Alcohol Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline, and Detox

Legacy Healing Center Blog

Alcohol continues to be one of the most popular substance addictions that is seen throughout the nation among all walks of life. Although nearly 18 million adults suffer from alcoholism, less than 7% of those suffering will seek the treatment that they need to achieve sobriety.

Attempting sobriety alone without medical detox and alcohol treatment, it can be extremely difficult for those suffering from alcohol use disorder to get sober and stay sober. If you are suffering from an alcohol use disorder and are wanting to get help, you probably have many questions about the alcohol withdrawal process.

Many people who suffer from alcoholism will continue to drink in order to avoid going into alcohol withdrawal because the symptoms can be brutal and problematic. Alcohol takes a serious toll on the mind and body, making alcohol withdrawal a potentially dangerous and difficult experience to endure. Despite the severity of alcohol withdrawal, it is the first step in living a healthy, sober lifestyle.

Alcohol Tolerance and Dependence

Two factors that help determine whether or not a person has a problem with alcohol are tolerance and physical dependence. If a person drinks alcohol in large amounts over an extended period of time, they can develop both tolerance and physical dependence on alcohol. Abusing alcohol results in the gradual rewiring of the brain, to the point where a person’s body will begin to demand more and more alcohol in order to feel intoxicated. When a person needs to drink an increasing amount of alcohol to produce the desired effects, they are developing a tolerance.

Once tolerance has been developed, it is likely that people who abuse alcohol will become physically dependent on it as well. Dependency is characterized by the body demanding and requiring alcohol in order to function normally without going into withdrawal.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are not only extremely uncomfortable, but they also have the potential to be dangerous and even life-threatening. Withdrawals can be so unruly, that many people who attempt to detox on their own will end up drinking once again due to an inability to stay sober on their own. Fortunately, medical alcohol detox can help people who are suffering from alcohol withdrawal to safely and comfortably complete the withdrawal process. In medical detox, professional medical care can be provided to you around the clock.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Different factors may determine both the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and the length of time it takes to recover from alcohol withdrawal. These factors include age, weight, gender, how long a person has been abusing alcohol, overall physical health, and the status of a person’s mental health. Despite the fact that people may experience alcohol withdrawal differently from one another, it can be identified by a variety of symptoms.

If you experience any of these symptoms when you stop drinking, it is an indication that you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal.

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Sweating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Impaired judgment
  • Problems with memory
  • Tremors
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Headaches
  • Hallucinations (auditory or visual)
  • Delusions
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens

Delirium tremens is the most severe, life-threatening symptom of alcohol withdrawal that is only seen in some of the worst cases. It can lead to many complications that can quickly turn fatal. Some of these complications include respiratory arrest, cardiac arrhythmia, aspiration pneumonitis, stroke, or heart attack.

A person has a higher chance of experiencing delirium tremens if they meet any of the following criteria.

  • Middle-aged or senior citizen
  • History of seizures during prior alcohol withdrawal
  • Suffer from a mental illness, like depression or bipolar
  • Show signs of abnormal liver function
  • Have a long personal or family history of alcoholism
  • Sweating
  • Depression

Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal

Although alcohol withdrawal is certainly not a pleasant experience, it is necessary for those who want to get sober. Early alcohol withdrawal symptoms may show their face as soon as 4-12 hours after a person has stopped drinking. After approximately 48 hours, withdrawal symptoms are usually at their worst, then slowly begin to subside over the next few days. The majority of alcohol withdrawal symptoms will have passed within a week. In some more severe cases, a few withdrawal symptoms may linger for up to a month after a person’s last drink.

People who are more likely to experience a longer, drawn-out withdrawal period where some symptoms linger for a longer period of time are those who:

  • Habitually combine alcohol with other drugs
  • Suffer from another health condition, such as heart disease, liver disease, or kidney failure
  • Have experienced alcohol withdrawal frequently at prior occasions

Medical Detox

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism, medical detox is the first step towards achieving sobriety. It is so important to check into a medical detox facility rather than to attempt detox at home in order to maintain you or your loved one’s safety. Attempting to detox alone increases the chances of both health complications as well as relapse.

When you enter a medical detox, a detox specialist will meet with you to determine the severity of your withdrawal symptoms in order to provide you with the best care possible. In addition to assessing your symptoms, they will get to know you and your drinking habit in order to help develop a successful aftercare plan to guide you on the road to recovery.

If necessary, you will be given medication to make your withdrawals less painful to allow you to have a comfortable experience. Valium is frequently given to slowly taper people off of alcohol while allowing their minds and bodies to rest.

Our addiction specialists at Legacy Healing Detox will provide you or your loved one with around the clock care while you complete the detox process. Detox staff will be there to monitor your symptoms and be prepared to intervene in case of an emergency. They will monitor your blood pressure, temperature, and heart rate as well as making sure you are hydrated. We aim to build relationships with our patients by ensuring that they have a safe, comfortable detox. The length of your stay will vary depending on the severity of the symptoms you are experiencing, but rest assured that we will be with you every step of the way.

Alcohol Treatment

While alcohol detox is the first step in recovery, individuals who complete alcohol treatment have shown higher success rates at long term sobriety. At Legacy Healing Detox we will set you up with an appropriate aftercare plan to treat your alcoholism and any underlying mental health conditions that you may be suffering from. It takes more than just detoxing from alcohol to achieve sobriety, it takes treating your mind and body in healthy ways and giving yourself time to heal.

Alcohol treatment consists of integrated therapy techniques, such as group therapy, individual therapy, holistic therapy, and more. Once the alcohol has left your body and you are feeling better physically, it is time to build the proper coping techniques and support groups that you will need in order to stay sober. Give us a call today and begin your journey of sobriety!


MedicineNet Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Medline Plus Alcohol Withdrawal
Medical News Today Signs of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
Healthline Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium