Guidelines When Considering Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Table of Contents
- Guidelines When Considering Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
- What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
- Understanding Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
- What are the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
- The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
- How is Alcohol Withdrawal Treated?
- The Importance of Medical Detox In Treating Alcohol Withdrawal
- FAQs on How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last
- Find Treatment Programs for Alcohol Today!
- Medically Reviewed By
If you are recovering from an alcohol addiction, you may find yourself experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Because of the severe nature of alcohol withdrawal, it is not recommended to go through this process alone. But how long does alcohol withdrawal last?
Because everyone’s recovery process will look different, it can be difficult to determine the exact length and intensity of your alcohol withdrawal process.
Keep reading to learn more about alcohol withdrawal, its stages, its symptoms, and how you can get help to stop drinking today!
What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, slowing down brain functions and disrupting the body’s ability to send messages back and forth.
Over time, the body becomes used to having constant access to this substance and is used to working overtime to keep your system running.
When there is a sudden drop in these alcohol levels, the brain stays working hard while expecting its usual intake of alcohol.
This is what causes the body to go into withdrawal, bringing with it a variety of unpleasant and potentially life-threatening side effects.
Understanding Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) describes that someone with an alcohol use disorder can be more accurately described as having a chronic disease, rather than someone who has bad habits.
Alcohol can chemically alter the makeup of the user’s brain, making it dependent on this substance for its ability to produce dopamine.
Drinking can make the user produce dopamine more quickly and in larger amounts than they normally would, producing feelings of euphoria and happiness.
This can lead them to continue drinking which, over time, will cause them to develop a physical dependence on alcohol.
Once this happens, it will be difficult and potentially dangerous for them to quit drinking on their own. It is also common for those struggling with alcohol dependence to have a co-occurring mental illness that may be contributing to their drinking habits.
In this case, these individuals will need to seek out substance abuse treatment programs that will address both their surface-level addiction, as well as its underlying causes.
What are the Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
There are many side effects that can come with alcohol withdrawal. Depending on the severity of the individual’s addiction, these can range from mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms to more severe withdrawal symptoms.
No matter what type of withdrawal effects you may be experiencing, seeking professional help will always be the safest and best choice for managing these symptoms and getting sober successfully.
Moderate Withdrawal Symptoms
Even mild withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable enough to make you want to pick the bottle back up. Some of the most common less severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Mood swings
- Body aches
- Mild tremors
- Loss of appetite
While these are all common symptoms, everyone’s experience withdrawing from alcohol will vary. In order to be able to successfully avoid alcohol, getting professional treatment can help ease the withdrawal process and ensure a safe recovery.
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms
Those who drink heavily and have been abusing alcohol for a long time will be more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms in their more severe form.
Unfortunately, without proper physical and emotional support, many people will relapse. Some of the most common severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Severe confusion and disorientation
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe dehydration
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Cardiac issues
Many of these issues will require immediate medical attention in order to be properly managed. In more extreme cases, these can be fatal if the person attempts to detox without the proper help.
Delirium tremens (DTs) is one of the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. This side effect is more common in particularly heavy drinkers, or who have previously undergone alcohol withdrawal.
While this is a rare condition, it is one that has the potential to be life-threatening, consisting of symptoms like severe body tremors, irritability, confusion, hallucinations, and seizures.
For those experiencing this withdrawal condition, getting immediate help will be absolutely crucial for them to be able to recover safely.
The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
When it comes to the alcohol withdrawal stages, this exact timeline can vary on a case-by-case basis. With that being said, there is a general timeline that can be used to help determine what your withdrawal experience may look like.
Seeking professional treatment to help manage your alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be crucial for getting your life back on track safely and successfully.
Alcohol Withdrawal: Stage One
Most people will begin to develop their first alcohol withdrawal symptoms within 4-12 hours after their last drink. Generally, this stage will be somewhat mild, with more flu-like symptoms and intense cravings coming up during this time.
Of course, this does not mean it will be easy to handle. Getting assistance from a medical professional will be crucial for getting through the first few hours of withdrawal.
Alcohol Withdrawal: Stage Two
For most people, the 24-72 hours after the last drink will be the most severe stage of their alcohol withdrawal process.
By the second day of no alcohol, individuals will be experiencing the peak of their withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
This makes stage two of alcohol withdrawal a critical time in their recovery process and one that will require extensive emotional and physical support to maintain sobriety.
Alcohol Withdrawal: Stage Three
The third stage of withdrawal generally starts 48-72 hours after a person’s last drink. For those who develop delirium tremens, the symptoms of this condition will start to come up during this stage.
Symptoms experienced during the third stage of alcohol withdrawal may progress for up to 3-4 days, although some people may continue to experience them for up to eight.
Alcohol Withdrawal: Stage Four
For most people, their withdrawal symptoms should start to abate within 4-5 days. Of course, this may not be the case for everyone.
Withdrawal symptoms can last for up to a few weeks in more severe cases and will require regular supervision and support in order to be properly managed.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
Some people may experience withdrawal symptoms far past the usual timeline most individuals will follow. This is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) and can extend over a period of months or even years.
Some of the most commonly experienced PAWS symptoms include anxiety, irritability, depression, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, brain fog, low libido, and muscle aches and pains.
How is Alcohol Withdrawal Treated?
Treating alcohol addiction will require extensive and intensive care. As stated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), taking an integrated approach to the treatment process will be best for those recovering from an alcohol use disorder.
There are several treatment options available to help individuals recover from alcohol abuse, including medically supervised alcohol detox programs, inpatient rehab, outpatient treatment, medication management, and behavioral therapies.
With that being said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the addiction recovery process. What works for one person may not work for you.
This is why it is important to consult with an addiction specialist about what levels of care will be best for your care needs.
The Find Addiction Rehabs team can help you understand all of your treatment options, and what services you will need to overcome your addiction and achieve long-term sobriety.
The Importance of Medical Detox In Treating Alcohol Withdrawal
Withdrawing from alcohol can be an unpleasant and potentially life-threatening process. If someone decides to suddenly stop drinking after forming a dependency on this substance, their body may not be able to handle the shock of no longer having access to this substance.
This is why it is never recommended to quit drinking “cold turkey.” Rather, those who are recovering from alcohol addiction are strongly encouraged to seek help through a medical detox facility.
By participating in a medical alcohol detox program, the individual will be able to be gradually weaned off of alcohol. This will be done under constant supervision and support from licensed medical professionals and may include a number of services like:
- Medication-Assisted Treatment
- Nutritional counseling
- Recovery diet and foods that help with alcohol cravings
- Counseling services
Each of these services will help to minimize withdrawal symptoms and cravings, which are both major causes of relapse for those recovering from an addiction.
If you are struggling with alcohol abuse, the Find Addiction Rehabs team can help you find addiction treatment programs that will help you get your life back on track!
FAQs on How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last
What Factors Can Influence the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?
Just as every person’s alcohol use will vary, so too will their withdrawal and recovery process from the abuse of this substance.
There are several factors that can affect how long it will take for someone to completely withdraw from alcohol, including:
- Their alcohol intake levels.
- How often their alcohol consumption takes place.
- Their height and weight.
- Their age.
- Whether they are abusing other substances.
- Whether they have any co-occurring mental health disorders.
- Whether they have any other medical complications.
Can I Detox From Alcohol By Myself?
Even mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be highly unpleasant and increase an individual’s risk of relapse. It is for this reason that it is never recommended to attempt alcohol detox on your own.
Getting professional alcohol withdrawal treatment will always be your best and safest option for successfully achieving and maintaining long-term sobriety.
Is Drinking Alcohol Dangerous?
While alcohol may not necessarily be dangerous while enjoyed in moderation, having too much to drink – especially when done frequently – can have various adverse health effects. Generally, one or two drinks are the maximum recommended amount for adults.
Drinking over five drinks in a small period of time is known as binge drinking, and can be detrimental to an individual’s physical health, including an increased risk of alcohol poisoning which can be life-threatening.
With prolonged alcohol abuse, individuals may be at risk of various adverse side effects, including abnormal liver function and disease, mental disorders, impaired brain functioning, high blood pressure, nervous system disease, and organ damage, to name a few.
Find Treatment Programs for Alcohol Today!
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol and want to stop drinking, the Find Addiction Rehabs team is here to help!
Our hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer all of your recovery questions and find treatment programs nationwide that are capable of serving all of your personal care needs.
The only person who can make the choice to get the help you need is you. Call now, and one of our representatives will help walk you through the treatment process and get you started on the road to sobriety, today!
Deborah Tayloe is a freelance writer specializing in health and sciences. Deborah earned a B.S.Ed. in Secondary Education/English, accompanied by a Spanish minor. Her writing expertise allows her to craft engaging, impactful articles to help people be well.
In addition, she holds a fully accredited Certificate of Natural Medicine and is a certified Herbalist. Through her understanding of complementary medicine, Deborah helps medical professionals give people the information they need to embrace natural approaches to wellness.
When she’s not working, Deborah trains for 5K races and advocates for animal rights.