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What are the Symptoms of Withdrawal from Alcohol?

The withdrawal symptoms you experience when you quit drinking depend largely on how regularly and how heavily you drink. The more you drink, the worse your symptoms will be.

The first symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically appear within hours of your last drink but in some cases may appear days later. Symptoms usually reach peak intensity within a matter of days but may continue for weeks or months.

The mildest symptoms of withdrawal include anxiety and shakiness. The worst symptoms of withdrawal, delirium tremens, often called DT, may include seizures, hallucinations, fever, and confusion. DTs can be fatal in a small percentage of cases.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can escalate quickly. If you feel even mild withdrawal symptoms you should seek medical help. There are treatments for withdrawal that can help prevent seizures. Clinical detox centers can administer medications to mitigate the danger and also to lessen other symptoms such as nausea and insomnia.

If you experience hallucinations, irregular heartbeat, fever, seizures, or severe confusion, either call 911 or have someone bring you to the emergency room.

Other common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include anxiety, depression, irritability, fatigue, and nightmares. More acute symptoms include sweating, dilated pupils, shaking hands, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, and rapid heart rate.

Regular heavy drinking disrupts the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. The brain gradually adjusts to this new disordered state, and when you suddenly stop drinking, the chemical ecosystem in your brain that has been developing over months or years is thrown into chaos.

Two neurotransmitters are responsible for most of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. The first is GABA. Its main job is to make you feel calm. Alcohol enhances the effect of GABA, so that over time your brain produces less of it. When you stop drinking, you suddenly have too little GABA in your brain, which makes you far more prone to anxiety and irritability.

The other important neurotransmitter is glutamate. Whereas GABA calms you down, glutamate makes you excited. Alcohol suppresses the action of glutamate, which makes the brain produce more of it. When you stop drinking, your brain has a lot of extra glutamate causing excitability and not enough GABA to calm you down.


Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal if not properly cared for. The Serenity Recovery Center offers comfortable clinical detox with the privacy and compassion necessary for taking the first step to recovery. Call us today for information: 866.294.9401