Alcohol Withdrawal: Getting Out Is Never That Easy At All



“From now on, I’ll have to stop drinking!” Sounds good to hear. It’s like giving you another chance of having a healthy lifestyle. However, how positive as it may appear, getting through it requires mental toughness and self-determination of calling it quits for good. Just when you decided to stop drinking excessive alcohol for whatever reasons you may have, comes along the journey that you must go through which may seem unbearable that you might even think of backing out.

Fear of judgement is a powerful deterrent to treatment for individuals struggling with a substance use disorder of any sort, including alcohol. — Jennifer Smith, PhD

Alcohol withdrawal does not just happen overnight. In fact, there are three stages that a person may go through before completely becoming alcohol- free. The first 48 hours of detoxification is the most challenging part because this is when withdrawal symptoms start to peak.

Taking alcohol induces relaxation as it subdues the fight-or-flight reaction of the brain, so by the time that a person started to stop drinking, the body slowly process alcohol substance out from the circulatory the system. If you are dependent on alcohol, the effect of alcohol on the brain’s chemical balance may lead to an abrupt stimulation of the fight or flight mode. This can result in alcohol withdrawal syndrome; worse than a hang-over, hence, understanding the stages of alcohol withdrawal will shed light on what is expected when someone is experiencing withdrawal syndrome.

Mild Form


You believe your negative thoughts to be true, rather than filtering them for more objective realities. As a result, your negative perceptions shape your perception of an event or interaction. — Kim Grevler, LCSW

The early stage of alcohol withdrawal occurs after 8 hours or more not taking alcohol. Commonly, after 12 hours of not consuming alcohol, tremors start to appear, and when coupled with anxiety the condition might become worse. Aside from tremors, a person might also be experiencing moderately minor symptoms which might take up to one to three days or even. The symptoms will vary according to physical or psychological characteristics:


  • Nervousness
  • Feeling down
  • Short-tempered
  • Impatience
  • Mood swings
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nightmares
  • Headaches
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of craving
  • Unsteady limbs
  • Queasiness
  • Gagging
  • Excessive sweating



Severe Form

People who have been dependent for alcohol for a more extended period might experience severe withdrawal symptoms marked by a sudden increase in blood pressure and hallucination which may appear between 12 to 24 hours of stopping alcohol intake. Symptoms of the early stage might also be apparent at this stage and might worsen during this time. Withdrawal-related seizures are other possible symptoms that may appear. The seizure is known as a generalized tonic-clonic seizure which presents with the stiffness of the body, uncontrolled bowel and bladder control, the difficulty of breathing, jaw or teeth-gritting and uncontrolled tongue or cheek biting.


Without filtering what you say, you might start getting a sense of the thoughts and feelings behind your presenting problem. — Charles Rosen, LCSW

Treatment for alcohol withdrawal usually takes place as an inpatient admission to monitor the changes and safety of the person. A person can have severe complications if this not monitored by a healthcare provider. As the person undergoes the process of detoxification, the physiological aspect takes primary importance. The doctor may still include the giving of alcohol in small amounts so as not to entirely deprive the body of the stimulatory effects of alcohol. As the process continues, the limitation of alcohol intake remains, together with psychological therapy and counseling sessions. The road to recovery may take some time, and everything will depend on the will of the person to stop.