Now Accepting Blue Cross Blue Shield. Call Today!

How Long Is the Alcohol Withdrawal Process?

Last Updated: November 17, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Although the alcohol withdrawal timeline differs for everyone, symptoms often start mild and gradually intensify until they peak and then subside.

If you or someone you know is considering quitting alcohol, understanding the withdrawal process is important. Deciding to stop using alcohol is a brave step, and knowing what to expect can make the journey smoother. 

[rehab-location-widget]

The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Alcohol withdrawal follows a different timeline for everyone but is somewhat predictable. Symptoms generally start mild, gradually intensifying until they peak and subside afterward. 

  • Mild: This initial phase can start 6–12 hours after the last drink. Symptoms might include anxiety, insomnia, headache and abdominal cramping.
  • Moderate: This stage can begin 12–48 hours after the last drink. Symptoms can escalate to nausea, vomiting, tremors, clammy skin, jumpiness and confusion.
  • Severe: Starting 48–72 hours after the last drink, this is the most critical phase and is when symptoms typically peak. Symptoms can include hallucinations, fever, seizures and severe confusion. It's essential to seek medical attention if these severe symptoms develop.

Following the peak of symptoms, they will gradually subside over the next three to seven days until the physical symptoms of withdrawal are over. Depending on the individual, cravings and mood-related symptoms can last much longer, from weeks to years. These symptoms will gradually lessen in intensity over this timeframe until they are practically gone.

Factors Affecting Alcohol Withdrawal Duration

Several different factors can affect how an individual experiences withdrawal. These include:

  • Physical traits: Physical factors like gender, weight and age can influence how your body processes and reacts to the absence of alcohol.
  • Length and amount of alcohol intake: The longer and more heavily you've been drinking, the more pronounced your withdrawal symptoms are likely to be.
  • Severity of dependence: Those with a higher degree of alcohol dependence often face a more challenging withdrawal process.
  • Mental and physical health: Existing health conditions can complicate and prolong the withdrawal process. They can also increase the severity of developing symptoms.
  • Family history: Genetics can play a role in how you experience withdrawal.
  • Polysubstance abuse: Using other drugs and alcohol can intensify and prolong withdrawal symptoms.
  • Previous alcohol withdrawal: If you've gone through withdrawal before, you will likely experience more severe symptoms the next time.

The Importance of Medical Detoxification for Alcohol

Detoxing from alcohol at home might seem more comfortable or cost-efficient, but it can be dangerous. Alcohol withdrawal is the most hazardous form of withdrawal, even more dangerous than withdrawing from hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. Without professional help and support, withdrawal symptoms can escalate quickly, leading to severe health risks or even death. 

Medical detox provides a safe environment to manage symptoms, reduce discomfort and avoid life-threatening situations. It's always recommended to detox from alcohol under the care of medical professionals if there is any potential risk that moderate or severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms might develop.

What Is Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)?

After the initial withdrawal symptoms subside, some people experience Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome or PAWS. This condition can manifest as ongoing mood swings, prolonged insomnia and even cognitive issues. It's essential to recognize these symptoms and seek ongoing support, as they can last for months or even years after quitting alcohol. Rehab can help minimize PAWS or equip you to manage it better if it develops.

Support and Aftercare After Rehab

Completing rehab is a significant achievement, but the journey doesn't end there. Aftercare is vital to maintain long-term sobriety and prevent relapse. Options include therapy, support groups, sober living homes and outpatient programs. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous can provide a valuable resource for your long-term success. Surrounding yourself with a supportive community can make all the difference in your recovery journey.

Help for Alcohol Detox at The Recovery Village Kansas City

If you're seeking help for alcohol detox, The Recovery Village Kansas City offers comprehensive care tailored to your unique needs. With a team of experts and a holistic approach, we will help you embark on a path to recovery in a supportive, comfortable and safe environment. Contact us today to learn how we can help you achieve lasting freedom from the effects of alcohol addiction.

Sources

MedlinePlus. “Alcohol.” March 22, 2022. Accessed August 16, 2023. 

Berman, Jacob. “Alcohol withdrawal.” MedlinePlus. February 28, 2023. Accessed August 16, 2023. 

Newman, Richard K.; Gallagher, Megan A. Stobart; & Gomez, Anna E. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” StatPearls. August 29, 2022. Accessed August 16, 2023.

Mental Health Foundation. “Alcohol and mental health.” February 16, 2022. Accessed August 16, 2023.