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10 Side Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal

Withdrawal From Alcohol: The Warning Signs

Many people fear quitting drinking because they are worried about suffering from the side effects of alcohol withdrawal. Others may not even realize that they have a problem because drinking is legal in the US and is a common social activity in our culture. We celebrate good news and mourn bad news, all with a drink in hand, and we have all seen a television show character crack a beer to help them relax after a hard day at work. Drinking is such a prevalent part of our culture that in some circles, it is considered strange if you don’t drink every weekend.


10 Side Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal

With all this in mind, it is easy to see why so many Americans develop an alcohol use disorder. We may not realize that the amount we drink is unhealthy, or we may think it is fine because we know other people who drink way more than we do. You don’t need to hit rock bottom to realize that you have an addiction to alcohol; all you have to do is be honest as you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you able to have just one drink, or do you seem to end up going on a binge or getting drunk every time?
  • Do you keep stashes of alcohol in unlikely places, like in a desk drawer at work or in your purse?
  • Do you ever experience uncontrollable urges to drink or feel like you are obsessed with when you can get your next drink?
  • Do you ever do dangerous things when drunk that you wouldn’t do when sober, like get into fights, drive drunk, or engage in unsafe sexual activity?
  • Do you ever feel withdrawal symptoms like shaky hands, restlessness, agitation, nausea, sweating, or depression when you try to cut back or quit?
  • Have you ever spent bill money or money that was not yours on alcohol?
  • Have you ever stolen alcohol from other people’s liquor cabinets?
  • Do you drink alone or hide your drinking from your loved ones?
  • Do you drink in the mornings to get through the day?
  • Is your tolerance for alcohol increasing? Do you need to drink more to get drunk than you used to need to?
  • Have you ever blacked out or had memory loss due to excessive drinking?
  • Have you had relationship issues, work trouble, or health problems because of alcohol but still continue to drink?
  • Have you been in trouble with the law due to alcohol-related problems?
  • Have you lost interest in activities and hobbies you used to enjoy since you started drinking?
  • Do you ever call in sick to work or miss class because you are drunk or hungover?
  • Have you ever tried to quit but could not?

Of course, these are not 100% foolproof indicators that you have an alcohol use disorder, as many people have experienced a blackout before or may have had to call in sick due to a hangover once or twice, but when you notice a pattern of behaviors such as these, it may be because of alcohol addiction.

Alcohol withdrawal is not something to take lightly, and it makes sense to feel nervous about quitting drinking because withdrawal symptoms can be painful and frightening and can become dangerous to your health if you are not treated by medical professionals.

If you have decided to quit drinking, the best way to do so is to enter a medical detox program at a licensed detox and rehab facility. It would help if you had 24-hour medical supervision to ensure your symptoms don’t cause danger to your health, and in a rehabilitation-focused program, you will have access to one-on-one, individualized holistic care and therapies that a hospital may not provide. You will also be provided with prescription medications to minimize any suffering you may experience, help you rest, and keep you safe from dangerous seizures and delirium tremens.

Quitting drinking may feel like an overwhelming decision, but it is the right and brave thing to do. Long-term drinking can cause severe health issues, including liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, stroke, high blood pressure, and various mouth, throat, and liver cancers. Long-term drinking can also isolate you from friends and loved ones, cause serious social and financial problems in your life, and can harm your mental health, leading to co-occurring disorders like depression or anxiety, which, in turn, may lead to more drinking.

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


How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

Alcohol detox and withdrawal are different for every person and do not follow any specific timeline because each person has unique physical and psychological characteristics and their own life and drug use history. The side effects of alcohol withdrawal will vary depending on factors like:

  • How long you have been abusing alcohol
  • Whether you were only drinking alcohol or were also using other prescription or illegal drugs at the same time
  • Certain genetic factors and physical characteristics like age, weight, and overall health may affect the length of time in detox
  • How much you were drinking each time, and whether you took time off between drinking (for example binging on the weekends but staying sober during the week vs. drinking four or five drinks every single day)
  • Whether you have experienced alcohol withdrawal before

For many people, after you have your last drink, your detox will go roughly as follows:

  • In the first six to twelve hours after you stop drinking, you may begin to feel symptoms like difficulty sleeping or insomnia, anxiety, headaches, and develop stomach issues like nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Between 12 to 48 hours after you have your last drink, your symptoms will start to escalate, and for people who have been drinking large amounts or who have been drinking for a long time, they may include serious withdrawal issues like seizures and hallucinations. In an inpatient medical detox, medical intervention will likely begin at this point
  • The period between 48 and 72 hours after your last drink is usually when things are most severe. Care from doctors and nurses, along with prescription medications for seizures, blood pressure, and anxiety will keep you safe
  • After this peak, usually within three or four days, your symptoms will slowly begin to recede and you will feel a little bit better each day,

Because timelines and symptoms vary from person to person and can escalate from mild to severe very quickly, a customizable medical detox program is the recommended route to take if you consider quitting drinking. At The Detox Center of LA, we provide an initial 5- to 10-day detox with medication management as needed, followed by a minimum of 20 to 30 days of intensive inpatient therapy and other addiction treatments, provided to you as you live inside our safe and sober residence.

Learn how to find an AA meeting in our blog below:

How to Find an AA Meeting Near You

10 Side Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal

When the body becomes dependent on having alcohol in your system, the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA in the brain is slowed down, and the brain becomes dependent on having alcohol in your system to regulate these neurotransmitters. It also increases chemicals that cause the body to be awake and alert. A tolerance begins to form, with the brain’s chemistry changing, causing an imbalance in biochemistry. When drinking stops, the brain continues to overproduce certain stimulating neurotransmitters, resulting in the following side effects of alcohol withdrawal:

  1. Aching or fatigued joints and muscles because of vitamin deficiencies, low blood sugar, or metabolic disorders caused by drinking
  2. Brain fog and disorientation, with memory loss, because drinking can impair cognitive function and can begin to kill brain cells
  3. Anxiety, as the affected neurotransmitters dopamine and GABA are linked to many anxiety disorders
  4. Nausea and vomiting, as alcohol may have eroded the stomach lining
  5. Dizziness and high fever due to heart rate and blood pressure dysregulation
  6. Sweating because of an increase in stress hormones
  7. Insomnia and a disturbance of sleep patterns due to feelings of hyperactivity caused by the interruption in brain chemistry
  8. Fatigue, due to insomnia and because the body has been working hard to break down the alcohol in the system
  9. Strong cravings for alcohol because the brain associates alcohol with regulation and reward
  10. The most dangerous symptom of alcohol withdrawal is Delirium Tremens (aka the DTs). Delirium Tremens is a life-threatening overstimulation of the brain and the nervous system, spiking the amino acid called glutamate. This causes tremors, high blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures, fever, chest pain, dehydration, and passing out. Although most commonly seen in people who have severe alcohol use disorder, it can also show up in lighter drinkers, and there is no way to predict who the DTs will affect, which is why medical detox is always recommended.

10 Side Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal

How to Get Help With Alcohol Withdrawal

Anybody who is thinking about quitting drinking should consider a medical detox program. Talk to your doctor about your options, or contact a rehab center on your own before stopping. Never try to detox on your own at home. Even if you do not have severe withdrawal symptoms, your likelihood of relapsing without strong professional support and counseling will be very high once the alcohol cravings hit.

Checking into a residential treatment center will give you the peace of mind you need to be able to begin your recovery journey because you will have people there to help you, day and night, whether you are feeling withdrawal symptoms or need somebody to talk to. In an inpatient detox program, you will move in for the duration of your detox. Doctors and nurses will look after your every need as your body processes the lack of alcohol in your system and begins to rebalance your brain chemistry. They will be there to make real-time adjustments to treatments, keep you hydrated, and ensure your nutritional needs are being met.

Medical detox provides you with prescription medications if needed to help you stay comfortable and safe, and because you will be inside a completely sober and supportive environment, even if you want to have a drink you will be away from the temptation of alcohol and there will be people who can help you get through difficult cravings. Holistic treatments may also be given at this time to help you relax, refocus your energy, and heal your body, mind, and spirit.

Medical detox is also the place where you can begin a dual diagnosis program. This is a treatment plan that looks after mental health conditions that are co-occurring alongside a substance use disorder like alcoholism. This may include targeted therapy appointments and/or psychiatric medication like antidepressants, helping you escape the drinking cycle to cope with mental illness symptoms.

At The Detox Center of LA, your detox program will be individualized to help you overcome the side effects of alcohol withdrawal, with treatments and services like:

  • A full psychiatric evaluation
  • Medication management with medication-assisted treatment programs as needed
  • Healthy meals prepared by a private chef and catered to the facility 
  • 24/7 onsite nursing and on-call medical doctor available as needed
  • Meeting with your primary therapist for addiction treatment once a day
  • Holistic and alternative treatments like acupuncture, meditation, and yoga help address your healing in a whole-patient approach that encompasses the body, spirituality, and mental health

After you have completed your detox program, you will move into our inpatient rehab center for a minimum of 20 to 30 days of evidence-based therapy, holistic treatment, nutrition and exercise, education, and more. The rehab center is in the same building as the detox center, with the same therapists and nurses, making the transition easy.

You will live in the treatment center full-time, with structured days filled with group therapy, individual therapy, and other treatments, helping you to overcome the underlying causes of addiction, heal deep-rooted trauma and emotional pain, and gain healthy routines and relapse prevention skills designed to lead you down your road to recovery.

Some of the options for your customized treatment program include:

  • Individual therapy sessions at least twice a week with your primary therapist
  • Family therapy sessions
  • 40 to 47 hours a week of group therapy
  • Case management services
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Art therapy
  • Mindfulness, breathwork, and other holistic options
  • Experiential therapy
  • Nutrition education, with health and exercise plans
  • Life skills training and relapse prevention programs

Once you complete your time in inpatient rehab with us, we can connect you with outpatient rehab programs in trusted facilities with programs you can stay in for as long as you want. We will also ensure you have a continued connection to a sober community, peer groups, therapy, medical care, medication management, sober homes, and other recovery support.

The Detox Center of LA Is Ready to Help You Get Through Alcohol Withdrawal and Achieve Recovery

At The Detox Center of LA, we can help you stop drinking and start living through our intensive inpatient treatment plans, including detox and tailored rehab programs in Los Angeles. We provide a safe place to detox in a comfortable non-hospital setting, followed by alcohol rehab to treat the underlying causes of addiction and co-occurring disorders.

Our effective treatment plans are tailored to each individual client, and because of this it will be a different experience for everybody, but we ensure that you will receive the right balance of mental health care, medical treatments, therapy, behavioral health care, exercise and nutrition, and social supports to help you heal your body, mind, and spirit. This will ensure long-term recovery is within your grasp.

You will learn skills in group therapy like goal setting, relapse prevention, creative healing, social skills, and denial management, along with starting a 12-step AA program, gain insight into your alcohol abuse and begin to heal your mental health conditions in individual therapy, and learn new healthy habits with a different mindset in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). 

The staff at The Detox Center of LA is caring and supportive and truly wants to help you succeed. All doctors, nurses, therapists, psychiatrists, and counselors are licensed and experienced in treating substance use disorders.

Our facilities are comfortable, with amenities like meals cooked by a private chef, housekeeping, fitness classes, yoga, and an outside lounge area, where you can enjoy the California sunshine.

Our case management services, relapse prevention programs, and connections to trusted outpatient rehabs throughout the country will ensure your plan meets your needs and preferences, helping with difficult-to-navigate situations like legal issues and FMLA work leave paperwork. We will collaborate with you to build an effective aftercare plan that will lead you toward the future you want to build for yourself, whether that includes further education, returning to your career, or spending more time with family as you work on yourself. We are here to help you now.

You can call us now to learn more about The Detox Center of Los Angeles. We can help you quit drinking safely in an effective program that will give you the tools you need to live well, stay healthy, and achieve your future goals. We accept most major insurance providers and private healthcare policies and offer free insurance verification and eligibility for benefits for mental healthcare services. Call (888) 346-4350 to find out more.


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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.