransmitter known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is the neurotransmitter that halts impulses between the brain’s nerve cells.
Continuously depressing the central nervous system and altering brain chemistry with alcohol abuse creates a dependency on the substance to feel good again. In addition, over time an alcoholic will need more drinks in one sitting to feel the desired effects, worsening the outcome on their body.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are caused by an alteration in this gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors. GABA receptors are responsible for maintaining baseline levels in the central nervous system (CNS). Heavy alcohol use numbs these receptors, which is why alcoholics need to consume more drinks over time to feel its effects. When these receptors are numbed, the brain accommodates by shutting down the GABA receptors, leading to CNS over-excitability.
The CNS over-excitability results from the brain’s attempt to maintain equilibrium in the system. Therefore, when heavy alcohol users suddenly cease or slow drinking, the “new” CNS baseline is much higher than normal.
Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous if you have preexisting conditions like seizures or mental health issues, or if you have previously suffered from alcohol abuse and tried to detox. Withdrawal can be fatal or dangerous for others in cases of mental instability and delirium. It’s thus essential to undergo a detox under medically supervised conditions, rather than at home without these safeguards.
When an addict decides to go into recovery, the body does not immediately know how to respond to the chemical imbalance. Through years of alcohol dependency, the brain naturally stops producing normal levels of GABA and patients suffering from alcohol withdrawal often feel anxious, shaky and sick.
During the uncomfortable process, doctors may prescribe medications to reduce symptom severity.
Severe and long-term heavy drinkers force their bodies to build a ‘homeostasis’ state, and when alcohol is removed the balance is extremely upset. So while it is not possible to die from the withdrawal of alcohol from the body itself, there are a number of serious and extreme physical sensations that could increase the risk of fatality.
In some cases, improperly handling the detoxification stage can prove fatal so long-term alcoholics should always seek medical help during the process.
Below we have listed the main types of severe withdrawal symptoms which if left untreated could result in death:
Delirium Tremens is a severe side effect of alcohol withdrawal that is marked by sudden confusion. It typically occurs 48 to 72 hours after abstaining from alcohol and lasts two to three days. However, symptoms of the condition may arise up to 10 days after the last drink. During this time, patients may experience shakiness, increased heart rate, profuse sweating and auditory, visual or tactile hallucinations. 
The disorienting condition occurs when the nervous system and brain go into a state of shock. When a patient experiences Delirium Tremens, the chemical imbalance resulting from alcohol abstinence leaves the body incapable of properly responding to outside stimuli. For most patients, the sensation will pass within a few days.
In rare cases, long-term heavy alcoholics who fail to receive treatment can die from the condition if the neurotransmitter issues and increased glutamate levels overexcite the nervous system. In a 2018 Upstate Medical University study, researchers concluded that the mortality rate for Delirium Tremens is less than 5 percent and is affected by factors like age and other health issues .
Seizures occasionally occur as a side effect of Delirium Tremens. However, seizures can occur outside the presence of the condition as well. With alcohol withdrawal, generalized tonic-clonic seizures and partial seizures are triggered in the brainstem and cause symptoms like blackouts, stiffness and intense jerking motions.
Researchers differentiate these seizures from epileptic-style seizures because they are not triggered in the neocortex part of the brain.
Prior to withdrawal, a patient suffering from alcohol abuse has an overactive CNS due to the brain shutting down GABA receptors. As a person continues to misuse alcohol, the CNS becomes more dependent on alcohol, which is a depressant, to inhibit activity.
When the patient ceases using alcohol, the brain tries to reach equilibrium with the imbalanced CNS by reactivating the GABA receptors. This process can cause irregular cellular activity in the brain stem and lead to seizures. Because these seizures are caused due to drug abuse (alcoholism) they are fundamentally different from genetic or acquired epilepsy.
Hypophosphatemia is a condition that occurs when there are dangerously low levels of phosphate in a patient's blood. Phosphate is an electrolyte related to producing energy and the functioning of nerves. Low levels of this electrolyte, combined with the general low nourished diet of someone who suffers from alcohol addiction and disturbances in their internal acids, can lead to health risks. This can be fatal as it can cause some of the main organs to become hypofunctioning (not functioning well enough to do their job.)
Alcoholic ketoacidosis is a state which affects the metabolic systems in the body when someone drinks too much alcohol for an extended amount of time. Severe drinking habits generally coincides with a poor diet and malnourishment, and heavy drinkers often do not eat regularly. Excessive drinking can also result in frequent vomiting. All of these factors result in a state of starvation, which then causes the body to produce less insulin.
This results in alcoholic ketoacidosis which can appear in a short space of time as 24 hours after a binge-drinking session
Alcoholic ketoacidosis can develop when you drink excessive amounts of alcohol for a long period of time. Excessive alcohol consumption often causes malnourishment (not enough nutrients for the body to function well).
People who drink large quantities of alcohol may not eat regularly. They may also vomit as a result of drinking too much. Not eating enough or vomiting can lead to periods of starvation. This further reduces the body’s insulin production.
If a person is already malnourished due to alcoholism, they may develop alcoholic ketoacidosis. This can occur as soon as one day after a drinking binge and of course depends on many factors such as the nutritional standards and general health of the alcoholic, and the amount of alcohol that has been consumed.
It is possible to die from alcohol withdrawal especially if you have a history of epilepsy. Withdrawal delirium can also cause people to inflict self-harm. Other medical conditions associated with alcohol abuse (liver disease, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, gut issues) may cause life-threatening complications for alcohol withdrawal patients.
According to current research, of all patients who are hospitalised and experience withdrawal delirium, less than 4% die. These fatalities are normally due to:
Many alcohol dependents will come across many mental health symptoms during their withdrawal stage. Depression, anxiety, and irritability are some of the most common. However, these are underlying issues most of the time that could have driven one to drink.
A lot of people who have been suffering from anxiety and depression self-medicate with alcohol, which could cause a vicious cycle to happen. Drinking alcohol might help someone with depression or anxiety in the short term, but binge drinking will lower the serotonin levels in your brain after a few hours, which regulates the feeling of happiness in your brain.
You would feel even worse the next day, and it would push you to drink more, which in turn would exacerbate your mental health issue. After a period of prolonged drinking, your serotonin levels would be at a very low point, which they could develop into a full depression.
Restlessness and insomnia are some of the other well-known withdrawal symptoms. There are many reasons why one could suffer from insomnia during withdrawal. It might be a direct result of the depression caused by the lack of serotonin in your brain. Many people with depression will struggle with sleeping.
Not only will alcohol lower your serotonin levels, but also that of another chemical in your brain, dopamine. Dopamine is linked to your motivation levels and reinforcing pleasure.
If you struggle to fall asleep, it’s most likely cause you have a low level of these, which will, in turn, make you less tired and you’ll be up all night before you know it.
If you or a loved one requires an alcohol detox, contact Rehab 4 Addiction now on 0800 140 4690.
A well-known and frequently documented alcohol withdrawal symptom is what is colloquially called ‘the shakes,’ which is a physical sensation that many who suffer from alcohol addiction or abuse experience. The ‘shakes’ are a type of body tremor that cannot be controlled, and they vary in severity from person to person depending on the amount of alcohol consumed, the period of time, and the general health of the alcoholic.
As a physical symptom that occurs as alcohol is being detoxed through the body, the ‘shakes’ do generally disappear once the withdrawal process is complete. However, as a sign of stress on the central nervous system, the shakes can become worse if the individual is experiencing high flying emotions or post-alcohol related anxiety. It is therefore important to remember that those who are anxious about detox and withdrawal, trembling could increase and appear worse.
Shaking will also occur because alcohol abuse has damaged your nerve cells. Alcohol is considered a depressant, by reducing activities in your brain. Your brain becomes gradually more used to that consistent low level of stimulation as one maintains a heavy or frequent drinking habit.
Once you stop drinking, your brain gets stimulated with more activity than it is ready for. Your nervous system feels overwhelmed, and hyperactivity symptoms like shaking and tremors as a result.
Other withdrawal symptoms are night sweats for instance. This is because the alcohol is being broken down through sweating in your body. Only 10 percent of the alcohol in your body goes out through your urine.
The rest will be broken down through metabolism working throughout your body. Therefore, after stopping drinking, your body will try and push and sweat all the alcohol out of the body.
Acute Alcohol Withdrawal refers to the common physical symptoms recovering alcoholics experience in the first few weeks after abstaining from alcohol. While some symptoms cause discomfort, others can have serious consequences.
The symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal include:
Call us now on 0800 140 4690 for confidential and immediate advice on alcohol rehab & detox.
It absolutely is not. The above-mentioned symptoms are minor compared to what some heavy drinkers can develop. For instance, delirium tremens. This is a serious condition, and the symptoms are all of the above, but much worse.
You could possibly die if you decide to suddenly withdraw from alcohol. We advise you to find a rehabilitation clinic and do this under the supervision of health professionals.
While it is possible to nurse minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms from home, doing so often negates the seriousness of alcohol dependence and only defers the problem.
Eventually, withdrawal symptoms worsen with alcohol abuse and detoxification will require medical intervention. In cases where symptoms are already advanced, not seeking medical attention can lead to serious complications and even be fatal.
Recovery, once the detoxification period is complete, should not be handled alone. According to a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, addicts in recovery who tried to recover on their own displayed unhealthy coping mechanisms that meant they were less likely to reach three years of being sober. These people were more prone of relapse within 16 years, more so than those recovering from alcohol addiction who enlisted in outpatient therapy, 12-step programmes, or other counselling.
For more information on inpatient facilities to treat alcoholism, head over to our private rehab clinics page where you will find all you need to know about registering.
The timeline can differ per person. There are many people who could take a while before they feel normal again. Some people will only have the symptoms for a few days. This varies per person, but the average heavy alcoholic will suffer from three stages of withdrawal.
One might suffer from mild symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, foggy thinking, abdominal pain, vomiting, no appetite, nausea, fatigue, depression, tremors, heart palpitations, and mood swings.
Most withdrawal symptoms will be; increase in blood pressure, an increase in body temperature/ respiration, an irregular heart rate, cognitive confusion, irritability, sweating, and disturbing moods.
Hallucinations, seizures, fever, agitation, and confusion.
After 3-5 days, most of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms should be gone. If you would like to read more information on how to get help for alcohol detox and rehab, visit our homepage.
Alternatively, you can make an appointment with your GP, who can help you find a free clinic if you cannot afford one.
PAWS refers to Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms. Typically, alcohol withdrawal symptoms subside after the first two weeks of abstinence. However, some patients suffer from PAWS for the first year of their recovery.
During this time, Post-Acute Withdrawal patients may experience symptoms like mood swings, lack of energy and motivation, memory issues, balance problems, delayed reflexes, regular nausea and depression. Symptoms typically come in waves, lasting days at a time.
Extended treatment is especially important for patients experiencing PAWS because they are more likely to relapse during the first year as symptoms seem never-ending. However, if patients continue to abstain, symptoms typically reduce and disappear over time.
When diagnosing alcohol withdrawal, doctors start by observing a patient’s appearance and asking questions about their medical history and alcohol consumption habits.
A toxicology screening with blood and urine tests is also common to determine the amount of alcohol in a patient’s system. After conducting basic tests, doctors often consult the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol (CIWA) to determine a patient’s score and thus the severity of their withdrawal symptoms.
Your doctor may check for physical symptoms of withdrawal like an irregular heartbeat or dehydration and you may receive a toxicology screen to diagnose the amount of alcohol in your body.
The CIWA measures ten key symptoms are:
The Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol questions patients about various symptoms including nausea and vomiting, tremors, paroxysmal sweats, anxiety, tactile disturbances, auditory disturbances, visual disturbances, headache and fullness in head, agitation and orientation or clouding of sensorium.
Each category has up to seven options available to describe the symptom prevalence and severity.
A score of 67 is considered the most severe case of alcohol withdrawal, while a score over 20 is considered a severe case where Delirium Tremens becomes possible.
Scores from 16 to 20 are considered moderate level symptoms and scores from 10 to 15 constitute mild symptoms. The test explains scores under 10 typically do not need medications to assist with recovery. 
If you are concerned about your own or a loved one’s alcohol use, call us today on 0800 140 4690 for guidance and a free assessment. Get help today.
Even if you have been an alcoholic for years, the moment you stop drinking you will begin to see results. For starters, the frontal lobe begins to repair itself. This means enhanced critical thinking, decision making, and impulse control.
Next, dopamine receptors in your brain will return to normal and no longer fire when you consume alcohol. This makes room for new enjoyable activities in your life, increasing your motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Eliminating alcohol will normalize serotonin production as well. Serotonin is the chemical responsible for feelings of happiness. Finally, you will learn to adopt new skills and habits in lieu of alcoholism. You can find time to take up new hobbies, gain more knowledge for work, and meet new people.
Patients experiencing minor to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms can typically manage symptoms by rehydrating and avoiding high sensory outputs like loud sounds and bright lights. They may also benefit from a sedative prescription to better handle the stressful period.
Patients suffering from strong to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms should consider further treatment options to ensure a safe and lasting recovery.
These include undergoing a residential treatment programme, working with a specialist to develop a medication-assisted therapy strategy, seeking additional outpatient centres and counselling programmes and possibly moving to a sober living community.
Below we have listed the five most common and efficient treatments for alcohol withdrawal and detox:
Sometimes a healthcare professional can administer medication to help curb the unpleasant effects of alcohol withdrawal. These prescribed medications include:
Most likely your doctor will prescribe benzodiazepines, or benzos, to assist with your symptoms. Benzos are considered safe to use with alcohol. They particularly treat anxiety, panic disorders, seizures, and nervousness. Although they are considered safe for alcohol withdrawal, do not consume alcohol while you are taking benzodiazepines or any medication during your withdrawal period.
Diazepam (Valium) and chlordiazepoxide (Librium) are effective benzos that treat anxiety, spasms, and insomnia. They have a long half-life which makes them great for reliving withdrawal symptoms and decreasing a sufferer’s rebound rate.
Lorazepam (Ativan) and oxazepam (Serax) are recommended for patients who have difficulty metabolizing medications or have experienced liver failure. Lorazepam is effective in treating nausea and vomiting. Oxazepam specifically functions as a sedative and relaxant.
Haloperidol (Haldol) is a medication to be taken alongside benzodiazepines as an adjunct agent. Haldol helps with mood swings, irritability, and hallucinations. However, it may increase the risk of seizure.
Clondine (Catapres) is another adjunct agent to be taken with benzos. It works to lower blood pressure and relax the heartbeat.
In recent years, medications have been developed which when ingested, work to deter the patient from drinking alcohol. These medications work by producing an extremely unpleasant chemical reaction if a patient consumes alcohol alongside the prescribed drugs. These medications include:
Topiramate is an effective drug to combat alcohol cravings. It is thought to operate directly with the GABA receptors and decrease the dopamine hit from consuming alcohol. Topiramate also assists with emotional and mental instability that may result from alcohol withdrawal.
Campral is another drug effective for ending alcohol addiction. It re-balances the chemical infrastructure of the brain damaged by chronic alcohol abuse. This is turn decreases the patient’s desire for alcohol.
However, Campral does not help a patient quit drinking; it mainly supports someone who is already abstaining from alcohol. Campral does not help with withdrawal symptoms either.
Antabuse uses a more experiential approach. If you have a drink after taking antabuse, the chemical responsible for hangover symptoms (acetaldehyde) does not break down in the body. This magnifies the hangover symptoms to an extremely uncomfortably level.
Because antabuse can cause severe reactions, it should only be given to someone who consents and is fully aware of its effects. Those with a serious heart condition, who are allergic to antabuse, are pregnant, or are taking other medication should not use antabuse.
Each of our rehab facilities follow the same high-standard of care when it comes to treating alcoholism. We offer all-round pacakges to combat every aspect of your recovery and needs. These include:
Whilst alcohol detox is about purging alcohol from the body, rehabilitation addresses complex psychological and emotional issues giving rise to addiction.
Psychological problems include post-traumatic stress disorder, various anxieties, depression and often latent psychological trauma experienced in childhood. Whilst physical detox may only take 5 to 7 days to complete, psychological recovery lasts for an entire lifetime.
Before alcohol detox is attempted, a ‘substance abuse’ profile and history are drawn up by our admissions team. We may require, with your consent, access to medical records and any other relevant documentation. This may include documents concerning previous attempts at engaging residential or outpatient rehabilitation.
Our alcohol detox programme is open to anyone over the age of 16. All we ask is for your complete commitment to getting and staying sober. If you are not committed to this process your personalised rehabilitation programme is unlikely to succeed and your investment in the process may result in nothing.
When you enter our detox programme you are under 24-hour a day observation by our team of medical experts. You receive support and attention required to make a full recovery. We believe the prospect of defeating your addiction without this support is bleak, and at worst could lead to death.
Rehabilitation centres we refer you to maintain an on-site pharmacy so pharmaceutical drugs are available on a prescribed basis. Such drugs are capable of fighting off severe withdrawal symptoms such as delirium tremens, seizures, nausea and hallucinations common during alcohol detox.
Once detox is tackled a number of therapies are provided, such as; group therapy, individual therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. Our commitment to providing effective therapies after detox means you leave the centre with much-needed coping strategies to fight off relapse.
This ensures you do not relapse back into old destructive habits once you return to normal life. Once rehabilitation is complete, our staff put in place a structured relapse prevention plan including outpatient and community support.
Throughout the detox and rehabilitation process, you will receive meals rich in vitamins and minerals. The food we provide is high in nutrients as this is believed to aid the detox process.
Our detox programme takes place in tranquil settings conducive to relaxation and learning. This means you are in an optimal emotional and psychological state which in turn will help you face the darker side of withdrawal symptoms from a position of strength rather than weakness.
While alcohol withdrawal is serious, it is not something to be afraid of. Learning about alcohol’s harmful effects, choosing to undergo treatment and finding a supportive network allows patients to recover with the resources they need.
In addition to the resources and treatment options above, recovering alcoholics should also seek healthier lifestyle choices like a nutritious diet and exercise plan including stress-relieving activities like yoga. In addition to restoring self-connection, these healthier habits can bring recovering addicts a sense of happiness and purpose.
You are not alone in this process and while rehab and detox can appear intimidating or unattainable, it is important to remember that you will be surrounded by a supportive and empathic community, whichever treatment plan you choose.
Although many people claim they wish to ‘detox’ from alcohol after the festive period or perhaps a long holiday with friends, the term ‘alcohol detox’ means something completely different when discussing people with severe alcohol misuse tendencies.
It is crucial that you have all the knowledge you need before embarking on an alcohol detox, especially medical advice and a good support network.
Below we have listed some common myths and misconceptions about alcohol that we feel would benefit you to set straight:
Alcohol withdrawal can have many life-threatening complications if you have preexisting conditions. Refusing medical supervision for any reason is not advisable. You will find detoxing much easier (and more pleasant) with assistance.
Very few people experience the worst during detox. Even if you experience some discomfort your medical supervisor will work with you to alleviate any pain.
Although alcoholic rehab can be expensive in some areas, insurance, loans, or help from family and friends can ease financial worry.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are typically at their worst in the first 48 hours, lessening within a week from the last drink. The only lengthy part of detox is maintaining abstinence which requires constant vigilance,
Call us today to discuss your rehabilitation & detoxification options for drug or alcohol detox. Treatment us just around the corner. Phone now on 0800 140 4690.