20+ Years Experience

Specialist Alcohol Help

What do Alcohol Withdrawals Look Like?

Enquire Today For A Free No Obligation Quote

Alcohol Withdrawals occur when a person suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol consumption after a period of heavy and prolonged use. The body has become dependent on alcohol, and when it is suddenly removed, the body goes through a series of physical and psychological symptoms known as withdrawals. These symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe and life-threatening conditions.

The symptoms and severity of alcohol withdrawals vary from person to person, but some of the most common ones include:

  1. Anxiety: A feeling of unease, nervousness, and worry.
  2. Insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
  3. Nausea and Vomiting: Feeling sick to your stomach and/or vomiting.
  4. Sweating: Excessive and sudden sweating.
  5. Shaking/Tremors: Involuntary trembling or shaking of the body.
  6. Hallucinations: Seeing, hearing, or feeling something that is not real.
  7. Seizures: Uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain.

The risk factors for alcohol withdrawals include heavy and prolonged alcohol use, older age, and pre-existing mental health conditions. The duration of alcohol withdrawals depends on the individual’s level of alcohol dependence, but generally, they can be divided into three phases:

  1. Acute Withdrawal Phase (2-3 Days): The most severe phase with physical symptoms such as seizures and hallucinations.
  2. Early Abstinence Phase (1-2 Weeks): Symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and nausea may continue during this phase.
  3. Protracted Abstinence Phase (Months to Years): Some symptoms, such as anxiety and cravings, may persist for months or even years after stopping alcohol use.

Treatment options for alcohol withdrawals include medical detoxification, which can help manage the symptoms and prevent complications. Medications may also be prescribed to help with specific symptoms, and therapy and support groups are essential for long-term recovery. If you or someone you know is experiencing alcohol withdrawals, seek medical help immediately to ensure a safe and successful recovery.

What Are Alcohol Withdrawals?

Alcohol withdrawals refer to the physical and mental symptoms that occur when individuals abruptly stop or reduce their alcohol intake. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include anxiety, tremors, nausea, and even seizures. It’s essential for individuals experiencing alcohol withdrawals to seek medical assistance to safely manage the process.

Fact: Severe alcohol withdrawals can be life-threatening and should be treated under medical supervision.

What Are The Symptoms Of Alcohol Withdrawals?

Alcohol withdrawals can be a physically and mentally taxing experience for those who have developed a dependence on alcohol. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawals can range from mild discomfort to severe complications. In this section, we will delve into the various symptoms that individuals may experience when going through alcohol withdrawals. From anxiety and insomnia to hallucinations and seizures, we will examine the physical and psychological effects of alcohol withdrawals.

1. Anxiety

Cognitive-behavioral therapy: Helps identify and cope with anxiety triggers.

Relaxation techniques: Practice deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.

Medication: Consult a healthcare professional for prescription medications to manage anxiety symptoms.

2. Insomnia

Create a soothing bedtime routine, such as having a warm bath or reading a book. Avoid caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime to improve sleep. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation to relax the mind. Establish a consistent sleep schedule to regulate your body’s internal clock. Seek advice from a healthcare professional for guidance on sleep aids or medications.

3. Nausea And Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting during alcohol withdrawal can be extremely distressing and may require medical attention. Here are steps to manage these symptoms:

  1. Stay hydrated by sipping water or sucking on ice chips.
  2. Avoid consuming solid foods until the vomiting subsides.
  3. Seek medical assistance if vomiting is frequent or persistent.

Pro-tip: Consider consuming electrolyte-rich drinks to replenish lost fluids and minerals due to vomiting.

4. Sweating

Sweating is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal, often occurring within hours of the last drink. It is the body’s way of eliminating the toxins and regulating temperature. Excessive sweating can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, requiring medical attention.

Managing sweating during alcohol withdrawal involves:

5. Shaking/Tremors

Shaking and tremors are common symptoms of alcohol withdrawals. Addressing this issue involves:

  1. Medical Assessment: Seek medical evaluation to determine the severity of tremors and need for medication.
  2. Medication: Doctors may prescribe benzodiazepines to manage severe tremors and prevent potential complications.
  3. Hydration and Nutrition: Ensuring proper hydration and nutrition can aid in managing tremors during the withdrawal phase.

Pro-tip: Engaging in relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga may help alleviate tremors and promote overall well-being.

6. Hallucinations

Hallucinations during alcohol withdrawal often manifest as visual or auditory distortions. They can be frightening and intense, leading to disorientation and anxiety. Medical supervision is crucial to manage hallucinations and prevent potential harm. Supportive care, medication, and therapy are essential for alleviating hallucinations and addressing the underlying causes.

If you or someone you know experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms, seek medical help immediately for proper evaluation and care.

7. Seizures

Seizures during alcohol withdrawals are typically generalised tonic-clonic seizures, involving loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.

Risk: Seizures are more likely in individuals with a history of multiple detoxifications or concurrent benzodiazepine use.

Response: Immediate medical attention is crucial during a seizure to prevent injury and manage potential complications.

What Are The Risk Factors For Alcohol Withdrawals?

When it comes to alcohol withdrawal, there are certain risk factors that can increase an individual’s likelihood of experiencing severe symptoms. In this section, we will discuss the various risk factors for alcohol withdrawals and how they can impact the severity of the withdrawal process. These risk factors include heavy and prolonged alcohol use, age, and pre-existing mental health conditions. By understanding these factors, we can better understand the potential challenges of alcohol withdrawal and how to mitigate them.

1. Heavy And Prolonged Alcohol Use

Extended and excessive alcohol consumption leads to physical dependence and tolerance. Heavy and prolonged alcohol use can result in severe withdrawal symptoms when alcohol intake is stopped. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to a higher risk of experiencing intense withdrawal symptoms.

2. Age

Age is a crucial risk factor for alcohol withdrawals. Older adults are at a higher risk due to age-related changes in metabolism and body composition. Additionally, older individuals may have underlying health issues that can exacerbate withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to consider age when assessing the potential severity and complications of alcohol withdrawal and to tailor treatment plans accordingly.

3. Mental Health Conditions

Mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can exacerbate alcohol withdrawals. Individuals with mental health conditions may experience intensified withdrawal symptoms and require tailored treatment plans. Addressing mental health alongside alcohol withdrawals is crucial for successful recovery.

Seeking professional help, joining support groups, and maintaining a stable environment are vital for managing both mental health and alcohol withdrawals.

How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawals Last?

Alcohol withdrawals can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience for those struggling with alcohol dependence. However, how long do these withdrawals last? In this section, we will discuss the three distinct phases of alcohol withdrawal: the acute withdrawal phase, the early abstinence phase, and the protracted abstinence phase. By understanding the duration and symptoms of each phase, we can better prepare for and manage the challenges of alcohol withdrawals.

1. Acute Withdrawal Phase

Occurs shortly after reducing or ceasing alcohol intake.

Duration: Typically lasts 1-2 weeks.


Severity: Can range from mild to severe and potentially life-threatening.

2. Early Abstinence Phase

Physical symptoms:

During the early abstinence phase, individuals may experience lingering physical symptoms such as insomnia, tremors, and fatigue.

Psychological symptoms:

Anxiety, irritability, and mood swings are common during this phase as the body adjusts to the absence of alcohol.

Medical supervision:

Seek medical guidance to manage symptoms effectively and safely during this crucial phase.


Staying hydrated and maintaining a balanced diet can aid in easing physical discomfort and supporting overall well-being.

3. Protracted Abstinence Phase

The prolonged period of abstinence is characterised by long-term withdrawal symptoms that can last for several months:

Physical symptoms such as insomnia and fatigue may persist. Psychological symptoms, like anxiety and irritability, may also continue. Increased susceptibility to stress and triggers necessitates ongoing coping strategies.

It is important to maintain a supportive environment and engage in healthy activities, such as exercise and hobbies, during this phase to aid in recovery.

What Are The Treatment Options For Alcohol Withdrawals?

For individuals struggling with alcohol addiction, the process of withdrawal can be a daunting and uncomfortable experience. However, there are various treatment options available to help alleviate the symptoms and support long-term recovery. In this section, we will discuss the different approaches to treating alcohol withdrawals, including medical detoxification, medications, and therapy and support groups. By understanding these options, individuals can make informed decisions about their recovery journey.

1. Medical Detoxification

Assessment: The patient’s physical and mental health is assessed before a personalised detox plan is created.

Medical Supervision: The detox process is overseen by medical professionals to manage withdrawal symptoms and ensure safety.

Medication: Prescribing medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.

Supportive Care: Provision of supportive care, including hydration, nutrition, and rest, to promote recovery.

Monitoring: Continuous monitoring for any adverse reactions or complications during the detoxification process.

2. Medications

Benzodiazepines: These medications help in managing anxiety, insomnia, and seizures during alcohol withdrawal.

Anticonvulsants: Used to prevent or treat alcohol withdrawal seizures.

Antipsychotics: In some cases, these may be prescribed to manage hallucinations and severe agitation during withdrawal.

3. Therapy and Support Groups

Seek therapy and support groups specialised in alcohol addiction recovery.

Participate in individual counselling sessions to address underlying issues and triggers.

Engage in group therapy to gain support from peers and learn from shared experiences.

Pro-tip: Building a strong support network through therapy and support groups can significantly improve your chances of successful alcohol withdrawal and long-term sobriety.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common signs of alcohol withdrawal?

The most common signs of alcohol withdrawal include nausea, vomiting, headaches, abdominal pain, fatigue, high temperature, chills, vivid dreams, tics and tremors, increased heart rate, sweating, decreased appetite, depression, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, confusion, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and intense cravings for alcohol.

What are the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

The most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are called delirium tremens (DT) and can include severe disorientation, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, seizures, fever, and high blood pressure. DT is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.

What is the recommended amount of alcohol to drink on a regular basis?

The UK Chief Medical Officers advise not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis to keep health risks low. Heavy drinkers who exceed this amount are at risk for developing alcohol use disorders and experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

How can I reduce my risk of experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

It is important to cut back on alcohol consumption and not abruptly stop drinking if you have been regularly drinking heavily. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcohol dependency and seeking medical advice can help reduce the risk of severe symptoms.

What is the role of medical care in managing alcohol withdrawal?

Seeking immediate medical attention is recommended if you experience repeated vomiting, severe shaking, or hallucinations. Medical care can help manage the physical and psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and prevent serious risks such as delirium tremens.

What can I do to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms at home?

While seeking medical assistance is important, there are things you can do at home to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These include staying hydrated, getting plenty of rest in a quiet place with soft lighting, eating healthy food, and avoiding triggers for drinking.

Get In Touch With Our Team

We Aim To Reply To All Enquiries With-in 24-Hours