When a chronic drinker abruptly stops drinking alcohol, he or she usually experiences alcohol withdrawal
symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are essentially responses by the brain and by the body to the lack of alcohol
to which they have become adapted.
Alcohol Withdrawal, The Brain, and Tolerance
With regular consumption of alcohol, the brain gradually adapts to the alcohol so that normal functioning is
This not only explains how physical tolerance develops but it also explains why increasingly more alcohol is
needed to get the same "buzz" or "high" with regular use.
When an individual who has exhibited a pattern of continuous and excessive consumption suddenly stops drinking
alcohol, however, he or she typically suffers from alcohol withdrawal symptoms which may take days or weeks before
the body returns to "normal."
Basically, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are responses by the brain and by the body to the lack of alcohol to
which they had become adapted.
Alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to moderate to severe and include both behavioral and psychological
Mild to Moderate Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The following is a list of mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms that typically take place within 6 to 48
hours after the last alcoholic drink has been ingested:
- Loss of appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Headaches (especially those that pulsate)
- Easily excited, irritability
- Feeling nervous or jumpy
- Abnormal movements
- Sweating (especially on the face or the palms of the hands)
- Tremor of the hands
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Clammy skin
- Looking pale, without color
- Involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids
- Rapid emotional changes
- Eyes or pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils)
- Insomnia, sleeping difficulties
Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
The following are severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms that usually take place within 48 to 96 hours after the
last alcoholic drink has been consumed:
- Black outs
- Extreme anxiety
- Severe autonomic nervous system overactivity
- Muscle tremors
- Increased difficulty thinking clearly
- Increased depression
- More extreme emotional changes
- Delirium tremens (DTs)
- Excessive irritability
- Visual hallucinations
Conclusion: Alcohol Withdrawal
The first concern when experiencing alcohol withdrawal should be "who should I contact about
the alcohol withdrawal symptoms I am experiencing" rather than "what helps for alcohol withdrawals?"
When experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, always see your doctor or healthcare provider immediately so that
he or she can assess the severity of your situation and suggest the best option for treatment.