Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

When a person who is accustomed to the heavy consumption of alcohol suddenly stops, his body can display symptoms like trembling, anxiety, insomnia, and other signs of a disturbed mental and physical condition. This is because the depressant effect of alcohol is no longer present, but the body continues to produce stimulating chemicals in larger quantities than normal. As per drugs(.)com, about 5% of people who stop drinking after heavy and prolonged consumption of alcohol develop a condition called delirium tremens (DTs).

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Since the brain takes time to readjust after the patient has stopped drinking, certain symptoms with a predictable pattern that may vary from person to person are likely to develop. Some of the more common symptoms:

Tremors (shakes): Characteristically, the drinker who has quit will develop uncontrolled trembling that usually begins 5-10 hours after the last drink and reach its peak in 24-48 hours. The person is also likely to have a rapid pulse, high blood pressure, sweating, rapid breathing, a state of hyper-alert, high anxiety, nausea, irritability, insomnia, and vivid dreams or nightmares.

Delirium tremens: This condition causes extreme shifts in the pattern of breathing, temperature, and blood pressure that may be dangerous. The heart rate and blood pressure may rise to hazardous levels or cause serious dehydration. The supply of blood to the brain may also be reduced temporarily. Among the symptoms of delirium tend to develop are disorientation, confusion, soaking sweats, stupor, angry or nervous behavior, hallucination, sleep disturbances or even loss of consciousness.

Alcohol hallucinosis: Some people tend to hallucinate 12-24 hours after having their last drink and often the symptoms of seeing imaginary multiple moving objects can last for as long as two days. Hallucinations can be very imaginative and realistic.

Alcohol withdrawal seizures: Some alcoholics may experience seizures after six hours of having their last drink that lasts for up to 48 hours, with a peak at about 24 hours.


The diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal is based on the typical symptoms that develop after stopping habitual heavy drinking. There are no particular tests that can be used. Withdrawal symptoms indicate organ damage due to alcohol consumption and it is advisable to undergo a detailed medical checkup that will indicate the subsequent course of action.


Normally those experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms recover within five days, however, a small number may experience the symptoms for a prolonged period lasting several weeks. If you have severe symptoms like seizures, vomiting or delirium tremens, you should seek professional medical assistance. Patients suffering from delirium tremens should be admitted to an intensive care unit for proper monitoring of heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, etc. Long-term therapy of alcohol abusers includes proper diet and nutritional supplements that can make up for the shortage of essential nutrients in the body.


It is important to understand if you or someone in your family has an alcohol problem because it can be treated and complication prevented. Doctors can advise you and prescribe medicines that can lessen the impact of alcohol withdrawal and help you to identify resources to assist you to stay alcohol-free.

Author Bio:

Kristen Smith is a health expert who has been running many health seminars and public discussions. She also manages her blog and reviews the health-related details provided by authentic sources. You can visit the symptoms of delirium tend to develop for more information.

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