What happens during alcohol withdrawal?

Living within the cycle of alcohol addiction is a nightmare for far too many people. The constant battle between needing a drink, finding a drink, drinking, and trying to recover the next day is horrific. As bad as life can be in the cycle of alcohol addiction, trying to stop drinking can be just as bad if not worse, at least in the short term. After months or years of alcohol abuse, the body, and the brain develop a dependence on alcohol.

Depending on the extent of the addiction, the body and brain will start demanding that which it needs. Those demands come in the form of cravings. If the body and brain are denied that which they need, they will revolt. That revolt is what we call withdrawal or withdrawal symptoms.

If you have never stretched periods of sobriety to the point you start experiencing withdrawal, then you would have no basis for knowing how bad withdrawal symptoms can get. As a point of reference, here are some of the symptoms you might encounter:

  • A significant increase in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Problems with your respiratory system (breathing)
  • Nausea, vomiting, and profuse sweating
  • Feelings of confusion and loss of the ability to concentrate
  • body tremors and shaking in the hands and legs
  • Stomach cramping
  • Hallucinations and the DTs

As you can see, there are things on this list that you would not wish on an enemy. At this point, you might be wondering exactly what happens as your body and brain revolt against you for withholding alcohol. To prepare you for what lies ahead, we will tell you a little bit about the alcohol withdrawal process.

What happens during alcohol withdrawal?

From the moment you make the decision to not drink anymore, your body and brain are on the clock. They know when to expect that next dose of alcohol. When it doesn’t come at the scheduled time, the revolt begins, usually around 12 hours after your last drink. At first, you will feel a little irritated, nervous, and maybe start having headaches. By the end of the first day, you might notice your blood pressure and heart rate picking up as your body sweats.

Heading into the second day, breathing problems might start kicking in as your other withdrawal symptoms worsen. Towards the end of the second day, you might experience stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, and cold chills. Going into the third day, you would be entering the danger zone. Over the next couple of days, things could get really bad. You might struggle to sleep, lose your appetite, show signs of confusion, and become depressed. This is also the timeframe in which you might experience the DTs and visual/auditory hallucinations. You need to stay strong and diligent during days 3 to 5 in order to resist the temptation to abort any thoughts of sobriety. If you can get through day 5 intact, you should start slowly feeling better. Remember, you are not yet out of the woods at his point. Some of the withdrawal symptoms might reappear over the next few days, especially if your alcohol addiction is more towards the severe end of the scale. After a full week, you should be able to start functioning reasonably well.

Of course, you can avoid the worst parts of withdrawal if you were to enter a medically monitored detox program. Under the watchful eyes of the rehab’s medical staff, you would be given mental and emotional support as you take on your withdrawal symptoms. Should you start to show any dangerous signs of pain or discomfort, the medical staff would be in a position to help you. If necessary, help could include the use of prescription medications for sleep and pain. The whole point of a detox program is to provide rehab clients with a safe and secure way to go through withdrawal with a minimum of discomfort. You need to get help for your drinking problem. Yes, you will likely have to face up to withdrawal symptoms. Unfortunately, it’s part of the recovery process. If you will give us the opportunity, we can provide you with access to a detox program, followed by an addiction treatment program that would allow you to address the root causes of your addiction. If you want to know more about what we can offer, we invite you to call one of our trained staff members at 833-497-3812.