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According to Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, the signs of alcohol withdrawal can range from minor to severe.


Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a collection of symptoms when a physically dependent person abruptly quits drinking or dramatically reduces their alcohol intake.


“Alcohol has a depressive effect on your system, according to doctors. It slows down brain function and changes how your nerves send messages back and forth,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


“Your central nervous system adjusts to having alcohol around all the time over time. Your body works hard to keep your brain awake and your nerves communicating. When the alcohol level drops suddenly, your brain remains tense. That’s what causes withdrawal.”

What Defines Alcohol Abuse?

Misuse of alcohol, often called “alcohol abuse,” refers to excessive alcohol use or any other way that can place you at risk of experiencing physical, mental health, and social problems.


Having more than one drink daily for women (seven per week) or two drinks daily for men (14 per week) is generally considered alcohol misuse.


Binge drinking, a form of alcohol misuse, is when a man has five or more drinks or a woman has four or more drinks within a short period of time.


Binge drinking or alcohol misuse can increase someone’s risk of developing alcohol use disorder, more commonly known as “alcoholism” or having an “alcohol addiction”.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms, experienced after they significantly reduce or stop drinking, can be highly distressing and uncomfortable, and people commonly return to drinking alcohol as a way of relieving their discomfort.


Mild symptoms can appear as soon as six hours after you finish your last drink. They may include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Mood changes

Between 12 to 24 hours of your last drink, more serious symptoms may occur, such as hallucinations, heart palpitations, fever, hyperthermia, fatigue, and heavy sweating.


Within 24-72 hours, various symptoms may have peaked and begun to level off or resolve (though some more protracted symptoms may stick around for weeks or longer).


Seek medical attention immediately if your blood pressure, pulse, or body temperature rises, or you experience more severe symptoms such as seizures or hallucinations.

Alcohol Withdrawal Diagnosis

If your doctor suspects you’re suffering from alcohol withdrawal, they’ll ask you about your drinking history and how recently you stopped. They’ll want to know if you’ve ever had withdrawal symptoms before. They’ll also talk about your symptoms.

Unless you have a significant health problem or you’ve had severe withdrawals in the past, you usually won’t need more than a supportive environment to get you through. In extreme cases, your doctor may advise you to seek inpatient care and medication.


“The course of alcohol withdrawal is highly variable and somewhat unpredictable in general. Screening and assessment tools do not allow physicians to predict who will or will not experience life-threatening symptoms with certainty,” adds Hewlett.


“Those who are experiencing mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms or are concerned about experiencing withdrawal symptoms will benefit from the advice of a physician or clinician who is trained to assess and treat patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal.”

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health insurance provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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