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Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Symptoms, Stages, and Treatment

Medically reviewed by

Written by Ankith Sagar

Deciding to overcome alcohol addiction is a positive step towards better overall health. This journey, while at times overwhelming, will lead to a happier and more fulfilled life. At Anunitha, we believe that understanding the entire process beforehand goes a long way in ensuring de-addiction.

Based on the severity of your addiction, going through this the right way becomes crucial in mitigating the sometimes fatal effects of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. 

So What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the name for the symptoms that occur when a heavy drinker suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake.

These symptoms begin to surface anywhere between 6 hours to a few days after your last drink and continue to affect you for weeks. 

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Relatively mild symptoms are observed 6-12 hours after the last drink. The symptoms of early withdrawal include headache, mild anxiety, insomnia, small tremors, and stomach upset.

By 24 hours, some people may begin to experience visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations.

Within 24-72 hours, various symptoms may have peaked and begun to level off or resolve (though some more protracted symptoms may stick around for weeks or longer).

Seizure risks may be highest from 24 to 48 hours after the last drink, requiring close monitoring and seizure prophylaxis. 

Withdrawal delirium (i.e., DTs) may appear from 48 to 72 hours after the last drink

While these stages are similar for most people, the severity of the addiction dictates how bad withdrawal symptoms can get.

Remember, while most of you may not experience some or most of these symptoms, medical professionals have treatment options for all of them. 

To read more about the symptoms of AWS, you can refer to our blog on Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox. 

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Tips to Manage Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms.

We wish we could tell you otherwise, but withdrawal symptoms from severe or even moderate alcohol addiction can be quite overwhelming. This is generally the most unpleasant part of your detoxification process. While we haven't found a way to entirely get rid of them, here are some ways we found to make the journey easier.

Drink lots of fluids that contain electrolytes.

Many people with alcohol use disorder suffer from dehydration and nausea during withdrawal. Drinking lots of fluids, especially fluids with electrolytes, will help to address dehydration and nausea. Sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium are electrolytes commonly found in sports drinks. Ensuring you're consuming electrolytes helps your body better hydrate itself, which can help get over alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Don't go through withdrawal alone.

Tell your close friends and family before you quit and ask them to support you during the process. The more support you have the better. A supportive friend or family member can help you in many ways during withdrawal.

Remember that you are not alone.

Many people with addictions convince themselves that they are alone and are the only ones going through their experiences. It can be very comforting to know that millions have gone through withdrawal and beaten addiction. 

Take a Cold Shower.

A cold shower can help you physically reset when you are experiencing strong urges to drink. Along with helping withdrawal symptoms, there are many other ways cold showers help combat withdrawal.

Avoid Triggers for a while.

Avoid situations or engage in activities that have a strong connection to drinking. This could involve meeting the group of people you used to drink with or going out to your favourite club. In the initial stages, this is a very crucial step.

What are the Treatment Options Available for Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Unless you have a serious health condition or you've had severe withdrawals in the past, you probably won't need more than a supportive environment to help you through. That includes:

  • A quiet place
  • Soft lighting
  • Limited contact with people
  • A positive, supportive atmosphere
  • Healthy food and lots of fluids

Treatment is often advised for patients suffering from Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.

If your blood pressure, pulse, or body temperature rises, or if you have more serious symptoms like seizures and hallucinations, seek medical care immediately. Your doctor could suggest inpatient care and drug treatment.

Common medications include benzodiazepines to help treat symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. You might also take anti-seizure meds and antipsychotics, along with other drugs. De-addiction centres like Anunitha are well-equipped to handle all the symptoms of AWS in a safe, controlled environment.

How to Prevent Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Usually, there are three ways for a person to withdraw from alcohol. Either, they go 'cold turkey' and stop completely, which isn't recommended if you've been drinking heavily for a prolonged period as it could push your body into shock and can even be fatal. Another way is to stop drinking gradually by reducing your consumption over a number of days. However, some might find it easier to switch to medication to aid withdrawal under medical supervision.

If you stop drinking all at once, you are greatly at risk from withdrawal symptoms, so it isn't really the safest method. That being said, millions of people go through cold turkey withdrawal every year.

This approach is mostly unsuccessful since you need to have a lot of motivation and willpower to push through the symptoms. It is often much easier to have a drink to combat the unpleasantness of withdrawal rather than wait them out. But, if you manage to get through the side effects of alcohol withdrawal, it could be the start of your recovery journey.

If you choose to use this method of withdrawal, it is wise to inform the people around you of your plans. You will need help and support – and it's best to avoid anyone who is likely to tempt you into drinking during this period.

Choosing to reduce drinking gradually over a few days is usually the best method to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is because your body has a chance to adapt gradually to the lowering levels of alcohol in your blood. 

Another way people limit their alcohol intake is by substituting spirits like whiskey with beer or wine. The main thing is to gradually reduce your alcohol intake over a number of days. 

This method is often seen as the harder path to take as one needs to be a very strong and well-motivated person to set their own limits and keep to them. It is however the route you want to take if you were avoiding Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. 

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Why should I trust Cadabams Anunitha?

Our team of psychiatrists comprises experts in psychosocial rehabilitation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)), Interpersonal and Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT), and family-focused therapy which has proven to be highly effective in treating alcohol dependence. We have over two decades of expertise in handling the most complex and severe cases of Alcoholism. 

We are widely trusted by various healthcare experts to provide addiction relief with care and love. Our drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, Anunitha is a comfortable facility with state-of-the-art infrastructure where we provide a holistic treatment plan for addiction recovery. We develop personalised treatment options to ensure steady rehabilitation and equip the family members or caregivers with adequate tips to assist in their loved one's recovery journey. 

Call us on our de-addiction helpline +91 96111 94949 for further details on getting alcohol treatment in India or Alcoholism related emergencies. 

Disclaimer – We strive to treat our patients with dignity and the utmost sensitivity. We understand that addiction is a disease and not a sign of weakness. The term alcoholic or alcoholism is used not in a derogatory fashion but to remain relevant to user search trends and common usage. 

In case you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse and share a unique viewpoint on how we can improve this content for our readers, please reach out to us at

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