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Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal & How to Find a Solution

Shivering. Sweating. Heart beating a million miles a minute while you’re filled with anxiety and dread. Bad hangover or something more? The above symptoms can be signs that your body is experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Cessation of alcohol use after prolonged or increased consumption can turn a rough morning into a life-threatening situation. Read on to learn more about alcohol withdrawal and how to find treatment. 


Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal


  • Anxiety and Restlessness: Some of the first signs of alcohol detox is a growing sense of anxiety, unease and restlessness. It is your body’s attempt to alert you that something is wrong.
  • Sweating: Next up are cold sweats. You may find yourself alternating between feeling hot and cold while you perspire without any physical exertion.  
  • Tremors: As the withdrawals advance, many people begin to shake and have tremors - especially in their hands. Holding cups or eating with a fork/spoon can be difficult. It can feel like your entire body is vibrating uncontrollably. 
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Feelings of nausea and vomiting are common during alcohol withdrawal. The combination of alcohol consumption and vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and hypernatremia which can have a negative impact on organ functioning.  
  • Insomnia: Sleep is difficult to come by during alcohol detox. While the body and brain may crave sleep, the elevated heart rate, racing anxious thoughts, and general discomfort won’t allow the central nervous system to calm down long enough to induce it. 
  • Hallucinations: In severe cases, individuals may experience auditory or visual hallucinations.
  • Seizures: In the most severe cases, and without proper medical management, alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures. 
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs): DTs, characterized by extreme confusion, hallucinations, fever, and seizures, is a life threatening condition. If you experience someone in DTs they need to be taken to hospital immediately. 


Dangers of Untreated Alcohol Withdrawal


There are only a handful of drugs whose withdrawals can be lethal. Alcohol is one of them. Alcohol detox is not something to be taken lightly, nor attempted alone. Knowing the potential risks of alcohol withdrawal and when to get medical help can make all the difference. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Seizures: Having a seizure is more common than you’d think during alcohol withdrawal and can be fatal. Seizures can cause someone to choke on their own vomit, fall and head their head, or stop respiration leading to brain death. 
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs): If you notice someone in alcohol withdrawal appears to be increasingly confused and paranoid, is having seizures, and seeing or hearing things that aren’t there - get them medical assistance as soon as possible. 
  • Dehydration and Electrolyte Imbalances: Without proper medical supervision and rehydration, the vomiting and diarrhea that happens during alcohol detox can lead to severe hydration and organ failure. 
  • Psychiatric Complications: It is not uncommon for alcohol withdrawal to induce severe anxiety and depression. It can also lead to intense feelings of dread, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation. If someone has a co-occurring mental disorder, alcohol detox can exacerbate those symptoms. 
  • Increased Risk of Relapse: As withdrawal symptoms grow, the temptation to end all the suffering by drinking again can become unmanageable. Untreated alcohol withdrawal puts individuals at a greater chance of relapse. 


Getting Help


Asking for help can be difficult. Especially when it comes to something as sensitive and potentially stigmatized as alcohol abuse. If you’ve attempted to stop drinking before and couldn't, have a history of heavy alcohol use, experienced withdrawal symptoms, or have any underlying medical/psychiatric conditions, it is imperative to undergo a medically managed alcohol detox program. Without this, the chances of a successful recovery are slim. 

When you are ready for professional assistance, it is recommended that you start by consulting your primary care physician. They can help you identify any potential medical problems you may encounter during detox and can also help you locate trusted medical partners to keep your safe during the withdrawal process. The next step would be identifying several potential detox or residential treatment programs that you believe could be helpful - these can be local or out of state. Call them, ask questions and see if what they are providing is what you need. If you don’t believe you need in-patient treatment, attending an outpatient treatment program and/or getting involved with a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous can be a good source of accountability and support. 


Withdrawing from alcohol is not an easy feat. However it is possible and a sober life is better than anything done drunk. Knowing what you’re up against, and where to find help is the first step towards recovery. There is a giant network of people and places ready to offer their assistance; all you’ve got to do is ask. When you’re ready, Holland Pathways is here. Call us today to get started on your journey to sobriety.