Alcohol has depressing effects that slow your brain down. This overproduction becomes your brain's new normal, so when you stop drinking, your brain is still producing these extra chemicals, potentially causing you to experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that are associated with overstimulation. Eventually, your brain readjusts, but in the meantime, you may not feel your best.
Not everyone who stops drinking experiences withdrawal symptoms, but most people who have been drinking for a long period of time, drink frequently, or that drink heavily when they do drink, will experience some form of withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking suddenly. If you have health problems or you've been drinking heavily for a long period of time, it's more likely that you'll experience severe withdrawal symptoms.
You may experience several mild to moderate psychological and physical symptoms when quitting drinking.
Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are called delirium tremens or DTs and can occur anywhere from two to four days and up to seven to 10 days after your last drink. DTs may be more likely to happen if you haven't eaten enough food. Delirium tremens occurs in about 5 percent of people who experience alcohol withdrawal.
Of that 5 percent, about one in 20 die as a result. Since it can be life-threatening, it's important that you get emergency help for someone who has these symptoms.
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These symptoms may get rapidly worse. A person with delirium tremens will need to be hospitalized for a period of time to get the symptoms under control and possibly to save his or her life. Those who have suddenly stopped drinking and are experiencing alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually have the same two questions: "Is this normal? You'll likely begin to feel better around five days to a week after you stop drinking. With the proper medical care, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be greatly reduced or even eliminated.
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There are specific treatments available for anyone who wants to stop drinking, even after long-term, chronic alcohol abuse. For those drinkers who have decided to quit drinking, for whatever reason, withdrawal symptoms can be a significant stumbling block in maintaining sobriety. One of the main causes of relapses during the early stages of recovery are the effects of withdrawal symptoms.
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When the withdrawal symptoms begin, many people who are trying to stop drinking give up if the symptoms become aggravating enough and decide to take a drink just to ease the discomfort. Thankfully, there are medications available called benzodiazepines like Librium chlordiazepoxide and Ativan lorazepam that can help control your withdrawal symptoms without the need to drink alcohol.
As long as your symptoms are mild to moderate, you can safely stop drinking alcohol at home.
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Long-time or heavy drinkers should involve a doctor in this process but because it's impossible to predict just how severe withdrawal symptoms will be. If you go into delirium tremens without supervision, it could prove fatal. You'll also need someone to stay with you to make sure you aren't developing more severe symptoms that need medical attention like seizures, hallucinations, severe vomiting, fever, or high blood pressure.
Once you've gone through withdrawal, you'll also need a plan to remain alcohol-free. Ask your doctor for advice on treatment for alcohol dependence.
There are many other resources available for anyone who is sincere about stopping drinking for good, or who wants to reduce the harm alcohol may be causing in their life by cutting down. You may greatly benefit from the encouragement and support that you can find at a support group meeting like Alcoholics Anonymous AA or even an online meeting.
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SAMHSA also has an online treatment services locator that will find treatment facilities that are near you. Learn the best ways to manage stress and negativity in your life. There was an error. Was alcohol still readily available at home? If you want to stop drinking alcohol as part of a move towards a healthier lifestyle, cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink as opposed to giving up alcohol completely can help bring lots of health benefits, and can be easier to stick to.
Reducing the amount you drink can also be an effective stepping stone to giving up alcohol completely in the future. If you drink every night, start by designating a couple of days a week as alcohol-free days. This can soon become habit, the personal challenge helping remove the temptation and perhaps encouraging you to add more alcohol-free days. Always remember the low-risk guidelines — up to 11 standard drinks spread out over the week for women and 17 standard drinks for men.
These drinks should never be saved up for one session and you should aim for at least two alcohol-free days in the week. Here are some more tips to help you drink less. It's equally important not to be too hard on yourself if you slip up every once in a while. Perhaps you could aim firstly for an alcohol-free week, then an alcohol-free month, for example. The cost of alcohol mounts up quickly — you could try putting aside the money you would normally spend on alcohol at home or while out, and spend it on another treat at the end of the week or the month.
Use our Drinks Calculator to see how much you could save. In the long term you will also be helping to reduce your risk of developing alcohol-related health conditions including cancer, liver disease or heart disease and could lower your blood pressure.
How to stop drinking alcohol completely
Learn more about the benefits of drinking less. Menu Facts What is a standard drink? What are the low-risk alcohol guidelines?