Alcohol Withdrawal – What You Need to Know

Alcohol Withdrawal help from New Life Medical Addiction Services

Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal is what a long-term and heavily dependent consumer of alcohol experiences when they abruptly cease drinking. When a person suddenly stops drinking after prolonged and heavy alcohol use, they often experience serious withdrawal symptoms that can include sleeplessness, shaking, anxiety, nausea and a range of other physical and psychological conditions.

If a heavy drinker stops consuming alcohol and they experience withdrawal symptoms it is a clear sign that the person is alcohol dependent. For long-term drinkers, the body and the brain become dependent on the amount of alcohol consumed and when someone suddenly stops drinking, the body is deprived of the effects of alcohol and requires time to adjust to functioning without it. It is this adjustment phase that causes the side effects of alcohol withdrawal.

Along with the painful side effects listed above, alcohol withdrawal can also result in medical complications that can be life-threatening. Regardless of whether a person has been drinking for weeks, months, or years, it’s possible for them to experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

If you or someone in your life is alcohol dependent and is thinking of quitting you need to contact us now. The doctors and staff at New Life Medical Addiction Services, located in Marlton, New Jersey, provide out-patient medical interventions and counseling that will mitigate the worst aspects of alcohol withdrawal and make staying sober for the long term much more likely.

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is such an uncomfortable process because alcohol affects multiple functions in the body, which then results in withdrawal syndrome when someone attempts to stop. One of the most significant of these is the effect that alcohol has on the central nervous system.

Alcohol has a sedating and depressant effect on the brain. In a heavy, long-term drinker, the brain is almost continually exposed to the depressant effect of alcohol. Over time, the brain modifies its chemistry to compensate for the effect of the alcohol. The brain does this by producing naturally stimulating chemicals (such as norepinephrine, which is related to adrenaline, and serotonin) in larger quantities than normal. This is why people experience initial feelings of relaxation, euphoria, and increased sociability when consuming alcoholic beverages.

In a high-consuming, long-term drinker, the brain is almost continually exposed to the depressant effects of alcohol, which in turn results in alcohol dependence. Once the body becomes dependent on alcohol, it requires increasing amounts of it to produce the same effects.

When a person abruptly quits drinking alcohol, the neurotransmitters are no longer inhibited by alcohol and the brain moves quickly to adjust to the new chemical imbalance – causing the debilitating side effects of withdrawal which are separate from the “feel good” effects of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Withdrawal symptoms can occur as early as two hours after your last drink. Typically, symptoms will peak within the first 24 to 48 hours upon cessation. This is when  the patient may experience the most uncomfortable of withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, rapid heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, sweating, tremors, and fever.

While some people experience very few withdrawal symptoms, others may suffer from more serious side effects. Delirium tremens, which is one of the most severe of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, can manifest within the 48 hours after a person’s last drink. Delirium tremens (or DTs) often result in anxiety, severe tremors, confusion, hallucinations, and high blood pressure.

The full range of alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically express themselves according to the following timeline:

6 to 12 hours after the last drink:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Shaking
  • Agitation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


12 to 24 hours after the last drink:

  • Disorientation
  • Hand tremors
  • Seizures


48 hours after the last drink:

  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • High fever & sweating
  • Delirium tremens


Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

For the first several days and weeks after a person stops drinking alcohol, they may experience acute symptoms. Acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome refers to the common withdrawal symptoms that a heavy drinker experiences when they abruptly decrease the amount of alcohol they drink after a long period of heavy use. It is at this time that the person is most likely to experience temporary loss of consciousness, DTs, and seizures. Since these and other life-threatening health complications can arise in the course of acute alcohol withdrawal, heavy drinkers should never try to quit cold turkey on their own. Instead, they should seek a medical partner like New Life to help them in the transition.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Some people may experience longer-term impacts from cessation of heavy drinking. This is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS and consists of continuing withdrawal symptoms that occur after the acute withdrawal phase. Depending on the severity of a person’s alcohol abuse, PAWS can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year and can make life after rehab difficult for some people.

PAWS Symptoms Include:

  • Low energy
  • Sleeplessness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Memory issues
  • Accident proneness
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Chronic nausea

PAWS is usually associate with very heavy drinking and the symptoms usually peak around four to eight weeks after quitting. Many alcoholics know about PAWS from their experience in quitting and then relapsing but just don’t know that these terrible symptoms have a name.

Treating Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

At New Life Medical Addiction Services, our doctors, medical staff and counselors are experts at successfully treating addiction to alcohol and the attendant medical issues like alcohol withdrawal.

Outpatient Treatment

The outpatient treatment that New Life offers let’s our patients return to their homes after their daily treatment and therapies. We have found that recovering at home, in comfortable surroundings and with loved ones often produces the most positive outcomes.

Medication-Assisted Therapy

New Life provides medication-assisted therapy to minimize the negative aspects of alcohol withdrawal so that the patients can focus on other aspects of recovery.

Individual counseling

The counselors at New Life provide critical support during all phases of alcohol withdrawal and help our patients understand the underlying factors that may have influenced their alcohol addiction. Our counselors and Peer Coaches also teach patients on how to work through various matters and get on with their productive lives.

Contact us today to learn more about the New Life Medical Addiction approach.

To speak to someone at New Life, call us at: 856-942-3700 or send us a Text Message.

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