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The Dangers of Alcohol Withdrawal

Friday, November 29, 2019 | By tricia

dangers of alcohol withdrawal

Table Of Contents

Alcohol is woven into the fabric of American culture. People from every corner of the country incorporate alcohol into their lives. From birthdays and weddings to funerals and bad days at work, alcohol definitely has its place among Americans. And while there are millions of people who drink responsibly, there are millions more who do not.

A whopping 6.2% of Americans have an alcohol use disorder. That equals approximately 15 million people. Men historically struggle more with AUD than women, as about 9.8 men have AUD in comparison to 5.3 women. 

It is no secret that alcohol use disorder is one of the most common diseases in the U.S. But, despite it being so common, there are many things that you might not be aware of. For example, withdrawing from alcohol can be extremely dangerous — and even deadly. If you are addicted to alcohol, simply stopping drinking cold turkey can present you with a whole slew of problems. 


What Can Happen During Alcohol Withdrawal?

To better understand alcohol withdrawal, it is important to understand dependence. If you are addicted to alcohol but stop drinking suddenly, you will develop withdrawal symptoms. This is because your body is dependent on alcohol. The absence of alcohol sends the body into a frenzy that can only be calmed by more alcohol. If you are addicted to alcohol, then you might be familiar with this feeling. When you experience the beginning stages of withdrawal, it is likely that you reach for a drink to make it go away. As this cyclical pattern continues, your dependence grows stronger. So, when you stop drinking, withdrawing from alcohol can become dangerous. 


Delirium tremens (“DT’s”)

Delirium tremens is the most severe type of withdrawal symptoms that you can experience when you stop drinking. The DT’s are not only intense, but they are also deadly. The symptoms that often accompany the DT’s include the following:

  • Severe confusion
  • Delirium
  • Intense body tremors (“the shakes”)
  • Tactile hallucinations (e.g. feeling like something is crawling on your skin when it’s not)
  • Auditory hallucinations (hearing things like sounds or voices that aren’t real)
  • Visual hallucinations (e.g. seeing things that are not there)

The most severe symptoms that can develop with the DT’s are fever and seizures. Both of these symptoms can lead to death if untreated. If you experience the DT’s, it is critical that you go to the closest emergency room.


High blood pressure

Quitting drinking cold turkey impacts your blood pressure. The blood in your body hits the walls of your arteries. The strength at which it hits is your blood pressure. Normal blood pressure for an adult is 120/80. But, if you are withdrawing from alcohol, it can be much higher. For example, stage one of high blood pressure falls between 130/80 and 139/89. Stage two of high blood pressure is defined as anywhere between 140/90 or higher. A hypertensive crisis occurs when your blood pressure is higher than 180/120. Alcohol withdrawal can cause you to fall into one of those categories, including hypertensive crisis. When your blood pressure is that high, you must get medical help immediately. High blood pressure (even stage one) can lead to the following and potentially fatal complications:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Aneurysm 
  • Heart failure
  • Vital organ damage caused by narrowed blood vessels

If you attempt to withdraw from alcohol on your own and experience one of these symptoms, you could die. Withdrawing under medical supervision can help prevent and/or treat these issues before they turn fatal.



Similar to benzodiazepines like Xanax and Ativan, alcohol interacts with the GABA receptors in the brain. GABA is responsible for regulating communication among brain cells. Both the presence of alcohol and the absence of it can affect the GABA in the brain. And, when the brain cannot communicate with itself, seizures can occur. 

Having a seizure while in alcohol withdrawal can be very dangerous and cost you your life. You can’t predict if you are going to have a seizure, so if you have one, you could be at severe risk. For example, having a seizure while driving can cause you to crash, harming yourself and/or others. Or, you could suffer a fatal fall during your seizure. 

The intensity of your alcohol withdrawal will be determined by several factors, including the following:

  • How much alcohol you were consuming
  • How often you drank
  • How long your drinking occurred
  • Your mental state
  • Your physical health

If you want to stop drinking, make sure you do so while in the care of professionals. Not only will this help safeguard your health, but it can also connect you to continued care. 


How Professional Treatment Can Help You During Alcohol Withdrawal 

Professional addiction treatment can, as previously mentioned, keep you safe during the withdrawal stage. So, if you want to get sober, seeking this type of help is best. You may experience a withdrawal that doesn’t require much medical attention. You may go into severe withdrawal. You will not know how withdrawing from alcohol will go for you until you are in it. Professional treatment can help you regardless of the severity of your withdrawal in the following ways:

  • Provide you with a safe, clean environment 
  • Conduct regular vital sign checks 
  • Prescribe medication to aid in easing withdrawal 
  • Offer support and encouragement to keep moving forward 

Getting sober after struggling with alcohol use disorder is hard. You do not need to add to the difficulty of it by trying to withdraw on your own. 


Get Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder Right Now

Anything can happen when you end your active addiction and begin living a healthier life. Having the support of a professional team of individuals can help you navigate this uncharted territory. Whether you suffer an intense withdrawal or breeze through it, support at the beginning of treatment is vital. At our treatment center, we can give you that support along with our years of combined experience and expertise. 

So, do not wait one second more. Call us right now. We can help you.

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