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How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last–Things You Need to Know

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Most people do not realize that alcohol withdrawal is just as dangerous as alcoholism.

People, including their loved ones and even the alcoholics themselves, mostly mistake the severe withdrawal symptoms as only a simple side effect linked to recovery. 

However, severe withdrawal symptoms can become life-endangering for many people suffering from severe alcohol addiction – and the immediate dangers of withdrawal outweigh the benefits.

It is undoubtedly counterintuitive to suggest people with severe alcohol addictions avoid quitting alcohol to reduce the many risks of withdrawal.

However, under proper medical supervision and professional medical advice, doctors and alcohol specialists recommend alcohol detox centers.

What to Look For in an Alcohol Rehab Center

Things you should consider while choosing a treatment facility or a rehab facility:

  • Medical professionals capable of offering instant professional help and emotional support to people struggling with alcohol withdrawal symptoms with workable addiction treatment.
  • Diverse medical attention and medical care for varying medical problems/conditions – both detoxification and withdrawal.
  • Functional medical emergency equipped with doctors and medical equipment 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The detox medical facility and medical professionals at Indiana Center for Recovery are research-backed and compassionate, with unique and individual ongoing support programs involving family members.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol is a known depressor of the CNS, a.k.a. central nervous system.

Alcohol intake promotes feelings of euphoria and relaxation. As the human body tries to maintain balance, it shall signal the brain to make more neurotransmitter receptors responsible for exciting or stimulating the CNS – the central nervous system.

When a person quits excessive drinking, they take alcohol away from pre-existing receptors and newly made receptors. Resulting in an overactive nervous system. 

This causes many severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Increased alcohol cravings
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Liver disease
  • Irritability
  • Rapid Heart Rate
  • Mood Swings
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Fever

More Severe Symptoms of alcohol use disorder – a person might experience delirium tremens or DTs or alcohol withdrawal delirium.

In more complicated instances, a person might experience delirium tremens, DTs, which are the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including:

  • High Body Temperature
  • Seizures
  • Illusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia

These are the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal delirium that arguably may or may not increase the mortality rate of the patients.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

At what time, for how long, and how severe withdrawal is for you depends on your specific unique situation.

Many individuals go towards recovery from the symptoms of withdrawal in the very first week of quitting alcohol addiction. While symptoms you are facing might not follow the same alcohol withdrawal timeline, most people go through withdrawal in three factors and stages.

Stage 1: Mild Symptoms

Mild symptoms or minor withdrawal symptoms can take place in the first 6 hours of taking the last of your alcoholic drinks. The initial symptoms are primarily mild but are uncomfortable. 

These may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia and other sleep deprivation problems
  • Nausea
  • Shakes or the tremors
  • Fluctuation in the blood pressure

There is a chance that you will recover from the alcohol withdrawal symptoms after going through these.

How long does this stage last?

The first stage of minor withdrawal symptoms might last up to 7 days.

Stage 2: Severe Symptoms

People who go through these severe symptoms – including seizures- face these in the first 48 hours of alcohol withdrawal.

A small percentage (5% in the United States) going through withdrawal will enter this phase within the first 48 hours of their last intake of alcoholic beverages. More than 5% of people without treatment will likely enter this phase and get seizures.

The good news is that if you have not developed such symptoms even after the first 48 hours of withdrawal, you will likely not go through these and might only get mild symptoms.

However, you may develop severe symptoms later on – and if this happens, we advise patients to seek professional medical care.

How long does this stage last?

This second stage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms mostly heightens between 24 to 72 hours after the last drink. 

Stage 3: Delirium Tremens

Approximately 50% of people who get alcohol withdrawal-related seizures will develop DTs or delirium tremens.

Most individuals who get delirium tremens develop symptoms between 48 to 72 hours after stopping drinking. This essentially makes the first few days after quitting alcohol quite dangerous and a critical time of the withdrawal stage.

People must seek medical care and attention while going through this phase – primarily if they exhibit delirium tremens symptoms.

You must seek medical care during this phase, especially if you’re presenting with symptoms of DTs.

How long does this stage last?

Stage 3 of alcohol withdrawal symptoms might last for 2 to 3 days. However, varying differently for individuals, these might linger up to a week.

Stage 4: Post-Acute Withdrawal

Some individuals who are withdrawing from alcohol abuse when kicking the alcohol dependence might end up feeling the withdrawal symptoms for a more extended period, lasting from weeks to months after quitting drinking.

Heavy drinkers face the lingering effects of alcohol-led post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS. The lasting symptoms of PAWS include trouble, sleep disturbances, and mood swings.

How long does this stage last?

Stage 4 or the PAWS symptoms resulting from alcohol withdrawal might last for six months and up to two years.

Specialist doctors at Indiana Center for Recovery suggest seeking appropriate treatment based on the patient’s individual needs on a regular basis. 

Considering the long time it takes to recover from PAWS, it is a good idea to evaluate the risk factors in detail with your healthcare provider and recovery specialist for a sufficient time. 

The best way to ensure the good health of individuals suffering from PAWS is by looking for:

  • Treatment programs
  • Physical exam
  • Support groups
  • Treatment options – that are specific to PAWS.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome Fatality

Effects of alcohol consumption, drugs, and others of the exact nature (addiction-inducing) can be fatal if you try to navigate the medical conditions arising from withdrawal alone.

While extremely rare, the list of medical conditions below can become life-threatening. 

Although they’re relatively rare, the following conditions related to alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. If you experience the symptoms of these conditions, it’s essential to get medical care immediately.

First off, we have –

DTs or Delirium Tremens

DTs is the severe form of alcohol withdrawal symptom – 2% of people suffering from alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome get Delirium Tremens when they quit drinking.

Symptoms of DTs include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Energy bursts
  • Fever and hyperthermia
  • Grand mal seizures
  • Agitation
  • Rapid mood changes
  • Severe sweating

As with many other alcohol-related health conditions, delirium tremens is not fatal – but it can be in the absence of a workable treatment program and healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about DTs regularly. 

The DTs mortality rate is close to 37%  for people who do not seek treatment.

However, this number is much lower for individuals who seek medical care to treat their symptoms.

DTs is an emergency room-worthy problem – so don’t wait if you are feeling any of the symptoms of delirium tremens – get to your nearest hospital or call 911.

No matter the amount of time, the goal of treatment should be complete recovery – from cold turkey cases of alcohol detox symptoms to severe DTs symptoms.

Within reason, the alcohol use history of an individual affects the recovery time disregarding the rare cases and examples of immediate recovery.

Seizures

Drugs and alcohol withdrawal seizures can be fatal in some rare cases; they mostly come into notice before the onset of DTs. 

According to reports, a third of people who start having seizures are likely to develop delirium tremens or DTs – thus, it is an important symptom to pay attention to.

Heart Failure

Alcohol drinking problems and withdrawal leads to heart problems – due to how alcohol affects your internal organs. This becomes more important if you are experiencing any DT symptoms during your withdrawal process.

More focused research is required to channel the clear connection between alcohol withdrawal and fatal heart failure.

PAWS

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS, is a set of volatile impairments that can last a week or even months after quitting binge drinking or suffering from any substance use disorder. 

PAWS can also be called:

  • Post-withdrawal syndrome
  • Protracted withdrawal syndrome
  • Prolonged withdrawal syndrome

PAWS comes with symptoms that are pretty similar to those seen in many other mood disorders and anxiety disorders, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Inflated anxiety without cause

PAWS symptoms can manifest after the withdrawal from benzodiazepines (refer to benzo treatment), alcohol, and opioid addiction. However, PAWS can also be triggered with the cessation of other psychoactive substances.

Detox from Alcohol

Detoxification time varies among individuals and between men and women.

How much alcohol you have had also determines how long you have been drinking. The first 72 hours are the worst for withdrawals; however, most people’s symptoms subside after five days or so.

Doctors and medical professionals alike recommend professional alcohol detox for individuals who are looking to quit drinking. The withdrawal symptoms are pretty standard for anyone who has stopped drinking cold turkey.

As the side effects of alcohol withdrawal are so dangerous to an individual’s health –medical doctors and professionals recommend professional supervision during the alcohol detox journey.

Slowly weaning a person off alcohol causes less of a stir resulting in limited shocks to the body. Constant medical supervision is perfect for avoiding withdrawal symptoms; however, it might not always be an answer. 

Most people cannot wean off alcohol a little at a time without expert help – thus, cold turkey quitting is a choice so many people make.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the alcohol withdrawal timeline?

Check out the abbreviated timeline of the three stages below with extended information on each;

Stage 1 – this begins within the first 6 hours of the long-term drinkers quitting and can end up to 7 days
Stage 2 – this stage starts within the first 48 hours after a person ditches excessive drinking, lasting up to a week
Stage 3 – for heavier drinkers, begins in the first 48 hours and can last up to 2 to 3 days of withdrawal from substance abuse.

What to expect from your body when you stop drinking?

When an individual stops drinking, they might experience withdrawal symptoms, including:

Tremors
Profuse sweating
Disturbance in sleep patterns
Volatile heartbeat
Nausea
Hallucinations
Restlessness
DTs
Vomiting
Anxiety
PAWS

How long does alcohol withdrawal last?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur approximately 8 hours after the last drink.

However, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can also start to appear as fast as two hours after people take their last drink. These symptoms last anywhere from a week to several weeks – all depending on the severe alcohol withdrawal side effects and its resulting symptoms.

Kick Addiction with Indiana Center for Recovery

Many believe avoiding alcohol in the first year is the hardest. The statistics indicate that people staying sober for 12 months are much more likely to recover fully.

Finding an appropriate and professional detox center like Indiana Center for Recovery boosts the chances of an individual minimizing the withdrawal symptoms that occur in the days following the end of addiction

Moreover, the supervised dual diagnosis treatments make the process even safer – increasing the likelihood of a positive change in the longer run.

For more information about our treatment plans, please contact us today.