When an individual uses alcohol over a long period of time, the body becomes dependent on the substance which means that suddenly stopping the intake of alcohol can lead to the individual experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

If alcohol use is stopped abruptly, the affected individual can develop what is referred to as alcohol withdrawal syndrome and this may trigger life-threatening health complications. This can occur in anyone who has used alcohol for years, months, and even weeks.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can begin as early as two hours after taking the last alcoholic drink. These symptoms will peak within 24 to 48 hours and this is when the more uncomfortable of the symptoms will be experienced.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms experienced by users of alcohol will depend on several factors such as:

  • The amount of alcohol consumed by the individual
  • The frequency at which alcohol is consumed
  • The duration or length of time that one used alcohol
  • The medical history of the user
  • If there are any pre-existing medical conditions
  • Having a history of previous alcohol and/or drug abuse

The timeline for symptoms and signs of alcohol withdrawal is as follows:

Six to 12 hours after stopping alcohol use

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body shaking

12 to 24 hours after alcohol cessation

  • Hand Tremors
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures

48 hours after alcohol use has stopped

  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations where affected persons see, hear, and feel things that are not present
  • Sleeping disturbances such as insomnia
  • Seizures
  • High fevers
  • Excessive sweating

Delirium Tremens

One of the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens, also referred to as DT. This condition can occur around 48 hours after alcohol use has stopped and is associated with the development of the following issues:

  • Confusion
  • Generalized body shaking
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations

Although this is not a commonly occurring issue, it can be life-threatening if a person develops it.


It is very important that alcohol users who stop using the substance should be treated by a healthcare professional team.

The treatment protocols that can be initiated and incorporated include:

  • Inpatient treatment – this is performed at rehabilitation facilities that offer a safe and supervised environment for patients who are struggling with alcohol addiction.
  • Medical-assisted detoxification – in order to help relieve the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, doctors looking after these patients can prescribe medications to help manage these issues if they are experienced by the user. This helps the patient to concentrate on the other aspects of their recovery.
  • Individual counseling – psychologists and counselors provide support to patients going through alcohol withdrawal and also assist with any underlying physical and emotional stressors or pre-existing mental health conditions.
  • Outpatient treatment – this form of therapy allows affected individuals to attend to their daily responsibilities while still being able to take part in the recovery process. This treatment works best for those people with less severe forms of alcohol abuse as well as those who have completed an inpatient program and use outpatient therapy to follow up on their progress.


Individuals who are looking at stopping their excessive alcohol intake should discuss this with their primary care doctor so that they can be referred to their local alcohol rehabilitation facility for further help.