Menu icon - click here to toggle the menu

Alcohol withdrawal: signs, symptoms & timeline

Home Alcohol withdrawal: signs, symptoms & timeline

Alcohol withdrawal: signs, symptoms & timeline

Alcohol is a powerful depressant that can cause irreversible damage to both the central nervous system and the brain. Alcoholics may feel as though they cannot function without alcohol in their system and the compulsion to overconsume is often out of their control. They may put their health, finances, career, and relationships on the line in order to feed this devastating addiction.

Withdrawal from alcohol occurs when a person who has become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol begins the process of getting the substance entirely out of their system.  Since the symptoms of alcoholism can be fatal—as can the side effects of withdrawal when done without medical supervision—proper detoxification and rehabilitation in a medical facility are strongly urged for those seeking sobriety.

monitored detoxification, as well as inpatient and outpatient care.  Medical professionals properly assess the extent of the alcoholism (whether it is mild, moderate, or severe), comfortably guide and aid the patient through withdrawal, and provide addicts with the tools and methods necessary to help them achieve lifelong sobriety.

Alcohol withdrawal introduction

Alcohol withdrawal has three stages and begins within the first few hours after a person has had their last drink (it can begin as early as six to eight hours). Withdrawal can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the disease and the person’s overall health. The severity of withdrawal tends to be greater when illicit or prescription drugs are used along with alcohol.

Alcohol withdrawal is inherently dangerous and can lead to life-threatening conditions or death. It is highly recommended not to attempt alcohol withdrawal without medical supervision.

Alcohol withdrawal signs and symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are highly dependent on how long alcoholic has been drinking, how much they drink, and if they have other health conditions.

Some common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include anxiety, insomnia, nausea, stomach pains, high blood pressure, irritability, increased body temperature, headache, tremors, vomiting, dizziness, muscle weakness, sweating, and a faster heart rate.

Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are fever, disorientation, and delirium tremens, also known as DTS.

DTS is a form of alcohol withdrawal that involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes. DTS, which is considered a serious medical condition, takes place when someone stops drinking after a period of heavy alcohol consumption (typically within 48 to 96 hours after the last drink) and can be life-threatening.

The symptoms of DTS can include seizures, hallucinations, changes in mental functions, long periods of deep sleep, sudden mood changes, overwhelming excitement or fear, stupor, fatigue, restlessness, agitation, and sensitivity to light, sound, and touch.

Due to the potential severity of alcohol withdrawal and the very serious associated health risks we strongly recommend medically monitored and supported detoxification. At Recovery Centers of America, our staff of highly trained medical and clinical professionals can treat and relieve the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal and ensure the alcohol detox is safe and successful.

Alcohol withdrawal can be excruciating and dangerous, but with the support and help of Recovery Centers of America, those being treated will not only feel more comfortable throughout the process but will have the professional support they need to achieve lasting recovery from alcohol addiction.

Alcohol withdrawal timeline

Alcohol withdrawal timeline varies depending on patient history and typically has three phases. These phases, and their timelines, are all dependent on the severity of the addiction as well as other factors that may impact the withdrawal, including other health problems.

The first phase of alcohol withdrawal, and its associated symptoms (mentioned previously), typically lasts between 24 and 72 hours but, for some, it may go on for weeks.

The second phase begins 12 to 48 hours after the symptoms begin to peak and can lead to other side effects that include increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.

The third and final phase occurs when all of the symptoms begin to taper off, which can take anywhere between 4 to 7 days, however some symptoms may continue for a longer period of time.

Mild alcohol withdrawal vs. severe alcohol withdrawal

As there are mild and severe levels of alcoholism, there are also mild and severe levels of alcohol withdrawal. These can be measured by the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol Scale (CIWA-Ar), which ranks the various symptoms on a point scale.

Mild alcohol withdrawal is when an addict in the detoxification process endures a few of the symptoms, such as mild nausea, mild anxiety, mild perspiration, and/or mild headaches. They may also experience some moderate versions of the other symptoms associated with withdrawal.

On the other end of the spectrum is severe alcohol withdrawal. This is when an addict, who may have had a longer period of heavy drinking, experiences the most intense effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Severe alcohol withdrawal can include the potentially life-threatening delirium tremens (DTS).

Those who choose to quit “cold turkey,” without treatment in a medical facility during their detoxification, may endure the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal for weeks at a time.

Whether a patient is dealing with mild or severe alcohol withdrawal, the highly trained, respected, and compassionate medical staff of Recovery Centers of America will be there every step of the way, to get patients through the detoxification process and successfully transition them to inpatient and outpatient treatment (30 days and 60 days, respectively). By following these safe and proven steps of recovery and rehabilitation, patients will be given all the help and tools necessary for lasting sobriety.



Treatment Advisor
Standing By, 24/7