Your body goes through many changes when you stop drinking, especially if you’ve been drinking heavily over a period of time. This is because your brain and body have become dependent on how and when you drink in order to function. What this means is that once you stop alcohol use, you may begin to go through withdrawals as your body begins to stabilize without the presence of alcohol in your body.
Some symptoms can be mild, such as a headache. Others are more serious such as seizures, which can lead to death. It is impossible to say what you or anyone else may experience as there are several factors influencing symptoms:
- body size
- amount of alcohol consumed
- the period over which you consumed alcohol
- how long a person has been drinking in total
In general, symptoms may start within two hours, with the worst symptoms happening between 24 and 48 hours after stopping and improving symptoms after five days. The most commonly experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms are blood pressure changes, tremors, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and fever.
You may have other effects, including:
Physical symptoms – shaky hands, sweating, upset stomach, flu-like symptoms, hallucinations, or seizures
Mental and emotional symptoms – disorientation, trouble sleeping, nightmares, anxiety, or depression
The most severe withdrawal symptoms are called delirium tremens, which can happen within 48 hours of the last drink. These are severe symptoms that include vivid hallucinations and delusions. Only about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal have them. The alcohol withdrawal timeline looks something like this: