Substance abuse disorder destroys lives. If you’re trapped in addiction, it can seem like an unwinnable battle. It doesn’t have to be. One substance that is both frequently abused and hard to overcome is alcohol. Alcohol has a social stigma that is enticing. Since drinking alcohol is socially acceptable, admitting you have a problem can seem embarrassing. Societal pressure stops people from acknowledging their level of alcohol abuse. Left untreated, alcoholism quickly becomes a problem. Because of these difficult roadblocks to admitting that there is a problem, potentially a dangerous problem, millions suffer. Alcohol withdrawal is common when alcohol addiction reaches dangerous levels and users suddenly stop drinking. It can become so bad it puts your life at risk. How can you tell if you’ve crossed a very dangerous line? What are the signs of alcohol withdrawal? Let’s look at some signs of alcohol withdrawal, including night sweats, and explore the question of how long alcohol withdrawal lasts. We’ll share some facts about what alcohol withdrawal feels like and include an alcohol withdrawal timeline. Finally, will offer some suggestions about what you can do about alcohol withdrawal and why you should take these symptoms very seriously.
What Do the Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcohol Look Like?
When you begin to withdraw from drinking too much alcohol, the symptoms will be both physical and psychological. Both can be agonizing. Physical withdrawal from alcohol can be medically dangerous and sometimes fatal. Here are some physical symptoms.
- Headache – Most who have had a “few too many” appreciate the common sign of a hangover. When you’ve had too many alcoholic beverages, you may have a bad headache the next morning.
Sometimes these can last for hours. Headaches from too much alcohol should not be ignored. There are dangerous consequences behind the reasons you have a headache. These common headaches can lead to irreversible consequences.
- Nausea – This is another frequent side effect of having too much to drink. Nausea and vomiting are even common while you’re drinking. Vomiting from having too many drinks isn’t funny. If nausea and vomiting are so profuse, it can become a medical emergency.
Nausea and vomiting are your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong. You could have a virus, bacteria, or be in some other form of physical danger. When you get sick from drinking, your body is trying to tell you that you’ve had too much. When nausea continues for days after drinking, this is a point where you may be causing damage to your internal organs. There can be digestive disorders arising from consuming alcohol and damage done to your liver. Nausea from drinking is a serious symptom.
- Night Sweats – Another common withdrawal symptom associated with alcohol is night sweats. Like headaches and nausea, they are often excused as part of drinking. This is not true. If you’re sweating at night after drinking, you could be at serious health risk.
Sweating at night is your body trying to tell you something is wrong. When you get sick with a virus, your body perspires as a defense mechanism to expel an enemy from your body. Too much alcohol raises your heart rate and widens your blood vessels. The combination can trigger excessive perspiration. Sweating at night after drinking excessively can also be a dangerous signal of alcohol intolerance. If you’re sweating at night from drinking, you’re drinking too much. Your body may be just expelling the unwanted overage, or you may be experiencing something more serious. When answering the question of what does alcohol withdrawal feel like, the previous three are the most common physical signs of a problem. Here are some other physical symptoms.
- Shakes – Shakiness is a common problem throughout the next day after too much alcohol.
- Difficulty Sleeping – While you may pass out from excessive drinking, that doesn’t mean you sleep well. Alcohol compromises your body’s ability to sleep normally.
- Nightmares – Excessive alcohol in your body can also trigger violent nightmares. These can also compromise your sleep.
- Fatigue – Fatigue after drinking is frequently caused by sleep disruptions caused by alcohol.
- Loss of Appetite – One sign of alcoholism is an emotional aversion to food before drinking. However, long before your drinking becomes a full-blown addiction, you will notice a symptom is a loss of appetite or taste for food.
Symptoms of Delirium Tremens
Most people recover from the previously mentioned withdrawal symptoms. However, there is a dangerous progression that can be life-threatening. The problem is that you may not know when you are on the verge of reaching this point. Delirium tremens, or DTs, is a very dangerous stage of withdrawal from alcohol. When any combination of the previous symptoms becomes a pattern, you could be in danger of DTs. The sweating becomes severe, and you may begin to hallucinate. You will become disorientated and confused. Your mood swings will spiral out of control from manically depressed to unnaturally excited. It will become increasingly more difficult for you to pay attention. This is a point where alcohol abuse is altering your mental function. You may be sensitive to light and feel like sleeping for days. Delirium Tremens usually last two to three days, but the symptoms can last for nearly two weeks. The risk of suicide at this stage of withdrawal is increased tremendously.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
Now that we’ve looked at the question of what alcohol withdrawal feels like, let’s explore a general alcohol withdrawal timeline. This timeline of symptoms is a general guide to give you a better idea of how long alcohol withdrawal lasts. However, you should consider there to be a potential problem when you repeatedly see any of the symptoms. The timeline can be broken down into three stages. Medical professionals have used data and experience to establish these individual phases. It is possible to shift from one to the next rapidly. Remember, once the DTs begin, you are in serious danger.
- First Stage – The first stage that indicates you are experiencing withdrawal problems from alcohol abuse is usually mild. This phase includes headaches and possible insomnia. You might begin to feel mildly anxious and have problems steadying yourself.
There could be signs of mild heart palpitations and stomach distress. These milder symptoms will commonly last one to three days.
- Second Stage – This second stage of withdrawal will contain many of the previous symptoms, but they will become more serious. You may find it difficult to get rid of headaches, and nausea may persist for two to three days.
Disruptions to normal sleeping habits may begin to develop a pattern. This stage is also characterized by a rapid increase in sweating at night. You may even experience hot flashes and sudden feelings of being cold and clammy. This stage begins to show signs of increased normal heart rate and a rise in blood pressure. Normal breathing can be compromised. The bridge between the second and third stages can be instant. Anyone with even mild second-stage withdrawal symptoms should seek help.
- Third Stage – This is the stage of withdrawal from alcohol that can take your life. The transition from stage two to stage three can be abrupt. While second stage symptoms can last a week or longer, stage three will invariably last no less than a week.
However, sleeping patterns and hallucinations can last longer. You may experience visual or hearing problems for weeks. Seizures are a dangerous part of this third stage of withdrawal. The emotional cravings for alcohol can be uncontrollable. Stage three of withdrawal will put a strain on your ability to pay attention. Your work or school performance will be compromised. The scariest part about alcoholism is how fast you can drift from moderate stage two symptoms to life-threatening stage three. The timeline someone will experience any of these three general stages of withdrawal from alcohol can vary. It can depend on how much you drink and how often. Once you start to experience the milder symptoms of stage one, you should consider that there could be a problem. The progression to a point of danger could be swift.
What Can You Do?
If you’ve experienced any of the mild symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol, talk to someone about your drinking. You may not have a problem. However, you may also discover you potentially looking at a dangerous progression that you cannot stop. Alcohol abuse is a disease that sneaks up on you. It will try to convince you that nothing is wrong. Sadly, many people die from the symptoms associated with withdrawal.