Individuals who have consumed alcohol over an extended period of time are likely to go through alcohol withdrawal if they decide to quit drinking or reduce the amount or frequency of their alcohol use. Alcohol use changes the way that the brain sends messages to the body. It causes the brain to work harder to stay alert. When alcohol is no longer used, the brain no longer needs to work harder because the negative effects of the alcohol are not present. This can cause the brain to work harder than necessary and puts the brain into high alert.
The severity of the withdrawal symptoms can vary. Some symptoms will appear within a few hours after the last drink. Other symptoms may not appear for a few days. Common symptoms include headaches, insomnia, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety. Individuals can also go through more severe withdrawal symptoms depending on the how dependent an individual was on the alcohol. Hallucination and seizures can occur. Less common, only about 5% of people experience DTs, or delirium tremens. Delirium tremens causes very vivid delusions that are caused by the withdrawal. These hallucinations can be accompanied by other symptoms including fever, raised blood pressure, fast heart rate, and mental confusion.
Most people can make it through the withdrawal symptoms by resting and avoiding stimuli. It is usually helpful to stay in a dim lit place with very little noise. It is also helpful to stay well hydrated. There are also medications that can help limit the withdrawal symptoms.