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Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Feb 15 | 2014

Am I going through Alcohol Withdrawal?

We often hear people asking the questions: Am I going through Alcohol Withdrawals? How do I know if I am going through Alcohol Withdrawals? The only way to answer that question is to consult a doctor. Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AAWS) refers to a collection of withdrawal symptoms that emerge after a person has stopped drinking. Typically, this kind of symptomology indicates that the alcoholic has drunk for a long enough period of time to have damaged their Central Nervous System, their brain, and their liver. This sort of drinking leads to severe withdrawal and may need alcohol withdrawal treatment.

Alcohol dependence is very dangerous and detoxing from Alcohol may require medical supervision to be conducted safely. If you are experiencing signs of alcoholism seek medical attention or call 1 877 415 4673 immediately.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

General Signs of Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

The psychological damage tends to surface as a network of highly specific symptoms, and invariably follows the cessation of drinking. Other common withdrawal symptoms that are specific to the acute phase of alcohol addiction include:

  • The emergence of tolerance.
  • The development of dependence.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
  • Drinking to alleviate or evade withdrawal symptoms.

Typically, the discomfort and severity of one’s alcohol detox will be proportional to the nature of their drinking and in what quantities they consumed alcohol. Addiction of this variety, in which entrenched pathology is present, necessitates comprehensive treatment that takes into account the full spectrum of addictive pathology; in addition to implementing the most effective clinical protocols. In situations where a person has developed dependence to alcohol, measurable changes to the Central Nervous System will usually emerge, in addition to other personality disturbances.

Severity of Symptoms

Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome can emerge with either mild or severe symptoms and sets in approximately 5 to 10 hours after one’s last drink. In most cases, symptoms peak at around 60 hours, with acute symptomology largely disappearing after day 5. The region of the brain that alcohol impacts is defined by several features: 1) It is the region of the brain that is associated with reward circuitry; 2) Alcohol binds to what is known as GABA receptors, which regulate sedation, relief of stress, and sleep; 3) The production of the neurotransmitter Dopamine.

Signs of Acute Withdrawal

During the acute phase, when the person is fully immersed in detoxification, the brain is actually engaged in a series of operations that are by-products of the detoxification process and as such considered to be aberrations. Symptoms that indicate a person is experiencing Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome include:

  • Demonstrating shakiness.
  • Chills.
  • Tremors.
  • Anxiety.
  • Stress.
  • Depression.
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or expressing one’s self coherently.
  • Extremely volatile; mood swings.
  • Presence of intermittent or persistent headaches.
  • Sweating.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Pale skin.
  • Weight loss or gain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sleep disturbances – difficulty falling asleep; difficulty staying asleep; or a combination of both.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Rapid heart-rate.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Abnormal or involuntary movements of the eyelids.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Depersonalization.
  • Confusion.
  • Psychosis.
  • Convulsions and seizures.
  • DTs.
  • Death.

Although these symptoms emerge during the early, initial phase of treatment, they are also regarded from the standpoint of what strategies will be employed over the course of the alcoholic’s long-term treatment and recovery. This is significant because, as already noted, there are several stages through which the alcoholic will pass getting sober, and each subsequent stage will be largely informed by the stage that preceded it. Successfully addressing all of the facets of the recovery process is pivotal to helping an Alcoholic achieve long-term sobriety.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

Long-term studies indicate that psychotherapy in conjunction with a medical detox is effective tools for treating the withdrawal symptoms that occur during the acute phase. At ARC, our clinical program and our treatment team is cross-disciplined to address the many facets of the addictive condition. At ARC the primary, operative principle is to meet the client where they are at, and from there create a personalized treatment plan that will honor them as an individual and strive to do away with assumptions based upon conventional or standardized modes of clinical care.


Treatment that successfully addresses the issues accompanying a dual diagnosis must work as one intervention, with each condition being thought of as part of a whole. The first phase of any treatment plan, however, is detoxification (Dual diagnosis essentially refers to a condition in which one’s alcohol addiction plays out in tandem with another mental health disorder – Depression, Anxiety Disorder, etc. – complicating treatment and requiring a subtle set of protocols to halt the progression of both conditions).


At ARC, a dual diagnosed client is carefully assessed by one of our physicians to determine the correct course of action to rid the person of their physical dependence to liquor. During and after this initial phase a comprehensive treatment plan is developed, taking into consideration all of the factors that contribute to a client’s mental health status, including family history and medical history, in addition to all relevant psychological factors. As such, treatment at ARC includes individual and group counseling, attending 12 Step meetings and working a 12 Step program, psychotherapy, as well as education and supplemental, alternative therapies such as nutrition and exercise.

Social Model Treatment

Unique to ARC’s treatment strategies is utilizing the social aspects of the residential setting. Alcoholism is in part a disease of isolation. The addict isolates themselves, and also ends up isolating loved ones, friends, and family. The social component of addiction treatment is vitally important, without which treatment cannot occur. The group must be used to organically create an environment in which a chemically dependent person learns to express feelings, process emotions, successfully resolve conflicts, and essentially learn to develop and maintain healthy relationships that will be crucial to their long-term recovery. If successful, the social element of ARC addiction treatment will act as a map of sorts that the client will unconsciously carry over into other aspects of their life.

Family Support

Treatment for acute alcohol withdrawal also must take into consideration the family component. At ARC, family support is provided with group therapy, couples counseling, and family therapy. This network of support encourages and supports loved ones to become a part of the client’s process of recovery, and in turn fosters their own growth.

Multidisciplinary Approach

As with all diseases that are chronic and debilitating, alcoholism impacts virtually every aspect of the alcoholic’s life. ARC’s staff, counselors, and therapists, represent the best and most advanced cross-disciplined team available. This is crucial for creating comprehensive, therapeutic strategies that will address all of the facets treatment. No one therapeutic style is necessarily better than another, but instead must be regarded as parts of a whole; and effective treatment always requires a certain amount of latitude and flexibility with regards to clinical protocols. Some of the more common therapeutic styles employed by ARC’s therapists include:

  • CBT, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, targets destructive thoughts and destructive behaviors and aims to have the client unlearn them. In place of these destructive traits the client is instructed and encouraged to construct new belief systems that counter the destructive cycles that characterize addictive behaviors and thinking.
  • IGT, or Integrated Group Therapy, is a recent addition to the pre-existing therapies designed to tackle dual diagnosed individuals. Using the group setting, this style of therapy targets people suffering from bipolar disorder and drug addiction.
  • ET, or Exposure Therapy, is a behavioral model that had proven useful in assisting addicts also suffering from phobias or anxiety disorders. Frequently with people suffering from anxiety disorders, they find themselves triggered by specific stimuli, which in turn triggers a craving for a drug. Like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy seeks to unlearn these responses, and to establish in their place more rational, less destructive responses. This style of treatment has promise assisting individuals who experience anxiety and are also addicted to cocaine.
  • DBT, or Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, specifically seeks to lessen behaviors that cause self-harm, such as cutting or mutilation. It is also used to treat individuals with a history of suicidal ideation or suicide attempts, and has proven helpful treating individuals who are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Advanced Holistic Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

It should be noted that no one single therapy provides a cure, and that the most successful interventions combine different therapeutic styles in conjunction with various medications. This is where the need to utilize an integrated approach becomes necessary. At ARC, alcohol withdrawal treatment is distinguished by the comprehensive programs created by our multi-dimensional staff, which includes aftercare programs specifically tailored to the needs of each individual.
ARC’s multidimensional approach includes:

  • The most advanced and effective dual diagnosis treatment available.
  • Comprehensive assessments that take into consideration both medical, psychological, and emotional factors.
  • Detoxification services that are closely monitored by our trained staff and overseen by independent doctors.
  • A dignified approach that honors the total needs of the client.
  • Counseling that includes Family Counseling, Group counseling, as well as One-on-One Counseling.
  • Ongoing therapy with clinicians who specialize in addiction pathology.
  • Long-term treatment planning that includes aftercare, extended care, and alumni services.
  • Integrated treatment specially designed to treat dual diagnosed individuals. This includes psychiatric care, oversight of medications, and continued aftercare.


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