How To Cope With Alcohol Withdrawal

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How To Cope With Alcohol Withdrawal

Across the United States, there are nearly 141,000 alcohol-related deaths each year. In addition, approximately 10% of Americans have been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.

If you’ve been diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, you may have questions about how to cope with alcohol withdrawal. This guide will help you understand what to expect during withdrawal. It includes information about detox programs that can help you through the withdrawal process.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is the process that your body goes through when you stop drinking alcohol. It occurs in people who have alcohol use disorders and in individuals who have been through long periods of heavy alcohol consumption.

Some people experience withdrawal symptoms after binge drinking. This is more likely to happen in people who have become physically dependent on alcohol. If you have a history of heavy drinking, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you try to reduce your alcohol intake.

What Happens During Alcohol Withdrawal?

how to cope with alcohol withdrawal

When you begin the alcohol withdrawal process, you can expect to notice the first symptoms within six to eight hours of your last drink. You may experience the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shaky hands
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite

What Complications Could Occur During Alcohol Withdrawal?

As the withdrawal process continues, your symptoms could become more serious. Around 12 to 48 hours after your last drink, you might develop hallucinations and seizures. These symptoms are associated with delirium tremens, a severe complication that occurs in around 5% of individuals.

In addition to hallucinations and seizures, delirium tremens can cause the following symptoms:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Nightmares
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Fainting
  • Muscle tremors
  • Changes in eye and muscle movement
  • Hyperactivity
  • Fatigue
  • Sensitivity to touch, sound, and light

Delirium tremens is a life-threatening condition, and it can lead to sepsis, breathing difficulties, and electrolyte imbalances. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of delirium tremens, you should ask a loved one to call 911 right away.

What Factors Could Increase the Risk of Severe Withdrawal Symptoms and Complications?

The factors below could increase the likelihood of experiencing severe symptoms and complications during alcohol withdrawal:

  • Being age 65 or older
  • Having a personal history of severe withdrawal symptoms
  • Having a co-occurring condition, including liver disease or a mental health condition
  • Having a history of failed withdrawal attempts

Is It Possible To Stop the Alcohol Withdrawal Process?

For most people, alcohol withdrawal symptoms start to subside within 72 hours. The withdrawal process can take up to seven days. Although withdrawal can’t be stopped, certain medications will ease symptoms. In addition, medicines are available to prevent seizures, delirium tremens, and other complications.

How Can I Cope With Alcohol Withdrawal?

Since the alcohol withdrawal process could cause life-threatening symptoms, medical supervision is recommended. Most people receive medical supervision through inpatient programs at residential treatment centers. Medication-assisted treatment and medical detox are some of the names for these types of inpatient programs.

How Do Detox Programs Help With Alcohol Withdrawal?

Detox programs provide medical and psychological support during the withdrawal process. When you’re in a detox program, you won’t have to manage the symptoms and challenges of withdrawal alone. Doctors, nurses, and mental health professionals will be there with you.

During medical detox, physicians and nurses will monitor your vital signs and symptoms. You will have your blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature measured regularly. In addition, you will be asked about nausea, headaches, anxiety, or other symptoms you may be experiencing. Your medical team will use this information to provide the most appropriate medications for your needs.

What Medications Are Available To Help With Alcohol Withdrawal?

alcohol withdrawal

During the alcohol withdrawal process, your care team may prescribe some of the following medicines:


These medicines are the most frequently used medications for the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. They will decrease the risk of experiencing seizures and delirium tremens. Lorazepam, diazepam, clonazepam and alprazolam are a few of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepines. Your medical team may also prescribe these drugs to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and insomnia.

Neuroleptic medicines:

Also known as antipsychotics, neuroleptic drugs help to prevent agitation and seizures during withdrawal. They work by depressing the central nervous system. Clozapine and Ziprasidone are examples of neuroleptic medications.

Adrenergic drugs:

These medicines are central alpha-2 receptor agonists. They can be taken with benzodiazepines, and they will reduce your blood pressure and heart rate during withdrawal. Dexmedetomidine and clonidine are two of the medicines in this group of drugs.


If you can’t take benzodiazepines, your physician may prescribe anticonvulsants to prevent seizures during the withdrawal process. For example, you may be prescribed carbamazepine or valproic acid.


Alcohol use disorder can cause nutritional deficiencies, and these may make the withdrawal process more difficult. Based on the results of your medical exam, your care team will prescribe the supplements you need to correct any deficiencies. Magnesium, thiamine and folic acid are some of the supplements you might need.

What Types of Psychological Support Will I Receive During Detox?

alcohol withdrawal detox

During your medical detox, you could experience anxiety and other emotional challenges. You don’t have to struggle alone. In addition to medication, you may be offered individual or group therapy sessions.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, motivational interviewing, and other counseling methods can help you confront the psychological difficulties of the withdrawal process. If you are experiencing any difficult emotions during detox, mention these to your care team. They will do everything they can to make the withdrawal process as comfortable as possible for you.

What Other Steps Can I Take To Manage My Withdrawal Symptoms?

Since withdrawal can be hard on your body and mind, it’s important to pay special attention to your diet. In addition, you may want to practice a variety of stress-reduction techniques.

Dietary Considerations

Experts recommend eating lots of fruits and vegetables during withdrawal and recovery. Fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins and minerals. In addition to any supplements that your care team may prescribe, the vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables will help to correct any nutritional deficiencies you may have.

Ask your medical team for advice about the specific vegetables and fruits that you should eat. The kitchen staff at your treatment facility may be able to provide extra servings of particular vegetables or fruits for you.

It’s important to be mindful of your water intake during withdrawal. By drinking an adequate amount of water each day, you will make it easier for your body to remove toxins. If you have questions about the amount of water you need to drink, check with your doctors or nurses.

Stress-Reduction Techniques

Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are a few of the stress-reduction techniques you may want to use during withdrawal. These techniques can help you stay calm. They might reduce symptoms of anxiety, and they could keep your blood pressure and heart rate at normal levels.

Your care team will be able to suggest additional stress-reduction techniques that are tailored to your needs. If you’d prefer to practice stress-reduction strategies with a group, many treatment centers offer group meditation and yoga sessions that you might enjoy.

Where Can I Find Out More About How To Cope With Alcohol Withdrawal?

When you’re going through alcohol withdrawal, you will need to have appropriate medical supervision. You should get in touch with your primary care provider or your local health department for personalized advice about how to cope with alcohol withdrawal.

Your medical provider will be able to recommend the detox programs and medications that will be most beneficial for you. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the doctor by yourself, ask a loved one or a friend to attend your appointment with you.

Additionally, you may want to connect with a support group in your area. Support groups are valuable sources of guidance and encouragement. They can help you find sponsors and other local resources that will be useful to you during withdrawal.

How Can Path to Recovery Help Me?

coping with alcohol withdrawal

Located in Pasadena, California, Path to Recovery is a treatment facility that offers medical detox. We provide our clients with physical, emotional, and spiritual support throughout the alcohol withdrawal process. We offer medications and nutritional support, and we create a personalized treatment plan for each client.

As a client at Path to Recovery, you’ll have around-the-clock medical supervision. Our clinicians will monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and breathing, and we will prescribe medications to help you feel as comfortable as possible. Your time in medical detox will help you make a smooth transition to the beginning of your recovery, and it can prepare you for inpatient or outpatient treatment.

You can participate in several types of psychotherapy during your time with us. We offer individual, group, and family therapy sessions. Our mental health professionals provide cognitive-behavioral therapy, holistic therapy, dual diagnosis therapy, relapse prevention therapy, and many other options. When you work with our therapists, you will learn to create support systems, develop healthy coping strategies, and build motivation and resilience. Our providers will help you understand addiction and address any underlying issues that may have contributed to your alcohol use.

To find out more about how Path to Recovery can help you with alcohol withdrawal, contact us today. Our team members will assist you with insurance verification, and we are happy to answer any questions you have about our programs. We look forward to helping you find the support that is right for you.

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