How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches Last?
To answer this, first, you must establish what point of withdrawal you are in. Are you in the acute withdrawal phase, or are you experiencing headaches as a result of Post-Acute Withdrawal? If you are out of the acute withdrawal phase and still having headaches, it could be recurrent symptoms of PAWS causing the headaches.
PAWS symptoms tend to wax and wane in intensity. For example, an individual who has been sober from alcohol for a month may see the intensity of the PAWS symptoms peak every 3 days or so.
If a headache is a main symptom of PAWS, the headaches would get worse for 3 days, get better for 3 days, and so on – with the space between the changes going for every 4 days, to every 5 days, etc. These timelines are not set in stone, but you get the idea of how the ebb and flow “gets better” the more time you stay sober. The same can be said for other PAWS symptoms, like anxiety.
Headache Cycles During Alcohol Recovery
Another quirk with PAWS that keeps you on your toes, is how the symptoms can come back in recurrent cycles. Everything about recovering from alcohol abuse comes down to cycles – because that is how your body works, in cycles. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see headaches, anxiety and other symptoms come back in weekly or monthly cycles of intensity.
These cycles make many in recovery concerned, especially when they have just seen the headaches get better finally, only to return with a new cycle of symptoms. The worst thing you can do is worry and increase your anxiety by thinking that there is something severely wrong with you. Cycles of headaches and symptoms is normal for anywhere up to a year or more – depending on how long you were previously abusing alcohol.
Are Continued Alcohol Headaches a Sign of Another Underlying Medical Condition?
Part of a clinical treatment for alcohol detox and initial alcoholism recovery is checking your health for any underlying conditions. In the best detox facilities, professionals will check to make sure they know all conditions that are affecting you, in addition to the alcohol abuse, and they will treat or recommend treatment for any medical conditions they find, or suspect.
If your alcohol detox program did not find any underlying conditions that could be a source of headaches during your initial alcohol detox treatment, it is unlikely that you developed a new health concern, and it is more likely you are experiencing PAWS headaches.
If you didn’t seek medical alcohol detox during the acute withdrawal period, you should consult a physician to check for any underlying conditions.
Ok, So When will my Alcohol-Related Headaches Go Away?
If you don’t have any underlying medical conditions causing the headaches, and they can be blamed solely on post-acute withdrawal syndrome, the headaches should be gone within 6 months, possibly a year or more – in the cases of severe alcoholism. There really is no set answer, it depends on many factors including how well your body is recovering, and if you have been able to completely abstain from alcohol.
One more thing to consider is that the headaches could be natural, or be caused by stress, lack of sleep, or any other stressors to the body. The first year of recovery can be challenging, and changes to diet and activity in your sober life may be causing some “growing pains” for you.
In the end, it is important to check with your doctor to see what is causing the headaches and get his or her opinion on the symptoms. However, if the doctor finds no specific cause for the headaches, and says it is likely tied to your quitting alcohol recently, don’t freak out and think that they will never go away. PAWS symptoms of headaches, anxiety, nausea and even the mental symptoms of depression, shame, or worry do lessen over time.
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CEO, Founder of Bright Future Recovery
Knowledgeable. Passionate. Relentless. Inspirational. These are just some of the words that would describe Bright Future Recovery Center’s Founder and CEO Cheree Ashley. But there is so much more. To know Cheree is to embrace all that she experienced in her life. Instead of allowing adversity to curtail personal vision and success, she used it to catapult her forward and thrive. This is the essence of what she holds dear and wants to help others achieve the same sense of achievement.
As a Certified Intervention Professional, Registered Addiction Specialist, Medication Assisted Treatment Counselor, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Certified Addiction Specialist, Cheree is sought after by her peers for her deep understanding of the nature of addiction. She travels throughout the country as a public speaker and educator.
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