Alcohol Withdrawal: Symptoms, Treatment and Alcohol Detox Duration

Your healthcare provider is the best person to talk to guide you on this or refer you to a specialist. If you’ve had one seizure in the past, it’s important to watch for signs of another. If you have a second seizure, seeing a healthcare provider as soon as possible is very important. Seizures cause changes in your brain that make it easier to have more seizures, so early diagnosis and treatment are key. Different types of seizures have different kinds of symptoms, and describing the symptoms to a healthcare provider can help them diagnose and treat the kind of seizures you have.

  • Patients undergoing preoperative evaluation also should be screened, because alcohol withdrawal can complicate recovery from surgery.29 Elective surgery should be postponed until the dependent patient has not had alcohol for seven to 10 days.
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures are the most dangerous and serious component of AWS, and they contribute to significant mortality of alcoholics (19–24).
  • Too much alcohol affects your speech, muscle coordination and vital centers of your brain.
  • The densities of stubby spines were reduced in the medial and proximal segments, as well as in the medial segment of dendrites at 2 and 4 weeks of abstinence, respectively.
  • When these endorphins are released, the person drinking alcohol is rewarded with pleasure, happiness, or some other reward.

Using alcohol raises your seizure threshold, making seizures less likely. Your early symptoms will likely persist for at least the first 24 hours. It could also signal the onset of delirium tremens and should be taken as a warning sign to seek medical help. There are many potential triggers for someone who is prone to seizures. Flashing lights, especially repetitive on and off or patterns, may trigger a seizure. However, someone who is having an alcohol withdrawal seizure may not need any trigger other than stopping alcohol use.

The importance of a safe withdrawal

While many people consider alcohol to be a “safe drug,” it can induce seizures. What counts here is not alcohol consumption, per se, but the quantity of alcohol consumed. It’s important to know that alcohol effects the brain, acting as a depressant to the central nervous system.

What foods prevent seizures?

A low glycemic index diet focuses on foods with a low glycemic index, meaning they affect blood glucose levels slowly, if at all. Although it's not understood why, low blood glucose levels control seizures in some people. Foods on this diet include meat, cheese, and most high-fiber vegetables.

Treatment with these agents may be preferable in patients who metabolize medications less effectively, particularly the elderly and those with liver failure. Lorazepam is the only benzodiazepine with predictable intramuscular absorption (if intramuscular administration is necessary). The history and physical examination establish the diagnosis and severity of alcohol withdrawal.

What can I expect if I have seizures?

Seizures during alcohol withdrawal are a very real danger, and it’s important for people who are quitting alcohol to be aware of this life-threatening risk. Chemical changes that occur in the brain during alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures, especially when someone progresses into more severe stages of withdrawal. These seizures can be dangerous and increase the risk of injury or even death. The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes.

The evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are intended to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of an AUD. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Next, to determine whether AW induced the formation of different types of spines, we examined the densities of mushroom, stubby, and thin spines in the distal, medial, and proximal dendritic segments of newborn DGCs (Figure 3E). At 2 and 4 weeks of abstinence, AW significantly increased the densities of mushroom spines throughout dendritic segments of newborn DGCs, while the densities of thin spines remained unchanged (Figure 3E).

Can Alcohol (or Withdrawal) Cause a Seizure?

It occurs most often in people who have a history of alcohol withdrawal. It is especially common in those who drink 4 to 5 pints (1.8 to 2.4 liters) of wine, 7 to 8 pints (3.3 to 3.8 liters) of beer, or 1 pint (1/2 liter) of “hard” alcohol every day for several months. Delirium tremens also commonly affects people who have used alcohol for more than 10 years.

The parenteral administration of a rapid-acting benzodiazepine such as diazepam or lorazepam is effective. Several studies have shown that phenytoin is no more effective than placebo in preventing recurrent seizures. Initial treatment should be followed by oral doses of long-acting benzodiazepines over the ensuing 24–48 h.


The densities of stubby spines were reduced in the medial and proximal segments, as well as in the medial segment of dendrites at 2 and 4 weeks of abstinence, respectively. Despite appropriate treatment, the current mortality for patients with DTs ranges from 5-15%, but should be closer to 5% with modern ICU management. Mortality was as high as 35% prior to the era of intensive care and advanced pharmacotherapy.

seizures and alcohol withdrawal

The treatment for alcohol withdrawal involves supportive care and medications. Instead, your doctor will use a detailed medical history and physical examination to help diagnose and determine seizures and alcohol withdrawal the severity of withdrawal. With continued exposure, the body adapts to alcohol’s depressant effect. When you reduce or stop drinking alcohol, the CNS becomes overexcited.

Binge drinking can cause alcohol withdrawal seizures in people, even for individuals who do not have epilepsy. When you begin detox you will be under the care of a trained support team. These detox experts will keep a close eye on your vital signs and observe the symptoms as they emerge. They will provide medical support throughout the detox process, and be on the lookout for alcohol withdrawal seizures and other withdrawal warning signs. The patient met the diagnostic criteria of diazepam dependence according to ICD-10.

seizures and alcohol withdrawal

A more recent article on outpatient management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome is available. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur because the brain compensates for heavy, prolonged alcohol use that over-stimulates GABA receptors. With constant alcohol use, the brain decreases the sensitivity of these receptors. When alcohol use is suddenly stopped, GABA receptors are not sensitive enough to function normally, and the brain must readjust their sensitivity.


There is a small risk of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) for people with that condition. Everyone is at risk for seizures, and they also happen unpredictably, so it’s not possible to completely prevent them. The best thing you can do is avoid possible causes to reduce the chances of having a seizure. A key part of diagnosing seizures is finding if there’s a focal point — a specific area where your seizures start. Locating a focal point for the seizures can make a huge difference in treatment.