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December 17, 2022

How Dangerous Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Are you wondering how dangerous alcohol withdrawal is?

Alcohol withdrawal is one of the most dangerous things that a person can go through in terms of drug and alcohol addiction. If not done carefully, alcohol detox can lead to withdrawal symptoms like hallucinations, seizures, and even complications with the heart that can lead to death. Anyone considering getting sober should be encouraged to do so, but only once they’ve taken the time to find the best way to do so. 

There are plenty of psychological effects that come from alcohol withdrawal, too. The symptoms that manifest will be a bit different for everyone, as will their severity. Alcohol has been given this sort of stamp of approval when it comes to social acceptance. Entire events and establishments are planned around drinking and promoting the consumption of alcohol: bars, breweries, gastropubs, pop-ups, sporting events—the list is long and varied. 

Occasional drinking with your buddies is one thing, but when alcohol becomes something that you’re dependent on, you might want to start looking into different ways to get help. If you or someone you love is experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, it’s best to seek medical treatment as soon as possible. 

The Mild Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms start unassumingly enough. People typically experience headaches, increased heart rate, sweating and temperature, irritability, etc. If you’ve ever had a hangover, you’ve likely experienced some of these symptoms in your lifetime. 

Of course, it isn’t the mild symptoms that people should be worried about. It’s what happens when you have a severe addiction and quit drinking suddenly or are put in a situation where you can no longer consume alcohol. 

How Dangerous Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome 

Those who have more serious issues may experience what is known as Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome, or AWS. This can start within just hours of stopping drinking, or it could take several days to appear. Delirium tremens (DT) is a serious type of withdrawal from alcohol that can even be fatal in some cases, which is part of what makes the process so dangerous. 

Symptoms of this severe condition include shaking, headache, anxiety, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, trouble breathing, nausea and vomiting, and even sensitivity to light. DT can also show itself in the form of confusion, hallucinations, and seizures, and can lead to issues with your metabolic system and the rest of your body. 

Cardiac issues can arise because of imbalanced electrolyte levels, including heart attack and arrhythmia. Breathing issues and muscle weakness can result from low phosphate levels in the body. The imbalance of metabolic function and the sudden change in consumption can lead to the stopping of the heart and/or the lungs, which is why alcohol withdrawal needs to be taken seriously and monitored carefully. 


Alcoholic Ketoacidosis 

There’s another condition that can occur in people who have type 1 diabetes. Alcoholic ketoacidosis refers to the effect of alcohol on the body’s ability to produce insulin properly. Without proper treatment, this could become a fatal condition for those affected. This is a less common issue that people have, but it is one with very dire consequences, so it’s important for people to be aware and know what to anticipate as they are going through alcohol withdrawal

How Dangerous Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

A Timeline of Symptoms

To help you better understand what happens during alcohol withdrawal, let’s look at a timeline of the potential symptoms and when they might occur. Remember that your signs and severity depend on how long you drank and how much you consumed, on average. 

Six hours: Some symptoms can start as soon as just six hours after that last drink. These are usually mild and include headache, nausea and vomiting, anxiety and shaking hands, and sweating or inability to control the body’s temperature. 

12-48 hours: The first day or two is the worst, usually. This is when more serious problems like hallucinations and confusion can begin. Most people experience this within 12-24 hours for the first time, but that may be different for everyone. After about 48 hours, seizures may start and add to the stress being put on the body. Hallucinations and confusion will continue to worsen. 

48-72 hours: Those who experience the DTs, as they’re commonly called, will see them starting around this time. While only 5% of those who suffer from alcohol withdrawal actually have DTs, they are severe for anyone. The symptoms include vivid delusions and hallucinations, confusion, fever and sweating, high blood pressure, and a racing heart. 

The best thing that you can do is to seek out reliable alcohol withdrawal support and addiction recovery treatment. Professional alcohol and drug rehab treatment centers will have the right people and the right support to help you get past your alcohol addiction and get back to your life. Contact Meta to learn more. 

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/img-ed-480x572.jpg[/author_image]  [author_info]Reviewed by Ed Lepage, Executive Director

Ed Lepage completed the drug and alcohol certificate program at the University of Massachusetts Boston and has been working in the substance abuse dependency field for the past seven years. He has also worked extensively in peer recovery-based programs offering “real-world experience” to those that suffer from substance use dependency. Full Bio [/author_info] [/author]