The severity of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome can vary from mild symptoms such as mild sleep disturbances and mild anxiety to very severe and life threatening including delirium, particularly visual hallucinations in severe cases and convulsions (which may result in death).
These symptoms initially appear characteristically on waking, due to the fall in the blood alcohol concentration during sleep. The severity of alcohol withdrawal depends on various factors including age, genetics, and, most importantly, degree of alcohol intake and length of time the individual has been using alcohol and number of previous detoxifications.
- Alcoholic hallucinosis
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Delirium tremens
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Hyperthermia (fever)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rebound REM sleep
- Seizures and death
Typically the severity of the symptoms experienced will depend on the amount and duration of prior alcohol consumption, as well as the number and severity of previous withdrawals. Even the most severe of these symptoms can occur in as little as 2 hours after cessation.
A protracted alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs in many alcoholics where withdrawal symptoms continue beyond the acute withdrawal stage but usually at a sub acute level of intensity and gradually decreasing with severity over time.