Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Abdominal Pain?

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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Can Alcohol Withdrawal Give You Stomach Pains?

When you stop using alcohol, you may develop a range of different symptoms. The severity of your symptoms will depend on your physical chemistry, addiction history, co-occurring illnesses, and the amount you typically drink. Among other symptoms, you may suffer from stomach pain when you go through alcohol withdrawal.

How Does Alcohol Use Affect Your Stomach?

Over time, alcohol can have a major impact on your brain and body. In the short run, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that excessive alcohol use can cause injuries, alcohol poisoning, risky behaviors, fetal alcohol syndrome, and miscarriages. In addition, it can increase the likelihood that you will become the victim of a violent crime.

Many short-term effects are caused by binge drinking. Long-term effects can be caused by any kind of alcohol use disorder. Among other side effects, you may suffer from some of the following symptoms.

  • Mental health issues, like anxiety and depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive issues
  • Multiple types of cancer
  • Memory and learning issues
  • A weakened immune system

Other than causing physical side effects, alcohol can also impact your ability to maintain a job. You may develop family problems or issues in your romantic relationship. As soon as you stop drinking, you can begin reducing the odds that you will develop these side effects.

Unfortunately, alcohol can affect your stomach in a variety of ways. When you drink, it can irritate cells in your stomach lining. Before long, this can cause inflammation to occur. In addition, alcohol can increase the production of stomach acid, which makes it harder for your body to destroy harmful bacteria. Because of this, the bacteria can get into your small intestine and cause additional problems.

About 20% of alcohol is absorbed through your stomach lining. When your stomach is empty, alcohol ends up passing quickly into your small intestine. Alcohol can also increase the juices in your stomach, which can stimulate your appetite.

Can Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Stomach Pain?

You can experience symptoms from using alcohol as well as from quitting. After six hours without a drink, you may develop a headache, anxiety, insomnia, or shaky hands. Your stomach may hurt from nausea, vomiting, and other withdrawal-related symptoms.

After just 12 to 48 hours without any alcohol, you may develop hallucinations, seizures, and similar issues. Delirium tremens is a dangerous condition that can develop in the first two or three days after you stop drinking. If you develop delirium tremens, you may hear, see, or feel things that aren’t actually there. You may also suffer from heavy sweating, high blood pressure, and confusion.

During the withdrawal phase, you may develop stomach pains and other digestive-related conditions. For example, you may struggle to keep food or liquids down. Your stomach pain may feel dull or like a slight ache. 

Alcohol and Gastritis

Sometimes, stomach pain is directly triggered by gastritis. Acute alcoholic gastritis is a type of gastritis that happens when you have sudden, severe symptoms. Chronic alcoholic gastritis is when your gastritis involves long-term inflammation.

Both types of gastritis happen when you have an inflammation of the stomach lining. With acute gastritis, you may develop bloating, gas, ulcers, stomach irritation, and nausea. You may also suffer from hemorrhaging and vomiting.

With chronic gastritis, you will likely experience many of the same symptoms. However, these symptoms will happen over a long period of time. You may also suffer from loss of appetite, stomach irritation, anemia, and chronic stomach pain.

What Causes Stomach Pains From Drinking?

Alcohol-related stomach pains can occur because of many different issues. Other than gastritis, you can develop stomach pains during alcohol withdrawal and detox. You can also develop stomach pains while you are drinking. 

When you drink, your stomach normally releases acids and enzymes to break up the alcohol. Excessive drinking increases the enzymes and acids in your stomach. In turn, this can increase stomach irritation and eventually cause gastritis. Afterward, the stomach lining and gastric mucosa may become inflamed or irritated.

Stomach pains can happen for other reasons as well. Because of this, it is important to figure out the underlying cause of your abdominal pain. For instance, stomach pain can be related to appendicitis. Chronic bile reflux can cause bile to back up in your stomach, which can lead to stomach pain. Additionally, autoimmune disorders and pernicious anemia are both frequent causes of stomach pain and digestive issues.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Stomach Pains Caused by Alcohol Consumption?

Alcohol-related stomach pains can be more than a temporary pain in your stomach. In the long run, this type of inflammation can cause serious damage. Gastrointestinal bleeding is just one of the severe complications that can happen if your drinking leads to gastritis. If you develop gastrointestinal bleeding from alcohol consumption, it is important to get immediate medical care because this condition can be lethal.

A major sign of gastrointestinal bleeding is vomiting blood. With this condition, you may get a tear in your esophageal blood vessels. Sometimes, this kind of bleeding can also occur because of an ulceration in your duodenum or stomach.

Stomach pain is often caused by a very treatable condition, but gastrointestinal bleeding can be deadly. If you develop any signs of this complication, it is important to seek medical care right away. If left untreated, gastrointestinal bleeding can cause organ failure, generalized peritonitis, and sepsis.

Other than gastrointestinal bleeding, you can also develop a chronic vitamin deficiency from alcohol consumption. Additionally, stomach cancer is more common among people who drink alcohol. Even if you don’t develop other complications, some of the damage to your stomach lining from drinking may become permanent.

How Do You Treat Stomach Pain From Alcohol?

If you are suffering from stomach pain, there are treatment options available. Because alcohol can cause many different stomach conditions, your doctor will most likely recommend a detox or rehab center to deal with your alcohol use disorder. By removing the cause of your gastritis problem, you can prevent it from recurring in the future.

Other than simply avoiding alcohol, your doctor will likely recommend other forms of treatment. Your treatment will be determined by your age, symptoms, and general health. The treatment also depends on the cause of your stomach pain. For instance, minor cases of gastritis are treated with antacids. By reducing the acid level in your stomach, this kind of medication can help your stomach lining heal.

Stomach ulcers, gastritis, and other stomach issues may be caused by a special kind of bacteria. Your doctor can give you a test to see if this bacteria is present. If it is, you may be given a special medicine to kill the bacteria.

Sometimes, stomach pain is caused by a specific health problem and not by alcohol consumption. Whenever possible, your doctor will try to treat the underlying disorder at the same time as you receive treatment for your substance use disorder. They will also recommend that you avoid any foods, medicines, or drinks that could harm your stomach.

How to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal

When you drink alcohol on a regular basis, your body becomes accustomed to having alcohol present. Alcohol is technically considered a depressant, so it dampens activity in your brain and nervous system. Over time, your body learns to counteract this reduction by increasing your nervous system’s baseline level of activity.

Once you stop using alcohol, you will likely suffer from withdrawal symptoms in the first few days. These symptoms occur because your body is used to having alcohol present. You may experience headaches, stomach pains, nausea, anxiety, and other symptoms. Basically, your body is still trying to maintain a high baseline level of activity because it still expects you to consume alcohol. 

Fortunately, there are ways to treat and alleviate these symptoms. Because alcohol withdrawal can be a life-threatening process, it is important to seek out professional help when you decide to quit drinking. A detox center can help you go through the withdrawal process in a safe, supervised environment.

At some treatment centers, you may be given medication to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. If you are suffering from co-occurring mental and physical disorders, you will most likely receive treatment for these conditions at the same time. Often, people use alcohol to self-medicate for other ailments. If you don’t quickly find an alternative remedy for your other medical conditions, you may struggle to remain sober after you finish the treatment process.

Once detox is finished, you will likely begin some blend of rehab or therapy. The right treatment program can help you uncover the underlying cause of your alcohol use disorder. You can learn how to spot common triggers so that you can avoid a potential relapse.

In addition, many therapy programs involve a group component. This means you can begin building a sober community as you work on your recovery. Once you leave the treatment center, this new community can provide you with support as you integrate into normal life again.

Getting Help for an Addiction Can Change Your Life

There are treatment programs for all types of substance use disorders. Even if you have tried rehab unsuccessfully in the past, you still have an opportunity to become sober. Depending on your personal needs, you may want to try some of the following treatment options.

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Aftercare programs
  • Medical detox
  • Art and music therapy
  • Mindfulness
  • Group and individual therapy

No one deserves to live with the pain and suffering of an addiction on their own. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder, you can take the first step toward a sober lifestyle by signing up for treatment. With the help of a supportive medical team, you can quit drinking and begin healing from alcohol-related side effects.

If you are struggling with an addiction, you can find educational resources and support at Alcohol Awareness. Our 24/7 call center can help you connect with support groups and therapy programs in your area.