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Alcohol withdrawal symptoms


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What are alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

Withdrawal symptoms can be physical and psychological, and range in severity from mild to severe.

Typical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can include:

  • Hand tremors (‘the shakes’)

  • Sweating

  • A pulse rate above 100 beats per minute

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Headaches

  • Loss of appetite

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Restlessness

  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)


Milder symptoms usually start within eight to 24 hours from the last alcoholic drink.

Severe symptoms can additionally include hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that aren’t real),4 as well as seizures or delirium tremens (‘DTs’).

Delirium tremens is a severe indication of alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms include:

  • Severe disorientation

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing problems

  • Uncontrollable restless behaviour


Severe withdrawal effects can be life threatening.

Approximately one in 10 people with alcohol withdrawal syndrome are affected by seizures. If left untreated, up to one in three of these patients go on to experience delirium tremens.

If you (or someone you’re looking after) experience repeated vomiting, severe shaking or hallucinations, seek medical attention.

Heavy drinkers who suddenly decrease or stop drinking altogether may experience withdrawal symptoms. They are potentially dangerous and should be treated as a serious warning sign that you are drinking too much.

Withdrawal symptoms are part of a condition called ‘alcohol withdrawal syndrome’, which is a reaction caused when someone who has become dependent on alcohol is deprived of it.

The more you drink on a regular basis, the more you’re likely to be affected by withdrawal symptoms. To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, the UK Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) advise it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

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