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Updated on September 14, 2023
5 min read

6 Tips to Help Cope with Alcohol Withdrawal

Kelly Brown
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
7 Sources Cited
Kelly Brown
Written by 
7 Sources Cited

What Happens During Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal causes physical and psychological symptoms ranging from mild to severe. In some cases, these symptoms are fatal. Their severity depends on the amount and duration of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are one of the primary reasons people relapse during the first week or two of recovery. Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms are difficult to manage, and cravings are hard to resist. This is true even when they are mild.

Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Hand tremors
  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite loss
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat

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Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur in four stages:

Stage 1 (6 to 12 hours after your last drink)

Symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach pains
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea

Stage 2 (12 to 38 hours after your last drink)

Symptoms include:

  • Lingering stage 1 symptoms
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Stage 3 (48 to 72 hours after your last drink)

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Fast-paced heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Stage 3 includes the most severe symptoms, including potentially fatal delirium tremens (DTs). Seizure risk is highest during stages 2 and 3.

Stage 4 (3 to 7 days after your last drink)

In stage 4, people typically experience lingering withdrawal symptoms from previous stages, but they begin to ease. These symptoms are rarely severe.

Many people experience some mild to moderate withdrawal-related symptoms for months after they stop drinking. But these are more psychological than physical. 

The most common, long-term mild symptoms include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes

6 Tips to Cope with Alcohol Withdrawal

To reduce symptom severity and duration, follow these six tips:

1. Drink Plenty of Fluids

Drinking alcohol dehydrates you, even if you only consume a small amount. People who drink heavily are especially at risk of dehydration, even after they’ve stopped drinking.

Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water and electrolyte drinks, is critical during withdrawal. These fluids help the body re-establish its natural balance, ultimately reducing uncomfortable symptoms. In addition, the extra fluids are used by the body to wash out toxins (detox) through the kidneys.

2. Seek Support

Professional withdrawal and recovery support are valuable during this time. Medical supervision might be necessary during alcohol withdrawal and is critical if emergencies arise. 

Medical support also provides you with information and tools that help ease severe withdrawal symptoms. 

3. Create a Plan

Alcohol withdrawal is a challenging process. Having a plan helps you stay focused and on track with your sobriety goals. You and your addiction counselors and doctors will work together to create and meet these goals. 

4. Journal

A journal helps you keep track of your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings as you progress through withdrawal. If nothing else, journaling helps you remember your accomplishments should you ever experience relapse. 

Additionally, journaling helps you cope with difficult emotions. You might even consider sharing some of what you write with your counselors or members of your recovery support team.

5. Avoid People Who Drink

It’s tough to move on from your social circle, but for many people, it’s a necessary step in recovery. There might come a time when you can be around these people again. But during recovery, it’s best to avoid anyone who drinks alcohol. 

And, many people who are heavy drinkers will avoid friends who no longer drink, as they typically feel uncomfortable around them.

6. Ask Your Doctor About Medication

Medications can ease withdrawal symptoms and help manage cravings. Medications are one of the most useful addiction treatment tools.

The most common medications used during withdrawal and recovery include:

  • Acamprosate: Reduces the risk of relapse
  • Disulfiram: Triggers unpleasant symptoms when you drink alcohol
  • Naltrexone: Blocks the rewarding or reinforcing feeling of drinking alcohol

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At-Home vs. Supervised Alcohol Detox

At-home alcohol detox is possible, but it’s rarely safe.

Alcohol withdrawal includes severe and potentially fatal symptoms, especially within the first week. Medically supervised detox is always preferable because it ensures people receive the medical attention they need. It also increases the chances of a successful recovery.

The safest alcohol detox option involves medical supervision. 

A supervised detox reduces your risk of medical complications and provides access to recovery tools, support, and relapse prevention.

Will Insurance Cover Supervised Detox?

Health insurance companies are legally required to cover addiction treatment costs. They must treat alcohol addiction like any other disease. Your insurance provider can inform you about your specific coverage for medically supervised detox.

The average daily cost of alcohol detox treatment ranges from $300 to $900, depending on the program’s amenities.

Treatment cost is based on:

  • Program duration
  • Addiction severity
  • Luxuries and “medically unnecessary” amenities included
  • Additional medical care provided

The average cost of detox and alcohol addiction treatment without insurance coverage is $5,000. 

There are a few ways to reduce the cost:

  • Opting for outpatient treatment
  • Choosing a shorter treatment (30 days versus 60 or 90 days, for example)
  • Choosing a group setting over an individual option

Additionally, many treatment centers work to decrease treatment cost by:

  • Accepting credit card payments
  • Offering or accepting grant or scholarship money
  • Working with community or government programs that offer financial support

Detox Programs

Detox programs are an alternative to long-term treatment. They can also be used in conjunction with inpatient and outpatient programs.

Detox is the initial phase of withdrawing from alcohol. Short-term detox programs typically occur in inpatient centers. They ensure you have the appropriate medical attention and supervision during the first few days of abstaining from alcohol. Detox programs also usually include medication.

One of the primary benefits of detox programs, aside from medical supervision, is that you’re removed from temptations. Temptations to drink are most difficult to resist during the early recovery days or for the first several weeks when cravings are most intense.

Following a short-term detox program for alcohol use disorder (AUD), most people go on to enroll in an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings are also available 24/7 (online or in-person) around the world.

Updated on September 14, 2023
7 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Is Drug Addiction Treatment Worth Its Cost?” National Institute on Drug Abuse. 

  2. Delirium Tremens: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.”, 2016. 

  3. Grover, Sandeep, and Abhishek Ghosh. “Delirium Tremens: Assessment and Management.” Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology, vol. 8, no. 4, 1 Dec. 2018.

  4. Attilia, Fabio, et al. “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Diagnostic and Therapeutic Methods.” Rivista Di Psichiatria, vol. 53, no. 3, 1 May 2018.

  5. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol Use Disorder - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 11 July 2018.

  6. Trevisan, Louis A, et al. “Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal Pathophysiological Insights.” Vol. 22, no. 1, 1998.

  7. Alcohol Withdrawal: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.”, 2018.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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