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What Helps With Alcohol Withdrawal?

Written by Theresa Valenzky

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

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Updated 09/27/2023

Alcohol withdrawal is characterized by uncomfortable symptoms. Although home remedies are unreliable, some tips may help ease the discomfort.

Article at a Glance

  • Alcohol withdrawal happens when someone dependent on alcohol stops drinking.
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from mild to life-threatening.
  • You can implement several strategies to cope with the discomfort of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Detoxing at home can be very dangerous; it is important to always check with a doctor before trying to detox.
  • Alcohol withdrawal may seem daunting, but it can be achieved safely and comfortably with the right resources.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is a group of uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms that occur when you stop drinking alcohol after using it consistently for a prolonged period. Unfortunately, there are no reliable home remedies or shortcuts for treating those symptoms, but some things can help with alcohol withdrawal.

In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous, even lethal. Anyone with alcohol dependence is urged to undergo an assessment with a rehab professional before beginning the detox process to ensure it is done safely. In addition, the professional may provide personalized tips that can help with alcohol withdrawal management.

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What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be generally categorized as mild, moderate and severe. While there can be substantial overlap between the three, each category has cardinal mental and physical effects.

Related Topic: Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Mild tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia

Moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms include mild symptoms as well as:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Pronounced trembling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include mild or moderate symptoms as well as:

  • Low-grade fever 
  • Cardiovascular abnormalities (racing or irregular heartbeat)
  • Risk of seizures
  • Risk of delirium tremens (DTs)

DTs is a true medical emergency. Signs and symptoms of DTs include:

  • Delirium
  • Profound confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Vivid nightmares

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

The timeline for alcohol withdrawal varies but is typically relatively predictable. Symptoms will often start within 6–12 hours after your last drink, becoming increasingly intense and growing in number until they reach their peak. Peak symptoms generally occur 48–72 hours after your last drink; this is when the most dangerous symptoms will occur. After the peak, symptoms will gradually subside, with physical symptoms completely over in 7–10 days for most people.

Hangover vs. Alcohol Withdrawal

Excessive drinking may cause hangover symptoms that can mimic mild withdrawal symptoms. However, a hangover does not necessarily indicate that someone has developed alcohol dependence. Hangovers often begin to subside within a few hours, whereas even mild withdrawal lasts for a few days. Moreover, hangovers are not associated with cravings, but withdrawal often is.

Seeking Help for Alcoholism?

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Managing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms at Home

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or home remedies for alcohol withdrawal. However, the severity of symptoms may be managed regardless of where you detox with the following tips:

  • Hydrate: Drinking a sports drink can keep you hydrated while preventing electrolyte deficiency and low blood sugar, which contribute to symptom severity.
  • Take a cool shower: As anyone who has taken a cold shower knows, focusing on anything beyond the immediate physical sensation is difficult. A cool or cold shower can help reset your physical and emotional state.
  • Prepare to push past cravings (remember the big picture): Unfortunately, cravings are a hallmark symptom of withdrawal, and there is no way to stop alcohol cravings. However, remembering why you want to quit using alcohol and the importance of sobriety can help you overcome them.
  • Eat healthy, nutrient-dense foods: For many people, eating is one of the last things they want to do during alcohol detox and acute withdrawal. However, getting quality nutrition will speed healing and recovery. An ideal “alcohol detox diet” can include leafy green vegetables, fruits, eggs, fatty fish, almonds and whole grains. Avoid sugary snacks, sweets and other processed foods.
  • Supplement with vitamins: Alcohol use disorders are often associated with vitamin deficiencies. Supplements for alcohol detox, like magnesium, thiamine (vitamin B1) and a quality multivitamin, can help ensure your body has the vitamins and minerals it needs for optimal health and recovery throughout alcohol withdrawal.
  • Exercise: Exercise can help your mind and body recover from an alcohol use disorder. It may not be possible in the first days of detox, but moderate aerobic exercise during alcohol withdrawal has been shown to reduce symptom severity and shorten overall alcohol withdrawal duration.
  • Stay busy: Among the most useful tips to help with alcohol withdrawal is to stay busy. During moderate-to-severe detox, even light activity may be a challenge. Try meditation to help you center yourself and calm your anxiety. Many people discover new hobbies or rediscover old passions that can occupy the time that they used to spend drinking.
  • Commit to lifestyle changes: A major predictor of long-term success in recovery is a sincere dedication to changing your lifestyle. This dedication may mean redefining your friends, which can be emotionally challenging. When you struggle with defining and sticking with lifestyle changes, remember your goals and why sobriety matters to you.
  • Talk with someone: Before you begin a detox, sit down with a trusted friend or family member and discuss why you want to quit drinking. Identify short- and long-term goals for recovery and define why they matter to you. If you question your resolve, call your designated support person and discuss why recovery matters to you.
  • Create roadblocks to prevent relapse: Alcohol relapse prevention is crucial to long-term sobriety, especially in the early days of recovery. Avoiding situations where alcohol will be present is imperative, and while it sounds obvious, make sure you do not have any alcohol in your home. If you do relapse, it does not mean your recovery has failed! Many people who successfully manage sobriety today have dealt with sobriety setbacks in the past. If you experience a setback, stop drinking and acknowledge and learn from your mistake.

Safely Detox From Alcohol at Home

Detoxing from alcohol at home can be very dangerous. Be sure to talk with a doctor before trying to detox at home. They can tell you if it is safe to detox on your own and can give you medications and resources to support your efforts if this is an option. 

Home detox should only be considered by someone a doctor believes is unlikely to experience moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms. Anyone likely to have symptoms that are more than mild should always detox under medical supervision to avoid the potentially deadly effects of withdrawal.

Medical Detox

Medical detox is by far the safest and most comfortable way to detox. Your condition will be continuously monitored during medical detox, and you will get treatment for any symptoms immediately. Not only is medical detox much safer than detoxing at home, but it is also much more comfortable. Withdrawal symptoms can be very unpleasant. Medical treatment can reduce this discomfort and make the experience better.

When To Seek Treatment

It is generally recommended that anyone who has a physical dependence on alcohol seek a professional assessment before they start alcohol detox and withdrawal. Severe alcohol dependence can be dangerous — even deadly — if you stop alcohol use abruptly. 

Signs of alcohol withdrawal delirium tremens include confusion and hallucinations. DTs is a true medical emergency. Even if you decide against a pre-detox assessment, it is very important that you discuss your plans with a trusted friend or loved one who will periodically check in with you to make sure your withdrawal is progressing safely.

There are several alcohol detox centers in Florida, but they do not all offer the same level of care or program quality. Look for programs with experienced rehab professionals who provide evidence-based treatment programs for all levels of alcohol use disorders.

Related topic: Ativan for alcohol withdrawal

Overcoming Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol is a powerful drug, and overcoming dependence and addiction is not easy. There is no single best way to overcome withdrawal, but common themes are associated with successful recovery. For many people, alcohol was a big part of their daily lives. Recovery depends on finding healthy new activities that can occupy the time once spent drinking alcohol. Exercise, artistic pursuits and social engagement and outreach are common avenues toward recovery.

Some people find motivation and inspiration by hearing alcohol recovery stories. Many rehab facilities and medical centers offer aftercare programs and meetings, allowing people to share experiences, successes, motivating insights and inspiration in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

Contact The Recovery Village at Baptist Health to speak with a Recovery Advocate about receiving professional treatment for alcohol addiction. You deserve a healthier future; call today.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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