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10 Alcohol Detox Symptoms: What You Need to Know

What is Alcohol Detox?

The first step in recovery from alcohol addiction is alcohol detox, which is flushing all alcohol completely out of the body. Many people with alcohol use disorder are apprehensive about quitting drinking due to alcohol detox symptoms often arising after prolonged alcohol abuse. Often, attempting to detox alone is not successful and may even be dangerous. Individuals quickly relapse when they attempt to stop drinking because it is the easiest way to escape withdrawal and cravings.

Contact The Detox Center of Los Angeles today at (888) 346-4350 to learn how to access our addiction treatment programs.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms after the body has become dependent on alcohol through prolonged abuse. As a depressant, alcohol slows down central nervous functioning by affecting neurotransmitter production and signals in the brain. When a person chronically abuses alcohol, the brain becomes dependent on it to regulate these neurotransmitters and will also increase chemicals that keep the body awake and alert. This includes the neurotransmitters dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Over time, the person will develop tolerance and need larger quantities to get the same feelings of intoxication. At the same time, the brain will produce more stimulating neurotransmitters to keep the body level. This cycle of abuse will cause an increase in biochemistry imbalance. When there is a sudden decrease or total cessation of alcohol in the body, the brain has not fully registered what is happening and will continue to produce stimulating neurotransmitters, which leads to withdrawal symptoms.

Typically, a person will go through alcohol withdrawal within one to two weeks, but it depends on the severity of their alcohol use disorders. Alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to severe. While some individuals will experience minor effects, others may face extreme pain and may even be dangerous or life threatening. Medical detox programs are available to help individuals go through alcohol withdrawals more easily and safely. Medications are available to ease withdrawal symptoms and ensure the success of completing alcohol detox.

10 Alcohol Detox Symptoms

The severity and longevity of withdrawal symptoms will depend on several factors. These factors include how long the person has been abusing alcohol, the severity of their alcohol abuse, age, sex, weight, overall health, and the presence of co-occurring disorders. If there has been polysubstance abuse, there may be more withdrawal symptoms or more severe ones. Also, experiencing alcohol withdrawal in the past can also affect the severity of symptoms.

Some symptoms you can experience while detoxing from alcohol include:

  1. Dizziness. This is the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms and is due to the body not being able to regulate blood pressure or heart rate well yet.
  2. Nausea and Vomiting. Alcohol can erode the stomach lining which is the first component of the body to process the breakdown of food. Nausea may indicate the stomach lining is severely damaged and is not ready for food.
  3. Sweating. When a person stops drinking, their body may respond by increasing stress hormones like stress which causes a state of hyperactivity and leads to sweating.
  4. Aches and Pains. These symptoms can range from feeling fatigued to experiencing muscle tightness, joint pain, and restless legs. Muscle aches can be due to vitamin deficiency, low blood sugar levels, or metabolic disorders due to nutritional deficiencies and impaired blood sugar regulation from alcoholism.
  5. Anxiety. Dopamine and GABA are key players in anxiety disorders. A person may experience heightened anxiety while the body begins to regulate these neurotransmitters again. Anxiety is also a common co-occurring disorder in alcohol addiction.
  6. Insomnia. Alcoholism leads to disturbances in a person’s natural chemical balance which leads the body to be in a hyperactive state and affects sleep patterns. This may result in insomnia, restless sleep, or nightmares.
  7. Fatigue. Not only does insomnia from withdrawals cause tiredness, but the body is also mentally and physically exhausted from prolonged alcohol abuse. Drinking alcohol also decreases glucose metabolism and causes the brain to use acetate, a byproduct of alcohol breakdown in the liver, for energy. Without its now preferred energy source (acetate), it has to remember how to use glucose for energy again. While the shift happens, the person can feel exhausted.
  8. Alcohol Cravings. This is due to the brain associating alcohol with how it regulates itself and feels it needs it to survive. 
  9. Brain Fog and Disorientation. Alcohol abuse can negatively impact cognitive function. While the brain learns to regulate chemicals and signals again, the individual can experience foggy thinking and disorientation. Brain fog can make it difficult to concentrate, think clearly, and remember things.
  10. Delirium Tremens. Also called DTs, it is the most severe alcohol withdrawal and can be life threatening. The brain gets overstimulated when the brain and nervous system can’t adjust quickly. Individuals will also have a spike in the amino acid glutamate which causes some of the symptoms of delirium tremens such as tremors, extremely high blood pressure, and seizures. DTs are more common in people with severe forms of alcoholism, however, there is no way to predict who and when the symptoms will happen. Other symptoms of DT include hallucinations, fevers, chest pain, dehydration, and passing out.

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How Does Alcohol Detox Work?

The safest and easiest way to go through alcohol withdrawals is through a medical detox program. The first step is a thorough evaluation by a team of medical professionals to create a personalized treatment plan and determine the level of medications needed. This evaluation may also set up the basis for the individual’s long-term recovery plan.

Detox facilities have medical personnel available 24/7 to ensure your safety and administer medications as withdrawals arise. They can also provide support and coping skills if the person feels depressed or anxious. Clinicians will provide IV fluids to keep the person hydrated and prevent dangerous effects from extreme dehydration such as kidney failure. Some medications are FDA approved for the direct treatment of alcohol withdrawals and cravings, such as Naltrexone and Acamprosate. Other medications like benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants are necessary to not only help with anxiety symptoms but also reduce or control the risk of seizures. Beta-blockers are used to control blood pressure and heart rate, while antipsychotics may also be used for hallucinations.

Alcohol withdrawals arise within a few hours after the last drink and peak between 48 to 72 hours. As the person is stabilized after a few days, they may begin to participate in individual and group therapy sessions. Clinicians can begin to familiarize patients with the treatment process and continue on with robust alcohol rehab programs for long-term success.

Get Help with Recovery and More at The Detox Center of L.A.

The Detox Center of LA is a residential detox and rehab facility in Los Angeles, California. We provide patients a safe place to detox with around-the-clock medical care and access to a range of medications and evidence based therapies to ease the alcohol withdrawal process. Our program consists of 5 to 10 days of medically supervised medical regimen in a luxury, the non-hospital setting for added comfort. We also offer continued inpatient alcohol rehab to treat the underlying causes of alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorders through dual-diagnosis treatment. Treatments in our 20 to 30 days of intensive therapy include group, individual, experiential, and family therapy. Patients can also expect added amenities including nutritious, in-house meals prepared by a private chef, housekeeping, fitness classes, yoga, meditation, and an outside lounge area.

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction and are ready to take back control of your life, The Detox Center of LA can provide you with medical care and rehab programs for long-term recovery. Call us today to learn more about our same day admissions process. 


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Will my insurance cover treatment for addiction?

The Detox Center of L.A. accepts most major insurance providers and private healthcare policies. We offer free insurance verification as well as eligibility and benefits for both behavioral and mental health treatment services. Please fill out our insurance verification form here to verify your insurance.

What happens in addiction

Effective addiction treatment programs are tailored to each individual. Because of this, it will be a different experience for everyone. However, it generally involves a combination of detoxification, group and individual therapy, educational presentations, and aftercare planning in order to ensure long-term recovery. Upon arrival at The Detox Center of L.A., you can expect our professionally trained staff to create an individualized treatment plan based on your needs and treatment goals.