Alcohol misuse is common in the United States. In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 14.1 million American adults had an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for an alcohol addiction, as of 2019. When a person has an alcohol use disorder (AUD), they often require treatment to help them stop drinking. This is because an AUD is a legitimate medical condition that causes changes in the brain and leads people to continue drinking, even in the face of consequences. If you seek alcohol rehab, the first stage in the treatment process is going through alcohol detox. So, how long does it take to detox from alcohol? Learn the answer, as well as the benefits of medication assisted treatment for alcohol use, here.
Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox Symptoms
People who are preparing to go through alcohol detox often ask, “What happens when you stop drinking?” While everyone’s experience may vary slightly, if you have an AUD, you are likely to experience some withdrawal symptoms when you give up alcohol, especially if you have been drinking heavily for an extended period of time. For some people, withdrawal symptoms are mild, whereas others can experience severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when a person is dependent upon alcohol. Once a dependence develops, the body adapts to the presence of alcohol and cannot function the same without it. Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s reaction to being without alcohol after having developed a dependence.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms are explained below.
Sleep disturbances are considered a mild alcohol withdrawal symptom, and this symptom may occur alongside anxiety. Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal tend to appear 6 to 12 hours after the last drink, so you may have difficulty sleeping as soon as you stop drinking.
Another early withdrawal symptom that may appear 6 to 12 hours after the last drink is tremors. This symptom can be described as shakiness, often in the hands or arms.
Various Forms of Pain
Also among the mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms are various forms of pain. Most commonly, people experience headaches or an upset stomach.
Some people experience only mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, whereas others experience symptoms that become more severe. Twelve to 24 hours after the last drink, some people may experience withdrawal hallucinations. This can include hearing, seeing, or feeling things that are not actually present.
In some cases, alcohol withdrawal will conclude with hallucinations, which will never worsen. Unfortunately, some people may proceed to more severe alcohol withdrawal side effects, which can include seizures.
In the most severe cases of alcohol withdrawal, people may experience a potentially fatal condition called delirium tremens. This condition requires immediate medical treatment and includes symptoms such as fever, sweating, agitation, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, disorientation, and visual hallucinations.