What to Expect When Quitting Drinking
Alcohol consumption has grown in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alcohol sales were up 54% in late March 2020 compared to the year before, according to the American Heart Association. This has led to some individuals developing an addiction to alcohol, and many continue to abuse drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal and detox can be very physically and psychologically uncomfortable, and if done without medical supervision, they can even be dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms usually result from quitting or slowing down alcohol consumption after a period of heavy or prolonged use.
Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline for Detoxing from Alcohol
A precise timeline for when alcohol withdrawal will start and end is difficult to tell because it all varies from person to person, how much they have been drinking and how long they have been drinking. Usually, alcohol detox takes between seven to 10 days. The withdrawal symptoms may continue for even months for some, and these are generally minor, like sleep problems and some anxiety.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms will also vary with each person and how much they consume. The more heavily the person drinks, the more likely they will experience alcohol withdrawal. The symptoms include:
- Upset stomach, including nausea and vomiting
- Sweating, dehydration, and hot flashes
- Heart rate changes and high blood pressure
- Severe mental confusion
Withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening and may require medical supervision, plus the use of certain sedating medications like benzodiazepines to minimize seizure risk. Medical detox may be a good idea to keep patients safe and comfortable during withdrawal while preparing them for further rehabilitation.
What Is Withdrawal?
When a person has reached a state of alcohol dependence, the body and brain require alcohol to feel and function normally. This happens after a period of heavy or prolonged drinking. Withdrawal then occurs when alcohol is no longer in their system, and there are various changes in brain chemistry, leading to the brain and nervous system malfunctioning.
Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal
Depending on the level of alcohol dependence, the severity of alcohol withdrawal will vary from individual to individual. The American Academy of Family Physicians lists three potential stages that may be experienced:
Stage 1 (mild)
Symptoms include headache, anxiety, hand tremors, gastrointestinal issues, heart palpitations, and insomnia. This stage starts 6 to 12 hours after a person’s last drink.
Stage 2 (moderate)
Symptoms will include those in Stage 1 plus an increase in blood pressure or heart rate, mild hyperthermia, confusion, and rapid or abnormal breathing. This stage starts 12 to 24 hours after stopping alcohol.
Stage 3 (severe)
Symptoms include those in Stages 1 and 2 plus seizures, disorientation, visual or auditory hallucinations, and impaired attention. This stage begins 48 to 96 hours after the person’s last drink.
Without proper medical treatment, some people can rapidly progress from Stage 2 to Stage 3.
For more details on what happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol suddenly, check out our blog below:
The Best Way to Detox From Alcohol Addiction
Detoxification is a natural bodily process and happens any time you consume alcohol by the liver metabolizing and removing ethanol. Individuals who frequently drink never truly detoxify because they always add more alcohol to their system. Those who choose to detox on their own usually stop entirely, which can be dangerous and cause severe withdrawal symptoms. They can also relapse and put themselves in danger of alcohol poisoning. It is not advisable for someone to detox independently, and a professional medical detox is the safest option.
Medical alcohol detox programs like at WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab provide a safe and more comfortable environment to detox from alcohol and other drugs. An individual can expect to be evaluated for any significant medical or mental health issues, constant supervision, adjustments to treatment, and medications can be administered to control symptoms. The person can also be prepared to enter a more extended recovery program and one that will help achieve established abstinence from alcohol abuse and live a better life.
If you or a loved one needs alcohol and drug detox to begin the journey to long-lasting recovery, call us today to learn how we can help.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.