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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

At Gosnold, we know a successful recovery does not end with the completion of a treatment plan; we offer ongoing recovery support for our patients and their families.  We are committed to the community and provide family education, school-based counseling, medical care integration, and support prevention coalitions.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and it is important to identify the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as well as treatment options that Gosnold offers. 

If you drink alcohol heavily for weeks, months, or years, you may have both mental and physical problems when you stop or seriously cut back on how much you drink. This is called alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms can range from mild to serious.

If you drink only once in a while, it’s unlikely that you’ll have withdrawal symptoms when you stop. But if you’ve gone through alcohol withdrawal once, you’re more likely to go through it again the next time you call it quits.

Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol has what doctors call a depressive effect on your system. It slows down brain function and changes the way your nerves send messages back and forth.

Over time, your central nervous system adjusts to having alcohol around all the time. Your body works hard to keep your brain in a more awake state and to keep your nerves talking to one another.

When the alcohol level suddenly drops, your brain stays in this keyed up state. That’s what causes withdrawal.

Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to serious. What yours are depends on how much you drank and for how long.

6 hours after you stop drinking: Mild symptoms can start as early as 6 hours after you put down your glass. They can include:


12-48 hours after your last drink: More serious problems, including hallucinations, can start in this timeframe and may include hallucinations (about 12-24 hours after you stop drinking) and seizures within the first 2 days after you stop. You can see, feel, or hear things that aren’t there.  Learn more about the timeline of alcohol withdrawal symptoms.


48-72 hours after you stop drinking: Delirium tremens, or DTs as you’re likely to hear them called, usually start in this timeframe. These are severe symptoms that include vivid hallucinations and delusions. Only about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal have them. Those that do may also have:


Treatments for Alcohol Withdrawal

Gosnold Behavioral Health offers inpatient medical detoxification for alcohol use disorder. Alcohol withdrawal can cause your blood pressure, body temperature, and pulse to rise. It can also cause more serious symptoms like seizures and hallucinations, and even death. It is important to safely detox from alcohol in our inpatient medical detoxification.

Detoxification is a natural process that the body undertakes to rid itself of toxic substances such as alcohol, opiates, and other drugs.  The organ primarily responsible for this action is the liver, and depending on the drug and the level of individual consumption, it can take anywhere from 48 to 96 hours for the liver to rid the body of the toxin.  The detoxification can take longer if your liver is diseased or damaged.  Patients who have other physical maladies may also experience longer detoxification times
Gosnold Treatment Center, located in Falmouth, MA, is a 50-bed medical stabilization and detoxification unit where patients receive medically monitored withdrawal treatment. Gosnold uses a variety of medications to treat withdrawal to minimize discomfort and avert complications.  

Care is managed by our clinical team of physicians, nurses, counselors, case managers and recovery aides—all trained and practiced in addiction treatment. 

During detoxification, patients undergo a psychosocial assessment to identify treatment needs. Individual and group counseling, addiction education, and an introduction to twelve-step programs help patients better understand the nature and severity of their addiction. 

Our medical staff of physicians and nurses are trained to identify and treat withdrawal proactively to ensure minimum discomfort.  We use medications that lessen symptoms and make it less likely that you will experience complications requiring more intensive hospital care.  We use these medications until you no longer experience the withdrawal symptoms.  Generally, this will range from three to seven days.

The medical treatment during detoxification is highly effective.  At Gosnold, less than one-half of one percent of patients experience withdrawal complications that require transfer to a general hospital.  Medical detoxification treatment alone is insufficient to produce lasting remission.  A critical component of the care is your agreement to engage in further treatment.  Addiction is a chronic condition and extended periods of remission require varied treatment over a long period of time.  This could mean longer periods of inpatient rehabilitation care; it almost always involves outpatient treatment, twelve-step groups, or other self-help.  


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