What Are Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

If you have been drinking a heavy amount of alcohol for years, months, or even weeks and you stop suddenly, you will experience withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe and can sometimes be life-threatening.
 
Although your symptoms may seem mild, it is crucial to seek medical attention for symptoms, because they can quickly worsen. Your doctor will be able to help you with appropriate alcohol withdrawal treatment.  

Symptoms of Withdrawal

The severity of your symptoms depends on the amount and duration you have been drinking. There are 3 stages of withdrawal:
 

  • Stage 1: Anxiety, nausea, abdominal pain, and insomnia—beginning eight hours after you stop drinking.
  • Stage 2: High blood pressure, irregular heart rate, confusion, and increased body temperature—beginning 24 to 72 hours after you stop drinking. 
  • Stage 3: Hallucinations, fever, seizures, and irritability—beginning 72+ hours after you stop drinking. 

Withdrawal symptoms should decrease after a week.

Cause of Withdrawal

Alcohol causes an elevation of dopamine levels in the brain, resulting in a flood of good feelings. It can elevate your mood, boost your self-confidence, and lower inhibitions. These good feelings reduce as alcohol leaves your bloodstream.
 
If you have been consuming a heavy amount of alcohol for a prolonged length of time, you start to build up a tolerance to alcohol and your brain becomes more dependent on its interference. When the effects of alcohol wear off, you start to go through withdrawal.