Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Man looking at a glass of alcohol

Alcohol withdrawal is usually the first stage of recovery from alcohol dependence. It’s completely normal to feel anxious, scared, or uncomfortable about the idea of going through alcohol withdrawal, given how it can trigger a wide range of unpleasant symptoms. Knowing exactly what to expect during withdrawal can help you prepare mentally, though it’s also important to know that an alcohol rehab center can effectively treat and relieve your symptoms.

Continue reading to learn more about the alcohol withdrawal timeline.

0 to 6 Hours After The Last Drink

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually do not begin for at least six hours after your last drink. If you’ve decided to withdraw from alcohol at an addiction treatment center, your medical team may spend this time discussing and developing your treatment plan and helping you get situated in your room. Alcohol withdrawal is typically treated with alcohol detox, which aims to manage and reduce your physical withdrawal symptoms.

6 to 12 Hours After The Last Drink

Early symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually begin during this timeframe. According to a 2016 study published in the journal Drugs, symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shaking and tremors
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing

These symptoms often gradually worsen after they begin. The World Health Organization states that patients going through alcohol withdrawal may be given multivitamins and vitamin B1 (thiamine) supplements to prevent cognitive problems induced by heavy alcohol use. You will also be encouraged to drink lots of water to replenish fluids lost through sweating and vomiting, along with medications that reduce your symptoms.

12 to 24 Hours After The Last Drink

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally intensify after 12 to 24 hours. In addition to early withdrawal symptoms, you may also begin to experience agitation and paranoia. An estimated 25% of people experience hallucinations during this time, though this symptom tends to be more common among those with severe alcohol dependence.

If your withdrawal symptoms are severe, you may be given a benzodiazepine medication called diazepam to relieve your symptoms. Diazepam is a long-acting drug that produces many of the same effects as alcohol, which helps dull and minimize unpleasant symptoms.

Other alcohol withdrawal symptoms you may experience during this time, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Loss of appetite

24 to 48 Hours After The Last Drink

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually peak during hours 24 to 48. Seizures—including grand mal seizures—are a potential complication that can arise during this time, though many alcohol rehab centers can prevent them or greatly reduce your risk by giving you diazepam. Grand mal seizures affect an estimated 10% of people going through alcohol withdrawal, though this symptom is more likely to occur in those with severe alcohol dependence.

48 to 72 Hours After The Last Drink

Your symptoms may continue to peak during this time or start to gradually dissipate and lessen in severity, based on your unique situation and how you respond to detox treatment. Those with severe alcohol dependence may experience a severe form of withdrawal called delirium tremens, though the NLM states it could begin as late as seven to 10 days after the last drink. Delirium tremens affect an estimated 5% of people withdrawing from alcohol.

Symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • Delirium (severe confusion)
  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

72 Hours and Beyond

After 72 hours, your alcohol withdrawal symptoms will likely start to resolve. The average length of alcohol withdrawal is two to 10 days, though this timeline may be longer for some. Metabolism, nutrition status, physical activity level, and medical history are some of the many factors that can affect your withdrawal timeline. For example, those with poor nutrition and low immunity may need a longer time in which to fully recover from alcohol withdrawal and dependence.

If you are ready to withdraw from alcohol, please understand that an alcohol rehab with a detox center such as Hickory Treatment Centers can help you experience a safe, comfortable recovery and reduce your risk for complications, including seizures. Contact us for more information.

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If you have tried to stop using alcohol or drugs on your own, you may feel that sobriety and clean living seem far away. However, with the help of caring staff members and a safe, structured environment, you can receive the guidance you need to fight cravings and regain control of your life.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our admission staff or learn more about our healing programs.