08 Sept 2022

Dangers of alcohol withdrawal

In England there are an estimated 602,391 dependent drinkers.

What a lot of people don’t know about withdrawing from alcohol is that there are serious dangers if you are drink dependant. In some cases, these can even cause death.

Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system (CNS). This means it has a slowing effect on the brain.

With continued exposure, the body adapts to alcohol’s depressant effect. When you reduce or stop drinking alcohol, the CNS becomes overexcited. This can lead to the symptoms of withdrawal.

If you are drink dependant or you stop drinking alcohol and experience any of these symptoms you shouldn’t withdraw from alcohol suddenly and the best thing to do is to contact healthcare professionals to help you withdraw in a safe way.

Potential common risk symptoms;

  • seizures (fits)
  • hand tremors (‘the shakes’)
  • sweating
  • seeing things that are not actually real (visual hallucinations)
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
Infographic by Rehabs UK showing the common withdrawal symptoms of alcohol withdrawl

Timeline of symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically manifest according to the following timeline:

6 to 12 hours post-ingestion

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Shaking
  • Nausea and vomiting

12 to 24 hours post-ingestion

  • Disorientation
  • Hand tremors
  • Seizures

48 hours post-ingestion

  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations
  • High fever and excessive sweating
  • Delirium tremens

How to withdraw safely

Dr Ike Nnene Private General Practitioner talking us through Home Detox

Supervised alcohol withdrawal is safest. Mild to moderate alcohol withdrawal can be done in an outpatient setting, often requiring daily check-ins. Individuals with more serious symptoms should be treated in an inpatient setting, where their condition can be more closely monitored.

Having 24/7 help and support when detoxing from alcohol reduces the risks of extreme symptoms. It offers the individual the best chance of successfully detoxing.

It is important if you are considering an alcohol detox that you get help from a facility that will offer you the right tools and support for you to detox safely.