Acute alcohol withdrawal occurs when someone who has been drinking heavily suddenly stops drinking. The absence of alcohol gives rise to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe depending on the person, how long they’ve been dependent on alcohol, and how much they typically drank.
Withdrawal and detoxing from alcohol without medical assistance and supervision can be a traumatizing experience for both the individual experiencing these symptoms and their loved ones who want to offer support.
Understanding the common acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms can help you be more prepared to face the challenges and discomfort as it arises. Additionally, learning to identify life-threatening signs of withdrawal and when to get help can save your life or that of your loved one. We explore the symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal and how a specialized addiction treatment center can help make the detox process easier.
What Is Acute Alcoholism?
Acute alcoholism is alcohol poisoning resulting from heavy drinking. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol for an extended period significantly changes the core functions of the central nervous system, resulting in debilitating effects on your ability to control your body and its reactions to your environment.
The most common signs of acute alcoholism include:
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Incoherent speech
- Mild to severe dehydration
- Respiratory failure
- Nausea and vomiting
Getting an official diagnosis from a medical professional can help people with alcohol addiction or acute alcoholism get a better chance at full recovery by seeking professional treatment.
A comprehensive diagnosis will include a doctor looking at your medical history, a routine physical exam, and checking for the physical signs of withdrawal or acute alcoholism. Your doctor may also request blood tests to support a diagnosis of acute alcoholism and help them determine how severe the condition has become.
How Withdrawal Works
Withdrawal typically starts several hours or days after your last drink. Whether you’ve drastically lowered your alcohol intake or decided to go cold turkey, your body may take time to adjust to functioning without the constant presence of alcohol in your bloodstream. This can give rise to acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
The severity of withdrawal is often determined by the amount and frequency at which alcohol is consumed. Most people who go through acute alcohol withdrawal experience a range of moderate to severe symptoms.
Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Effects
Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways and severities. Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome may include:
- Increased heart rate
- Irritability and depression
- Nervousness, anxiety, and paranoia
- Mood swings
- Mental fog
- Loss of appetite
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
- Night sweats or nightmares
- Pale skin color
- Shakiness and tremors
- Burnout and intense fatigue
These symptoms usually subside between a few days and a few weeks after your last drink. Going through withdrawal alone can be mentally taxing and challenging. Choosing to detox in a dedicated recovery center or the home of a loved one is the best option for people who expect their withdrawal symptoms to be more severe than they can manage by themselves.
What to Expect
Withdrawal can start as soon as six to twelve hours, although underlying health conditions, as well as additional substance abuse, can aggravate its effects.
Though mild symptoms may be visible a mere six hours after significantly downscaling alcohol consumption or going cold turkey, not getting the right treatment can quickly lead to more severe symptoms. Understanding the typical alcohol withdrawal timeline can help you or your loved one know what to expect and when it may be necessary to seek medical help.
Here’s what a generalized withdrawal timeline may look like at various points after the last drink:
- 6 to 12 hours: Initial withdrawal can start with mild symptoms, including excessive sweating, an increased heart rate, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and tremors.
- 12 to 24 hours: You may start experiencing more severe symptoms, including dramatically reduced awareness of your surroundings and hallucinations.
- 24 to 48 hours: Although the severity of your withdrawal symptoms may be decreasing, underlying health conditions can cause unexpected problems during the detox process.
- 48 to 72 hours: If you are experiencing a particularly severe case of acute alcohol withdrawal, you may still be experiencing immobilizing withdrawal symptoms up to 72 hours after your last drink. In the most severe cases, people who are typically heavy drinkers may develop a condition known as delirium tremens.
Delirium tremens, or DT, is a life-threatening withdrawal complication that poses a significant danger to your health or that of your loved one going through the alcohol detox process. Signs you or your loved one may be experiencing delirium tremens include:
- Severe emotional distress
- High fever
- Confusion and hallucinations
- Extremely high blood pressure levels
It is crucial to seek medical assistance immediately if you think you or a loved one may be experiencing delirium tremens.
Treatment for Acute Alcohol Withdrawal
Seeking medical advice and guidance should be the first step for anyone looking to detox after a long time of drinking heavily. Even if you believe your symptoms will be mild, keeping a doctor or medical professional’s information close can save your life if things take a turn for the worse.
Providing a safe environment at home or checking in to a facility providing experienced drug and alcohol abuse treatment is another excellent choice to make your withdrawal experience as comfortable and easy as possible. Most rehab centers are staffed with doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals who are well-versed in the problems you may experience during withdrawal and how to help you overcome the discomfort.
They can also ensure you get the medical attention you need should your withdrawal symptoms at any point take a turn for the worse.
How One Touch Recovery Can Help
Seeking assistance with a substance abuse problem like alcoholism is the first step toward long-term recovery and healing. However, for individuals who regularly drink alcohol, a full recovery may, even in non-severe cases, be difficult to attempt alone.
One Touch Recovery is an experienced substance and alcohol abuse treatment center that provides a range of services tailored to meet every individual’s recovery needs. Services included in our alcohol recovery treatment plan include a 12-step recovery program, sober living arrangements where patients can recover in a safe and supervised environment, and regular group and individual therapy as part of our outpatient programs.
One Touch Recovery offers the resources and assistance you or a loved one may need to overcome your alcohol use disorder, as well as the medical expertise to actively assist in a healthy recovery when withdrawal symptoms kick in.
For more information on how we can help you get started on your journey to lifelong recovery, visit our website or contact us at (909) 351-4480 today.