Alcohol withdrawal refers to a group of symptoms that may occur from suddenly stopping the use of alcohol after chronic or prolonged ingestion.
Not everyone who stops drinking experiences withdrawal symptoms, but most people who have been drinking for a long period of time, or drinking frequently, or drink heavily when they do drink, will experience some form of withdrawal symptoms if they stop drinking suddenly.
There is no way to predict how any individual will respond to quitting. If you plan to stop drinking and you have been drinking for years, or if you drink heavily when you do drink, or even if you drink moderately but frequently, you should consult a medical professional before going “cold turkey.
Mild to moderate psychological symptoms:
- Feeling of jumpiness or nervousness
- Feeling of shakiness
- Irritability or easily excited
- Emotional volatility, rapid emotional changes
- Difficulty with thinking clearly
- Bad dreams
Mild to moderate physical symptoms:
- Headache – general, pulsating
- Sweating, especially the palms of the hands or the face
- Loss of appetite
- Insomnia, sleeping difficulty
- Rapid heart rate (palpitations)
- Eyes, pupils different size (enlarged, dilated pupils)
- Skin, clammy
- Abnormal movements
- Tremor of the hands
- Involuntary, abnormal movements of the eyelids
- A state of confusion and hallucinations (visual) — known as delirium tremens
- "Black outs" — when the person forgets what happened during the drinking episode
Source: National Institutes of Health