Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms and Treatment

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening. Medical support makes the process much safer and more comfortable.1

This page will discuss alcohol withdrawal and effective treatment options.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is characterized by significant distress and functional impairment that occurs when someone quits or reduces their drinking after prolonged, chronic alcohol use.2

With significant levels of physiological dependence, a person may continue to compulsively drink to avoid unwanted withdrawal symptoms. When an individual is physiologically dependent on alcohol and they cut back or quit, they are at risk for alcohol withdrawal.2

The severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms is dependent on several factors. These factors include:1

  • Age.
  • Overall health.
  • Whether other medical issues are present.
  • History of alcohol use and duration of alcohol use.
  • The presence of mental health disorders.
  • Nutritional factors.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:2

  • High pulse rate.
  • Perspiration.
  • Anxiety.
  • Increased tremors in the hands.
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia).
  • Vomiting or nausea.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Psychomotor agitation.
  • Seizures.

Other possible alcohol withdrawal symptoms include loss of appetite, irritability, and hypersensitivity to noise or light.1

Risks of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range in severity, with some of the most severe symptoms categorized as delirium tremens (DT).1,3 Delirium tremens are made up of a cluster of symptoms that include:3

  • Rapid heart rate.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Anxiety.
  • Delirium (e.g., reduced awareness of surroundings, trouble concentrating, psychomotor disturbances, sleep disturbances).
  • Visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there).
  • Seizures.

DT is a potentially fatal medical emergency. The overall mortality rate of those who experience DTs is between 1 and 4%. This risk is significantly reduced with effective treatment.3

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

Acute withdrawal symptoms can start anywhere from 6 to 24 hours after alcohol was last consumed,1 with most withdrawal symptoms usually presenting within 24-48 hours after last use. Withdrawal symptoms usually last for 5-7 days after onset.1

Medical Detox for Alcohol Withdrawal

Medical detox can help someone going through alcohol withdrawal by keeping them as safe and comfortable as possible while being monitored by medical professionals.1

Effective detox not only makes the acute withdrawal process safer, but it also fosters a person’s entry into continuing alcohol addiction treatment, improving their chances of long-term recovery.1

Medications for Alcohol Withdrawal

When prescribed and administered by addiction professionals, certain medications can help manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce the potential for dangerous complications.1

Common medications used in detox treatment settings include:1

  • Benzodiazepines, including lorazepam, diazepam, and oxazepam.
  • Anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine or valproic acid.

Alcohol Rehab and Treatment in Tampa, FL

Detox is just one component of a process that may involve multiple types of addiction treatment. Treatment is a highly individualized process, and an effective course of action is one that is tailored to each patient’s specific needs.4

River Oaks offers levels of addiction treatment, including:

Call to speak to a trained and compassionate admissions navigator who can help you start treatment today or answer questions about using your insurance to pay for rehab and other ways of paying for addiction treatment. You do not have to live a life in active addiction any longer.

Was this page helpful?
Thank you for your feedback.

American Addiction Centers (AAC) is committed to delivering original, truthful, accurate, unbiased, and medically current information. We strive to create content that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

Read our full editorial policy

While we are unable to respond to your feedback directly, we'll use this information to improve our online help.

You aren't alone. You deserve to get help.
River Oaks is located in Riverview, Florida, which is easily accessible from Tampa.
Take your next step toward recovery:
✔ learn more about our addiction treatment programs.
✔ see how popular insurance providers such as Aetna or Carelon offer coverage for rehab.
view photos of our facility.