Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are a serious result of alcohol abuse, namely Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). They refer to the side effects, both physical and emotional, that occur when a heavy drinker quits drinking or significantly cuts back. They range in severity depending on a few different factors:

  • The amount a person drinks
  • How often they drink
  • The length of time they drank for
  • Their overall health at the time of quitting

Some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are as minor as mild anxiety and some nausea. People with a serious alcohol dependence problem may experience symptoms such as hallucinations or full-body seizures. Obviously the more someone drinks and the longer they drank lead to more serious withdrawals. Additionally, if they’re in poor physical condition to begin with, alcohol withdrawal takes a more extreme toll on their body.

What causes alcohol withdrawal? What are some of the symptoms experienced while a person’s body detoxes from alcohol? Below you’ll find a few different symptoms of withdrawal that might occur during alcohol detox.

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol has a direct effect on the body’s central nervous system. It is a depressant substance, meaning it slows the nervous system’s reactions and the brain’s inhibitions. Alcohol impairs judgment and decision-making skills, vision, balance, concentration, reaction time and more.

When someone drinks heavily over a long period of time, their body adjusts to these responses. Eventually, they develop a dependence on alcohol, also referred to as alcohol dependence. Their central nervous system adapts to functioning while under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin after some time passes since the person last took a drink. Those who are heavily dependent upon alcohol may notice symptoms as soon as two or three hours after their last drink. Others less serious drinkers may not experience symptoms until the following morning.

Who Goes Through Alcohol Withdrawal?

Again, the severity of alcohol withdrawal depends on the factors listed above. If someone didn’t drink for very long, they will have a shorter detox period than someone who drank for 20 or 30 years. Adults are more likely to experience significant withdrawals than children or teenagers due to their longer drinking careers.

Adults are more likely to experience significant withdrawals than children

Heavy drinkers are also likely to experience some type of detox period, even if it’s minor. Heavy drinkers are women who drink more than 8 drinks per week and men who drink more than 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not every heavy drinker has an alcohol dependence problem, though.

On the other hand, people with an alcohol use disorder are almost guaranteed to go through a withdrawal period. Most people whose drinking problem is severe enough for an AUD diagnosis develop alcohol dependence. Their central nervous systems need the regular introduction of alcohol or they have adverse reactions.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms: A Deeper Look

Many avoid getting sober to avoid the alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Learn more about what withdrawals look like and how you can finally put a stop to them.

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10 Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Not everyone goes through the same withdrawal symptoms. They might have one or two on the list below or they might experience every single symptom. So, what are a few of the symptoms experienced during alcohol withdrawal?

1. Dehydration

Alcohol dehydrates the body as a result of regular drinking. Dehydration is one of the most common first symptoms during alcohol withdrawal. People who seek treatment for alcohol detox often come in severely lacking fluids.


2. Fever

A fever results from the body trying to fight off invaders. Chills, aches, and exhaustion may accompany the fever.

3. Hand tremors

Hand tremors, or shaky hands, are another common symptom of alcohol withdrawal. Since alcohol affects the central nervous system, tremors are usually present within the first day of quitting drinking.

4. Exhaustion

Heavy drinking takes a toll on the body and leads to extreme exhaustion. When someone is detoxing they will feel incredibly exhausted.

5. Agitation or anxiety

Although it’s a depressant, alcohol provides a sense of ease and comfort to most heavy drinkers. After using it as a solution to “take the edge off,” the edge comes back full-force once they quit. Anxiety and agitation are common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

6. Depression

The depressant effects of alcohol are clear as soon as someone stops drinking. Some people experience symptoms of depression during alcohol withdrawal.

7. Confusion or difficulties thinking

Alcohol’s direct effects on the brain affect overall cognition, both while drinking and after stopping. Heavy drinkers may notice a sense of confusion or have difficulties concentrating during detox and even afterward.

8. Hallucinations

Hallucinations are one of the serious effects of alcohol withdrawal. Heavy drinkers and those with alcohol use disorders are at higher risk for hallucinating during alcohol detox. These hallucinations may be either visual, auditory, or tactile.


9. Seizures

People with serious alcohol problems might experience seizures during alcohol withdrawal. Their bodies become so accustomed to the regular alcohol use that they seize out when they stop drinking.

10. Delirium Tremens (DT’s)

Delirium Tremens are one of the most serious symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. They occur only in people with extreme cases of alcohol dependence and often require medical attention.

Treating Alcohol Withdrawal

If a heavy drinker quits drinking without first seeking medical attention, the results range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. If someone you know wants to quit drinking they should first consult their doctor to determine a safe way to separate from alcohol. Their physician may suggest treatment for their alcohol use disorder.

Addiction and alcohol treatment centers specialize in helping people through the alcohol withdrawal period. Facilities like Hawaii Island Recovery ease the more mild symptoms and manage the severe symptoms. After the detox period is over, transitioning into inpatient rehab addresses the roots of the addiction itself.

Do you need help finding an addiction treatment center? Give us a call today at 877-721-3556 to speak with an admissions counselor who can answer your questions!