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What Does Alcohol Withdrawal Feel Like?

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Alcoholism is a vicious cycle. It is well-known that the effects of alcohol consumption can be extremely addictive, even though excessive alcohol intake can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. However, one of the biggest barriers to quitting alcohol is the fear of withdrawal.

If you’re researching how to stop drinking or how to stop being drunk, then you’ve likely experienced the after-effects of drinking, like headaches, nausea, and lethargy. However, the symptoms become far worse (and more dangerous) once your body becomes dependent on alcohol. At this point, you will begin to experience alcohol withdrawal, which can be an exhausting and scary experience.

Even the threat of alcohol withdrawal makes it harder for many people with an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) to quit drinking. As a result, it becomes an even more vicious cycle. You continue drinking to feed your addiction, making your body more and more dependent on alcohol to function. If and when you do make the decision to quit, the withdrawal symptoms will often be proportional to the severity of your condition.

So, what exactly happens when you stop drinking? How long do the effects of alcohol withdrawal last? Finally, what is the best solution to overcome alcohol withdrawal symptoms and achieve sobriety? We will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at the science behind alcohol consumption and withdrawal.

What Happens When You Stop Drinking

While alcohol withdrawal may sound frightening, it’s not all bad news. In fact, there are a lot of positive changes that take place in your body when quitting alcohol. So, before we look at the feeling of alcohol withdrawal, let’s examine what happens when you quit drinking:

Heart Health Gets Better

Many people point to studies that show red wine can actually improve heart health. However, the science behind this concept has never been proven with complete certainty. Moreover, it has only been shown to work with certain people who are able to drink very small amounts of alcohol without becoming addicted.

For alcoholics, the consumption of alcohol (red wine or otherwise) has the opposite effect. It raises your blood pressure and, over time, increases the risk of heart failure. Alcohol can also increase the levels of triglycerides in the blood, which can contribute to hardened arteries. This, in turn, increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. Fortunately, when you quit drinking, these negative effects are removed, giving your heart the chance to heal and repair some of the damage caused by alcohol.

Liver Health Improves

It’s common knowledge that excessive alcohol consumption is bad for the liver. When you drink a lot in a short amount of time, your liver cannot filter out all of the toxins fast enough. This leads to the build-up of fatty tissue in the liver. With time, this can even lead to Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (AFLD) or even cirrhosis of the liver. Fortunately, drastically cutting back on alcohol consumption or stopping it entirely can allow your liver to regenerate with time. Your ability to avoid permanent liver damage will largely depend on the severity of your AUD and the length of time that you have been drinking.

Libido Comes Back

While many people feel like one or two drinks can help get them in the mood for sex, alcoholism actually has the opposite effect. Heavy drinkers often experience reduced libido and, for men, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. Fortunately, in the vast majority of cases, these issues are reversible. When you stop drinking, your libido often returns and it becomes easier to enjoy a healthy sex life.

Sleep Gets Better

A surprisingly large number of people turn to alcohol to help with sleep. Though alcohol does cause drowsiness that can make it easier to fall asleep for many people, it also interferes with your natural REM cycle. This means that your sleep will not be as restful. In fact, you may find yourself waking up many times throughout the night. However, when you quit drinking, you can often return to restful sleep in which your brain can fully go through the REM cycle and recharge at night, leaving you with more energy the next day.

Body Becomes Stronger

We are not saying that stopping alcohol will make you inexplicably gain muscle. However, alcohol does weaken your body’s ability to fight off germs. As a result, you are far more likely to have frequent sick days if you are suffering from alcoholism. Even if it’s just the common cold, this can make it much more difficult to keep a job or even go about your daily life. Alternatively, if you decide to stop drinking, your body and immune system will quickly get stronger and be much better at fighting off illnesses.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

While the short and long-term effects of quitting alcohol are generally good, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be pretty rough. The exact symptoms and timeline you experience will depend on your dependence levels. However, assuming that you have moderate to severe AUD, you can expect to go through at least two to three major stages of alcohol withdrawal:

Stage 1: 8-12 Hours Since Your Last Drink

Since you have had alcohol recently, the symptoms during this stage will generally be mild, albeit uncomfortable. You will probably have a headache, difficulty getting sleep, nausea, heart palpitations, sweating, and tremors. These can also trigger mental health issues like depression or panic attacks. Naturally, these symptoms will make it very tempting to return to alcohol, which is why it is so important to push through this first stage.

Stage 2: 1-3 Days Since Your Last Drink

In the first few days of alcohol withdrawal, you will start to feel ill. The symptoms can become especially severe if you suddenly quit alcohol cold turkey after long-term alcohol abuse. In any case, you can expect mild bouts of hypothermia, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and feelings of confusion. For many alcoholics, this can be the most difficult stage, but in more severe cases, it can still get worse.

Stage 3: More Than 72 Hours Since Your Last Drink

When you stop drinking alcohol, you will often experience the worst of the withdrawal symptoms within the first week, after which time the symptoms usually subside and become more manageable. Stage 3, which is the worst stage for severe cases of AUD, can even become medically dangerous. During this stage, some people experience a condition known as Delirium Tremens (DT). This can cause severe mood swings, confusion, hallucinations, and seizures. Due to the severity of this stage, it is best to manage your alcohol withdrawal under the supervision of trained medical professionals.

Why an Alcohol Detox Center Is Recommended

As you can see, alcohol withdrawal is not a pleasant experience, but it can create incredibly positive changes in your life. You might fear the possibility of Delirium Tremens or an alcohol withdrawal seizure, but under the right care and supervision, these symptoms can be safely managed. It is for these reasons that we highly recommend seeking out alcohol withdrawal help from experts.

At Prosperity Haven, we provide both medical and therapeutic solutions to help you detox and recover from your addiction. While many alcohol rehab centers are only focused on short-term stability and safety, we offer therapy and multi-faceted approaches to help you stay sober for years to come. Though the first stages might be some of the hardest, it is well worth the effort to take the first steps toward sobriety.

Are you experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome? Are you in need of alcohol withdrawal treatment? If so, feel free to contact the experts at Prosperity Haven to learn more about making positive changes in your life.

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