For most people, alcohol is a substance often consumed in social situations to have fun or celebrate. But for 18 million people in the US, alcohol is at the center of their substance abuse struggle. Alcohol abuse is one of the most common addictions in the world, and unfortunately, withdrawal from alcohol is one of the hardest. Alcohol detox happens in three main stages, so here is what you should know.
Stage one of alcohol detox usually happens within 6-12 hours after the last drink. Symptoms at this stage are usually mild. The symptoms during stage one are typically physical in nature. Patients may experience shaky hands, headaches, nausea, vomiting, sweating, abdominal pain, and insomnia. It’s not uncommon to experience mild anxiety at this stage as well.
Stage two of alcohol withdrawal is when the more moderate symptoms start to set in. This usually happens 12-48 hours after the last drink. These symptoms are a mix of physical and psychological. Patients often experience irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, fever, confusion, and sweating. These symptoms can be more intense, which is why it is recommended to enlist professional medical help when detoxing.
Stage three is when the most severe symptoms of alcohol detox begin. This usually happens 48-72 hours after the last drink. During this stage, certain withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. Individuals usually experience rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, and fever. However, they can also experience “delirium tremens”, which are delusions or hallucinations. Patients could also experience seizures, which are dangerous. It is important to have professional help if you are experiencing these symptoms.
Alcohol detox can also have an additional stage, where symptoms of withdrawal linger for an extended period of time. This is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS is a condition in which patients experience detox symptoms for a prolonged period of time. These symptoms are often severe, and commonly include tremors, seizures, autonomic nervous system hyperactivity (such as sweating, nausea, and rapid heart rate), and intense alcohol cravings.
The length and severity of one’s alcohol detox depend on the individual. Frequency and length of one’s addiction, as well as medical history and other drugs used, will impact alcohol detox. Due to how severe alcohol detox symptoms can be, it is strongly recommended that individuals looking to detox seek medical help doing so.