Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: Sobriety

If you have ever experienced a hangover after a night of drinking, you've experienced the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. However, for many people who struggle with alcohol addiction, the withdrawal process is much more intense than a simple hangover. In fact, the effects of alcohol withdrawal can be so intense that it may keep an alcoholic from getting the help they so desperately need. With the help of an alcohol withdrawal timeline, you know exactly what to expect at every stage of the alcohol withdrawal process. You can confidently detox from alcohol with the help of medical professionals and loved ones.

After gaining awareness of your addiction, it's overwhelming to know where to begin and when to seek help. Knowing exactly what to expect on your road to recovery will help. We have demystified the alcohol withdrawal timeline so you or a loved one experiencing alcohol addiction can know what alcohol withdrawal is, what symptoms to expect along the way to recovery, and how you can safely detox alcohol from your system for good.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Man Looking At Alcohol

Alcohol withdrawal occurs 6-8 hours following your last drink. For a lot of people, this means a nasty Sunday morning hangover. For others, it marks the start of the alcohol withdrawal timeline on their journey towards sobriety. Because alcohol is a depressant, it decreases the activity of the central nervous system. When you expose your body to high alcohol levels on a daily basis, your body begins to rely on alcohol to function. When you quit using alcohol suddenly after a period of excessive drinking, this triggers alcohol withdrawal symptoms because your body literally does not know how to function without it.

Who Gets Alcohol Withdrawal?

Woman Distressed

Everyone who drinks has experienced alcohol withdrawal if they have ever been had a hangover. The frequency and duration of your alcohol abuse will determine how your body responds to alcohol withdrawal.

Binge drinking on the weekends will not likely cause serious withdrawal symptoms. However, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention define heavy drinking as more than eight drinks per week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men. So anyone who meets that criteria for heavy drinking are susceptible to going through alcohol withdrawal when they suddenly lower their alcohol intake.

The following serving sizes are equivalent to one drink:

  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits or liquor, including gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 12 ounces of beer

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Phase 1: 6-12 hours following your last drink mild symptoms may occur.

Phase 2: 12-48 hours following your last drink moderate symptoms begin to occur.
Phase 3: 48-72 hours following your last drink severe and sometimes life-threatening symptoms begin to occur.

Below, we will detail exactly which symptoms are felt at each phase of the alcohol withdrawal timeline.

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary in severity depending on how long you've been abusing alcohol, and how long it has been since your last drink. Symptoms happen progressively in different stages and always follow the pattern of the alcohol withdrawal timeline. You will know exactly what to expect at every stage on your journey towards sobriety.

The likelihood of experiencing severe, life-threatening withdrawal symptoms increases the longer you have been drinking. Alcohol is the only drug that can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. Because of this, it is very important to contact a medical professional to come up with a plan to ease you into the detoxification process. Medical guidance is necessary to take you through the alcohol withdrawal timeline safely. Medical supervision will also decrease your chances of developing alcohol withdrawal syndrome which can produce life-threatening symptoms.

Alcohol can produce a myriad of symptoms ranging from mild to severe and life-threatening. It is important to know what to expect at every phase in the process to reduce the chances of life-threatening symptoms. There are three different phases that occur at different points during alcohol detoxification that each brings different symptoms. After about 5 to 8 days, symptoms begin to subside. Keep in mind that sleep disturbances, irritability, and fatigue may continue for months following alcohol detox.

Phase One Symptoms

Woman With Headache

Phase one symptoms begin 6 to 12 hours following your last drink. These symptoms usually mimic the feeling of a hangover. At this phases in the alcohol withdrawal timeline, the symptoms have stronger effects on your mood and cognition than they do physically. Common symptoms of phase one alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Headaches
  • Alcohol craving
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stress and irritability
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Unclear thinking
  • Fatigue
  • Clammy skin
  • Minor hand tremors
  • Insomnia and nightmares

Phase Two Symptoms

Woman With Fever

Phase Two symptoms begin 12 to 48 hours following your last drink. Medical attention is necessary at this phase because the potential for life-threatening seizures and other more severe symptoms begin at this point. The body's vital signs are affected and should be monitored by a doctor closely. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome may develop at this phase. Common symptoms of phase two alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Mental confusion, including hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fever
  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Seizures

Phase Three Symptoms

Distored Walking People

Phase Three symptoms begin 48 to 72 hours following your last drink. At this point, seizures and hallucinations can progress to a potentially life-threatening episode of delirium tremens. About 3 to 5% of people who detox from alcohol experience delirium tremens and the likelihood you will experience it increases based on the amount of time you have been drinking heavily. Common symptoms of phase three alcohol withdrawal and delirium tremens include:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme agitation
  • Seizures
  • Delirium tremens‚Äč
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Extreme anxiety

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

Man With Tummy Ache

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a severe, life-threatening reaction to alcohol withdrawal that requires immediate medical attention. To decrease the chances of getting alcohol withdrawal syndrome, it is advised that you only detox under the supervision of a medical professional. Do not quit using alcohol suddenly after years of heavy drinking.

A doctor will perform toxicology screenings to measure the amount of alcohol in your blood and assess your symptoms to diagnose you with alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Hand tremors, an irregular heart rate, dehydration, and fever are all common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. More serious symptoms include seizures, hallucinations and delirium tremens. These symptoms require treatment from a medical professional.

How to Get Through Alcohol Withdrawal Safely

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, first learn about the alcohol withdrawal timeline to understand what you will go through. After this. it is time to look for medical help to start the detoxification process. Getting help from a medical professional during the detox process will ease your symptoms while you withdraw. Alcohol withdrawal may seem intimidating, but with the right help you can go through the steps and phases of the alcohol withdrawal timeline safely.

Where You Can Detox

You have a couple of different options when it comes to where you would like to receive treatment for alcohol withdrawal. If alcohol abuse is the only addiction you are struggling with, then detoxing at home may be the best option for you. You may also detox in a hospital or rehabilitation center if you are struggling with multiple addictions or feel you need the extra help and supervision.

No matter what option you choose, it is always advised that you consult with a medical professional before beginning the detoxification program to reduce life-threatening complications.

Medications Used to Help Detox

Doctor With A Man

Doctors will often prescribe benzodiazepines to help ease your withdrawal symptoms and increase your chances of staying sober. Common benzodiazepine brand names include:

  • Ativan
  • Klonopin
  • Xanax
  • Valium

Your doctor may also recommend vitamin and mineral supplements to treat any deficiencies. Excessive drinking depletes vitamins and minerals in the body.

Find Your Support System

People Holding Hands

Besides working with a medical professional, finding support in family and friends is essential in the recovery process. Surround yourself with people who want to see you get better.

Figuring out the right treatment plan after detoxing is important for increasing your chances of long-term sobriety. In recovery, some people choose a rehabilitation center for care if they are still struggling after the detox process. Others join local support groups to help keep them accountable during the quest for long-term sobriety.

Whatever you choose, it is important to receive support from loved ones and/or support groups to increase the chances of staying sober. You can always call the Addiction and Alcohol Hotline toll-free, for confidential help and support. You can reach them for 24/7 guidance at 1 (844) 244-3171.

Conclusion

With a solid support system and knowledge of the alcohol withdrawal timeline, you can help yourself or a loved one suffering from alcohol addiction detox from alcohol safely. Knowing the alcohol withdrawal timeline is the first step toward a life of sobriety. Knowing what to expect at every stage of the alcohol withdrawal process makes a difficult task much easier to manage.

Always remember, you do not have to detox alone. Detoxing under the supervision of a medical professional, whether in a rehabilitation center, hospital, or in the comfort of your own home, helps you to go through the stages of alcohol withdrawal with minimal complications.

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