Alcohol is one of the most widely-abused substances among Americans, and a large part of this is because alcohol plays an integral role in celebrations and social norms. People mistakenly believe alcohol is not that dangerous just because it is legal. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Addiction, a little over 86% of Americans say they have drunk alcohol at some point in their lives, while more than 15 million of people older than 18 can be classified as having an alcohol use disorder (AUD). The telltale signs of alcohol addiction include:

  • Having a drink, four or more times in a one-week span
  • Not having the ability to consume alcohol in moderation – it’s always binge drinking
  • Requiring alcohol to start the day
  • Waking up after a night of drinking and feeling guilty or remorseful
  • Having a bad reputation among family or friends — being someone that people agree should take it easy with the alcohol

If alcohol is a part of you or your loved one’s daily routine and it is needed to feel normal – it is safe to say you are dealing with alcohol use disorder. If you or your loved one have decided to quit drinking, you should be aware of the dangers of trying to do this without medical supervision.

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Withdrawal Symptoms for Alcohol

Heavy drinking causes the body to become reliant on alcohol, and if you or your loved one suddenly stop or drastically lower the amount of alcohol consumed, the central nervous system has a hard time functioning without the alcohol. The body becomes irritated and withdrawal symptoms appear.

Although the following withdrawal symptoms are mild for some people, people with heavier drinking behaviors can experience the most severe versions of these. You can expect to experience some degree of severity with:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Severe changes in heart rate or blood pressure
  • Insomnia and other sleeping-related issues
  • Shakiness, particularly in the hands

Symptoms can last one week or potentially more, but the most severe stages of withdrawal typically occur within the first 1-3 days following alcohol stoppage.

Delirium Tremens: A Potentially Deadly Issue

One of the most serious withdrawal symptoms of alcohol is delirium tremens. Delirium tremens can cause people withdrawing from alcohol to experience restlessness, confusion or irrational feelings while also causing fever, hallucinations or seizures. These symptoms mostly commonly affect those who drink 4 to 5 pints of wine, 7 to 8 pints of beer, or 1 pint of liquor each day over the course of several months.

Delirium tremens is a medical emergency. When left unattended, it can ultimately progress to cardiac arrest and potential death.

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Medical Detox Programs Available for Alcohol

Alcohol addiction is a serious issue. This substance use disorder kills nearly 90 million people each year making alcohol-related complications the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Alcohol consumption is also implicated in about 33% of emergency room visits each year in the United States. If you or your loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction, getting effective treatment as quickly as possible is crucial.

There are many different paths to wellness for people looking to kick their substance use disorder to the curb, but it all starts with safe detox – especially when it comes to alcohol. Alcohol treatment facilities often offer round-the-clock medical detox and supervision for people going through alcohol withdrawal.

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Beyond safety, one of the major advantages of going through alcohol withdrawal in a treatment facility is that the staff is specialized in coming up with effective treatment plans. Everyone going through alcohol detox has different needs, and having a professional assess and evaluate those needs, both physical and emotional, is priceless.


Amanda Hilzer

Reviewed for accuracy by: our Executive Director:


Amanda graduated from Lehigh University with both an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s of Education degree in Counseling Psychology and has worked in the field of substance use disorder treatment and mental health treatment as a counselor and as a clinical manager for over 14 years.