What Helps With Alcohol Withdrawal?

Depressed-looking man sitting at table with a glass of liquor

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If you have wanted to quit drinking alcohol but were hesitant to do so because you feared that the withdrawal symptoms would be too severe, you are not alone. Many people are afraid that if they quit drinking, withdrawal symptoms could be difficult to manage, or even dangerous.

You may have tried to quit drinking alcohol and discovered that the symptoms you experienced were more severe than you anticipated. Maybe you decided to go back to drinking just to relieve those symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the primary reason that many people relapse when they attempt to quit.

This article discusses some of the common withdrawal symptoms and what helps with alcohol withdrawal. It also covers some of the different treatment options that are available.

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

There are a number of common alcohol withdrawal symptoms, but not everyone will experience these symptoms. They can range from mild to severe and are usually proportionate to the amount of alcohol you usually consumed and how long you've been drinking. 

Psychological symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in mood
  • Depression
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating and clammy skin
  • Tremors in hands
  • Trouble sleeping

Recap

Alcohol withdrawal can produce both physical and psychological symptoms. These can range from mild to moderate to severe. The severity of the symptoms you will experience often depends on the amount and duration of your alcohol consumption.

What Helps With Alcohol Withdrawal

Make no mistake about it, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be severe, and in some cases fatal. If you are a daily drinker, a heavy drinker, or a frequent binge drinker, suddenly quitting will likely produce a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms.

If you are a heavy or chronic drinker, it is important to get professional help to stop drinking. Your detox should be medically supervised in order to help minimize severe symptoms. Treatments can greatly reduce or eliminate most of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

There are also strategies that you can use to help manage symptoms of withdrawal if you are detoxing at home or going through treatment. 

  • Talk to your doctor about medications that can help with alcohol withdrawal symptoms: Your doctor may prescribe different medications to help control withdrawal symptoms, including benzodiazepines, anti-anxiety medications, and vitamins. 
  • Stay hydrated: You may become dehydrated during withdrawal, particularly if you are experiencing vomiting. Drinking water or sports drinks can help you stay hydrated and combat feelings of nausea.  
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eat healthy, nutritious meals that will help keep your glucose levels balanced. 
  • Try a cool shower: A cool shower can help take your mind off of the physical feelings of withdrawal and may help with symptoms such as hot flashes, sweating, and clammy skin.
  • Ask a supportive friend to stay with you: Having someone with you can be a great way to feel supported. If someone cannot stay with you the entire time, consider asking friends or loved ones to check in on you at regular intervals.
  • Try moderate exercise: You might not feel up to tackling anything too strenuous, but you may find moderately intense exercise helpful. Research has found that exercise can be an effective mind-body tool for people dealing with substance use disorders.
  • Find ways to stay occupied: Look for ways to stay busy and distracted. This can not only take your mind off of your withdrawal symptoms; it can also help you combat alcohol cravings. Read a book, go for a walk, talk to a friend, listen to music, or start a new hobby.

Also, be sure to get help if serious symptoms appear. If you are experiencing symptoms of delirium tremens (DT), contact emergency services immediately. Symptoms of DT include confusion, changes in blood pressure, excessive sweating, fever, hallucinations, and seizures. Delirium tremens is serious and can be fatal.

Recap

If your alcohol use has been heavy and chronic, talk to a doctor about medically supervised detox. This can ensure you are able to withdraw safely. If you detox at home, talk to a healthcare provider about medications that may help and use self-care strategies to make it easier to cope with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Treatments for Alcohol Withdrawal

The best way to quit alcohol while avoiding unpleasant withdrawal symptoms is to ask for help. If you have decided that it is in your best interest to stop drinking, one option is to seek help from a family doctor or primary healthcare provider.

There are specific medical treatments that will stop or reduce most of the symptoms you could experience if you quit cold turkey.

Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) are the main treatment for symptoms of withdrawal, like the shakes, and are also key to preventing serious complications such as delirium tremens (DTs).

A healthcare provider may also suggest vitamins and dietary changes help with your withdrawal symptoms. People who consume large amounts of alcohol may be more prone to certain nutritional deficiencies, including B vitamins. Your doctor may recommend taking supplements to address these deficiencies.

Eating a healthy diet while you are going through withdrawal may also help aid in digestion and energy levels. This may be helpful for combating withdrawal symptoms such as stomach upset and feelings of fatigue. 

Detox Programs

Another alternative, especially if you have experienced severe withdrawal in the past, is to check yourself into a professional detoxification facility. Detox programs involve short-term (usually less than seven days) inpatient treatment during which specially trained professionals monitor your withdrawal closely and administer medications as needed.

One advantage of in-patient detox is that you will be away from your usual drinking triggers and therefore be less likely to pick up a drink to stop symptoms when they begin. You do not have to have reached a crisis point to check into detox. People voluntarily check in every day.

Recap

Effective treatments and detox programs are available. These treatments can help ensure that you are able to detox safely and minimize the withdrawal symptoms that you will experience.

A Word From Verywell

If you need to quit drinking, don't let alcohol withdrawal scare you off. There are medications and treatments available that can help you get through those first early days of no alcohol consumption. You don't have to do it on your own.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What medication helps with alcohol withdrawal?

    Benzodiazepines, which are also often used to treat anxiety, may be prescribed to help with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These medications depress the central nervous system and put people in a more relaxed state. They can be helpful for relieving symptoms such as irritability, nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, and pain.

  • What vitamins and supplements help with alcohol withdrawal?

    Vitamin supplements, particularly B vitamins such as thiamine) can be helpful for relieving some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Other supplements that your healthcare provider may recommend include vitamin C, calcium, and omega-3 fatty acids. Always talk to your doctor about any supplements you are taking and never take more than the recommended dose.

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.