How Does Alcohol Withdrawal Affect the Body?

Many factors play a role in how alcohol affects the body, including a person’s age, health, family history, how often and how much he or she drinks. One standard drink contains approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol. But all alcoholic beverages are not the same. They come in different sizes, with varying amounts of alcohol. With all of these elements combined, it can be difficult for someone to know their limits.

Someone who is physically dependent on alcohol may experience withdrawal when alcohol is taken out of their system abruptly. Symptoms can begin between six and 12 hours after alcohol cessation and begin with rapid heartbeat, collapse of bodily functions, high blood pressure and fever. Because withdrawal from alcohol can be life-threatening, it is always best to be medically supervised.

“Withdrawal can last for a week or less with symptoms including tremors, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, seizures and autonomic instability,” said Fairbanks Assistant Medical Director and Chief of Psychiatry Services Dr. Dennis Rhyne.

After 12 hours, individuals may experience more intensified symptoms that can lead to a more severe side effect called Delirium Tremens.

“About five to 20 percent of patients will develop Delirium Tremens, which include disorientation, sweating, and physical, visual or auditory hallucinations,” said Dr. Rhyne. “There isn’t just one symptom that can make alcohol withdrawal fatal, but all of the symptoms combined can be deadly.”

Fairbanks is committed to keeping our patients safe and comfortable by offering medically supervised detoxification.

“The symptoms and potential complications can be reduced or maintained by medical intervention. We can identify those symptoms and intervene to make for a safe detoxification and stabilization.”

Fairbanks encourages anyone who is struggling with alcoholism to understand the signs and seek professional help.

“Listen to your loved ones and friends if they comment on your drinking,” Dr. Rhyne said. “Those around you are in the best position to know when a problem is developing. Listen to what they have to say.”