Some people can just quit drinking alcohol cold turkey without having significant withdrawal symptoms. Other people, however, may suffer significant withdrawal symptoms when they suddenly stop drinking. Alcohol withdrawal is potentially fatal, so if you find yourself starting to experience significant alcohol withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking then it is important to gradually detoxify from alcohol rather than quitting all at once “cold turkey”. You can gradually detoxify from alcohol by tapering off. You can taper off either by using alcohol itself or by using medications.
Doctors classify withdrawal symptoms into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe.
Mild or minor alcohol withdrawal usually occurs within 24 hours of the last drink and is characterized by tremulousness (shakes), insomnia, anxiety, panic, twitching, sweating, raised blood pressure and pulse, and stomach upset.
Moderate or intermediate alcohol withdrawal usually occurs 24-36 hours after the cessation of alcohol intake. Its manifestations include intense anxiety, tremors, insomnia, seizures, hallucinations, high blood pressure, racing pulse.
Severe or major alcohol withdrawal aka Delirium Tremens (D.T.s). This usually occurs more than 48 hours after a cessation or decrease in alcohol consumption. It is characterized by disorientation, agitation, hallucinations, tremulousness, racing heart, rapid breathing, fever, irregular heartbeat, blood pressure spikes, and intense sweating. When untreated about one person in five will die of D.T.s. Some people refer to shakes as D.T.s but this is inaccurate.
Even mild or moderate withdrawal can be dangerous for people with high blood pressure or bad hearts. Because withdrawal raises blood pressure there can be a danger of heart attack or stroke.
The longer and harder a person has drunk alcohol–the more severe the withdrawal will be.