Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox Process

About 50% of people who abuse alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms upon discontinuing alcohol consumption. Nearly a century ago 40% of those people would subsequently die due to lack of medical care. However, with medical intervention  less than 7% of people die from alcohol withdrawal and detox, today.

Medical detox and withdrawal management are critical to overcoming alcohol withdrawal. For help finding the right withdrawal management for you, contact The Hope House addiction specialists today.

Alcohol withdrawal and detox can be life threatening without help from medical professionals. It is imperative that people understand what detox will look like and reach out as soon as they decide to stop drinking. For personalized advice on treating alcoholism, contact The Hope House today.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is a blanket term to refer to a group of symptoms that may occur when heavy drinking suddenly stops. Typically, someone experiencing these symptoms will be classified as having Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS). During this time they can experience symptoms ranging from mild to severe over approximately an eight-day period.

Two Phases of Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms vary largely from person to person. But they are typically are broken down into two key phases: Acute Alcohol Withdrawal and Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).

What is Acute Alcohol Withdrawal?

Acute Alcohol Withdrawal is a term used to refer to the first phase of withdrawal. It typically begins shortly after someone has stopped drinking. This phase is typically a physical response to alcohol withdrawal and can be life-threatening in severe cases.

What is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome?

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is the secondary phase of withdrawal and happens weeks, or even months after someone stops drinking. This stage typically involves psychological and emotional symptoms of alcohol withdrawal such as low energy, chronic pain, and depression. While PAWS typically only lasts for a specific period of time, it can recur after subsiding.

PAWS is a common cause of relapse.

As the brain and body become accustomed to life without alcohol, it is typical for people to experience an “emotional withdrawal.” This stage of withdrawal can be misunderstood and overlooked, but the symptoms can be managed with you and your doctor.

Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

During Acute Alcohol Withdrawal people experience a variety of physical symptoms ranging from mild to severe. More medical intervention is needed as the symptoms worsen. Failure to receive the appropriate medical care may result in death.

Mild

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shakiness
Moderate

  • Increased body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
Severe

  • Hallucinations
  • High fever
  • Severe confusion
  • Seizures
  • Delirium Tremens (DT)

The timeline of alcohol withdrawal symptoms varies widely from person to person due to their age, level of drinking, the length of time they’ve abused alcohol, etc. For most; however, initial symptoms emerge within 8 hours of their last drink and subside after 7-8 days. The most severe effects typically occur around day 3 or 4.

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Stage 1

The first stage of alcohol withdrawal syndrome consists of mild symptoms and typically begins 8 – 24 hours after the last drink.

Stage 2

The second stage of alcohol withdrawal syndrome consists of moderate symptoms and typically occurs within 48 – 72 hours.

Stage 3

The third stage of alcohol withdrawal syndrome is the most severe. It typically occurs by day 3 or 4 and can last up to 5 days after delirium sets in. Not all people with AWS will experience stage 3.

Stage 3 is by far the most severe stage and is typically characterized by the onset of Delirium Tremens (DT).

What is Delirium Tremens (DT)?

Delirium Tremens (DT) is an acute neurological syndrome affecting about 5% of people who experience AWS. DT can affect the central nervous system and lead to severe change in mental and nervous system functioning. Men who have been abusing alcohol for at least 10 years and are over the age of 40 are at the highest risk for DT.

Common symptoms associated with DT include:

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1 in 25 people die from Delirium Tremens each year in the U.S.

Detox and withdrawal from alcohol are serious issues, and they should not be taken lightly. It is the first step in your recovery from alcoholism and needs to be done with professional, medical supervision. There are multiple locations around Arizona and the entire United States that can help you safely stop drinking. To understand which locations are covered by insurance and find a detox center that’s right for you, call The Hope House today.

Can I detox from alcohol at home?

No — never. Detoxing from alcohol at home can result in very severe withdrawal symptoms. — some of which can cause death. Facilities around the countries have same-day placement to ensure you stop drinking, safely, as soon as you’re ready.

Navigating Alcohol Withdrawal

31% of people who seek treatment for alcohol abuse choose a medical detox facility to help them. Detox centers help patients navigate alcohol withdrawal syndrome and alcohol use disorders. While there are many ways to treat alcohol addiction, going through detox is the first step and highly recommended.

What is Alcohol Detox?

“Detoxification is a set of interventions aimed at managing acute intoxication and withdraw­al. It denotes a clearing of toxins from the body of the patient who is acutely intoxicated and/or dependent on substances of abuse. Detoxification seeks to minimize the physical harm caused by the abuse of substances.”– SAMHSA

Finding the Right Detox Center

At The Hope House, we work with trusted local partners whom we have verified offer exceptional alcohol detox programs that can help you or your loved one recover from the harm of alcohol withdrawal.

Take the First Step to Conquering Alcoholism

Regardless of setting, detox is typically broken down into three key stages to ensure long-term success. Of those who enter an alcohol detox program 41% will transfer to another program and continue receiving treatment.

Evaluation

When a patient first steps in the facility, they should be treated on an individual basis where medical personnel work to understand what specific needs individual patients have. Everything from gender, family history, mental health, history of relapse, and more are nuanced pieces of information that will greatly impact how someone needs to detox and what symptoms they are at risk for.

 Stabilization

With the initial evaluation complete, medical professionals should establish a detox treatment plan to ensure physical and mental symptoms are minimized and vital signs remain stable.

Next Steps

As patients reach the end of their detox process patients will begin to prepare for the next step in their recovery. This will look different for all patients based on their specific needs.

FDA-Approved Alcohol Withdrawal Medications

There are multiple medications that help treat symptoms and ease health risks associated with alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS). The FDA has approved benzodiazepines to help manage symptoms in patients.

Most Common Alcohol Withdrawal Medications

Chlordiazepoxide

Chlordiazepoxide

Diazepam

Diazepam

Lorazepam

Lorazepam

Oxazepam

Oxazepam

Multiple studies have indicated that using benzodiazepines for treatment is far safer than using alcohol to detox a patient. When used appropriately, benzodiazepines reduce the risk of seizures and DT as well as other less severe AWS symptoms. Other medications are currently being explored to treat AWS, but have not been FDA-approved.

Upon completing alcohol detox, patients can continue to treat their symptoms (in an outpatient or inpatient setting) using a combination of FDA-approved medication and therapy, called Medication-Assisted Treatment.

Read more about FDA-approved AUD treatment options here.

Begin your recovery journey today.

Seek Professional Help

Finding an alcohol detox program, or an inpatient treatment facility, is something that can be difficult. Many people may not know exactly what they need to be looking for. This is where professional help can come in handy.

When looking for a detox center be sure to consider:

At The Hope House, we are experts in addiction treatment and meet all of the standards of care listed above. We are a luxury inpatient rehab program and can help you find the solution you need. We also provide extensive support for patients looking to utilize inpatient rehab after detox and ultimately aftercare to ensure long-term sobriety.

Get help to stop drinking.

Achieving Long-Term Recovery

While vitally important, alcohol detox is just the first step in the recovery process. Addiction is almost always a symptom of underlying issues. Whether it be trauma or mental health issues, patients are strongly encouraged to enroll in ongoing care programs following detox.

To give a someone the best chance at long-lasting recovery, patients should enroll in an inpatient rehab program.

Ongoing Treatment Options

In a residential program, patients will go through behavioral therapy sessions to learn about the processes of addiction and strategies they can implement in their lives to overcome urges and cravings to avoid relapse.

Following a stay at an inpatient facility, individuals are encouraged to seek out an aftercare program like an intensive outpatient program (IOP) or sober living where they can continue their recovery journey.

Addiction is a lifelong ailment, if you don’t treat it as such you can easily fall victim to relapse.

Leaders in the Industry

At The Hope House, our masters-level clinicians and addiction experts specialize in trauma-based recovery and an individualized approach to treatment. We can help you find a great detox program to safely manage alcohol withdrawal and give you the tools needed to begin and continue your journey toward long-term sobriety.

Our luxury rehab centers are based in Scottsdale, Arizona and lead the industry in tackling addiction at the source and finding holistic, long lasting solutions for our clients. We’ve also partnered with most insurance companies to make treatment affordable.