Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Headaches?

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Does alcohol withdrawal cause headaches? Headache from alcohol withdrawal is common and usually occurs within 12 to 24 hours after your last drink. The severity and duration of headaches can vary based on how much alcohol you consume and how hydrated you are.

This guide explores what causes headaches during detox and how to get effective treatment.

Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Headaches?

Alcohol withdrawal can cause headaches. After quitting alcohol, withdrawal symptoms appear quickly. The first symptoms usually include anxiety and headaches. You might also experience cravings, nausea, and vomiting, depending on how much alcohol you used to drink.

Alcohol withdrawal headaches can be painful, but they usually get better within a day or two. Rest and stay hydrated during this time. If your symptoms are severe, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor for help. Detoxing from alcohol under medical supervision reduces risks and increases comfort.

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches?

Alcohol withdrawal headaches happen when your body starts to get rid of the toxins from alcohol. The body stores these toxins, and during detox, it slowly releases them. This process can be uncomfortable and lead to headaches.

When alcohol is broken down in the body, it produces harmful substances that need to be eliminated. These toxins affect your brain and nervous system, which can cause headaches. The severity and duration of these headaches can vary from person to person, depending on factors like how much and how often you drank, your overall health, and how quickly your body processes the toxins.

When you stop drinking, your body goes through changes as it tries to adjust to the absence of alcohol. Your brain, which has gotten used to the presence of alcohol, also needs time to balance its chemicals again. This imbalance can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including headaches.

Factors that can contribute to alcohol withdrawal headaches include:

  • Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes you urinate more, which can lead to dehydration. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: Losing too much fluid can upset the balance of electrolytes in your body, which can also trigger headaches.
  • Nutritional deficiencies: Heavy drinking can lead to poor nutrition, and a lack of essential vitamins and minerals can contribute to headaches.
  • Stress and anxiety: Stopping alcohol can be stressful, and stress can cause tension headaches.

Understanding these causes can help you take steps to manage and reduce headaches during alcohol withdrawal.

A man appears distressed, representing alcohol withdrawal headaches

How Long Do Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches Last?

Headaches are most common in the first 7 days of withdrawal. On the third day of detox, withdrawal symptoms peak as the chemicals leave the body. However, headaches can occur at any time during this period. Staying hydrated and getting plenty of rest can help manage these headaches. If your headaches are very severe, talk to a doctor.

How Do I Prevent Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches?

Preventing alcohol withdrawal headaches involves a few important steps:

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. This can help flush out toxins and reduce the severity of headaches.
  • Eat healthy foods: Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can support your body during detox. Nutritious foods help your body heal and provide the energy you need.
  • Get enough sleep: Make sure you get plenty of rest. Good sleep helps your body recover and can reduce withdrawal symptoms, including headaches.
  • Gradual tapering: Instead of quitting alcohol suddenly, try to reduce your intake gradually under medical supervision. This can lessen the shock to your system and reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugar: These can make headaches worse. Try to limit or avoid drinks and foods with caffeine and sugar during detox.
  • Take OTC painkillers: Medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage headache pain. Follow the instructions on the label or ask a doctor for advice.
  • Stay active: Gentle exercise like walking or stretching can improve your mood and help your body eliminate toxins.
  • Seek support: Talk to friends, and family, or join a support group. Having someone to talk to can make the process easier and provide emotional support.

By following these steps, you can help reduce the chances of experiencing severe headaches during alcohol withdrawal. If your headaches are bad or you have other severe symptoms, talk to a doctor for help.

ohio community center building representing headache from alcohol withdrawal

Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Ohio Recovery Centers

Do you or someone you care about need help with alcohol addiction treatment? If so, we can help you at Ohio Recovery.

For those dependent on alcohol, our medical detox program helps with withdrawal symptoms and cravings, making the detox process safer and easier. After detox, you can move into ongoing outpatient treatment at our rehab in Cincinnati, OH.

All treatment programs at Ohio Recovery offer personal treatments, relapse prevention, and access to ongoing therapy if required.

Contact our friendly recovery team for help today at 877-679-2132.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn