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Taking a step towards quitting or cutting down is a sign of progress. This can sometimes be tougher on some of our bodies, but knowing what to expect can be helpful.

Causes, signs and symptoms

As you begin to quit or cut down your drinking, you may experience some signs of withdrawal. This happens because your body is making up for alcohol leaving your body and is adjusting to a state of keeping you stable. 

Common symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • feeling anxious
  • nausea or feeling sick
  • having a higher pulse rate
  • raised blood pressure
  • hand tremors or shakes.

Some symptoms can be more severe and unpredictable, such as:

  • seizures
  • constant vomiting
  • constant racing heartbeats
  • drowsiness that does not go away 

Severe symptoms are dangerous to the person experiencing them and are considered medical emergencies. These can lead to fluid loss and worsen a person’s chronic or mental conditions, which we often cannot see from the outside or just by looking at someone. 

Withdrawal can be emotionally hard on a person and their household. Be kind if someone you know is going through it. Acknowledge that they’re taking a step towards positive change for them and their whānau.

If you or someone you care for are feeling really unwell, call 111.

When to get help

There is no set guide for how each person experiences withdrawal. The timeline, severity and someone’s ability to cope is dependent on a lot of individual factors. 

Always get help instead of treating yourself. If you’re looking out for a friend or member of your whānau, get hold of a professional or call a helpline. 

Seeking general advice online, or taking medications or herbs based on casual recommendations is often not enough. This is because withdrawal can be potentially dangerous. The risk levels are different for each person and can depend on age or existing medical conditions. 

If you have been drinking daily for years and are ready to stop, it is best to discuss your plan on how to do this safely with a health professional. Let them know your history. They can provide personal advice that will suit your lifestyle and what your body can handle.