alcohol withdrawal symptoms timeline

Overcoming alcohol addiction may result in withdrawal symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about the alcohol withdrawal symptoms timeline.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at the alcohol withdrawal symptoms timeline so you know what to expect.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline Can Vary For Each Individual

Addiction to alcohol can have detrimental effects on an individual’s life. Despite this, many people continue to abuse the drug deliberately to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Detox and withdrawal are common in discussions about addiction, due to the physical and psychological experiences associated with them.

You can attempt to detox at home, but the withdrawal symptoms could be dangerous and sometimes tragic if done without adequate medical attention, especially if your addiction is serious. However, attempts to cleanse your body is usually the initial step in putting your life back together.

Signs Of Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms can range from minor to severe. Mild withdrawal can result in headaches and nausea, whereas major withdrawal could result in delirium or even be fatal. The severity of the risks of withdrawal increase with the level of addiction.

Stages And Timelines


Alcohol withdrawal can be categorized into three stages:

Stage 1

The first stage, beginning approximately eight hours after having the last drink, includes insomnia, abdominal pains, and anxiety.

Stage 2

The second stage begins between 24- 72 hours after the last drink. It is characterized by increased body temperature, high blood pressure, confusion, and unusual heart rate.

Stage 3

The third stage comes with fever, agitation, and/or seizures. These symptoms manifest two to four days after having the last drink. Hallucinations can also happen during this stage.

All these symptoms gradually reduce within five to seven days.

The higher the amount of alcohol that a person consumes, the more their body becomes tolerant to it. This steadily increases the brain’s dependence on alcohol. Alcohol increases the dopamine levels in the brain, which flood it with feelings of pleasure. Alcohol can also boost a person’s self-confidence, improve their mood, and reduce inhibitions. These feelings are short-term, and dissipate as the alcohol clears from the bloodstream.

Detoxification Methods

The first step of detoxification involves monitoring and controlling the physical symptoms to the point of stability. This is most often achieved through medical detox, which incorporates medication in treating withdrawal symptoms such as dehydration, insomnia, nausea, and seizures. To reduce potential over-activity of the central nervous system, benzodiazepines are usually the drug of choice.

Other medicinal drugs that are used in detoxification include:

  • Naltrexone: blocks opioid receptors in the brain to inhibit cravings and the pleasurable feelings from alcohol use.
  • Acamprosate: manages long-term withdrawal symptoms.
  • Disulfiram: discourages drinking by inducing undesirable feelings when you drink alcohol.
  • Topiramate: inhibits the feel-good effects of alcohol and amplifies the withdrawal symptoms in case the patient indulges in drinking again.

During medical detox, trained staff monitor the patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and breathing rate at all times. Steps are taken to make sure that all these remain stable and are at safe levels.

Another non-medical method of detox is when the amount of alcohol consumed is reduced in a slow and detailed tapering procedure, developed and administered by medical professionals. This weans the body of alcohol in a controlled fashion, thereby ensuring that the patient does not experience adverse side effects of withdrawal.

Those that have advanced stages of dependence on alcohol sometimes suffer from malnutrition. In these cases, the medical professional could incorporate supplements, a healthy diet, and regular sleeping schedules to reduce the adversity of the withdrawal symptoms and promote faster healing of the body.

Medically-assisted detoxification, therapy, and counseling sessions could be vital for preventing potential suicidal ideation, depression, and anxiety. Detoxification should also include measures to prevent a relapse using 12-step programs to provide continuous support.

With all these factors considered, a medical detox program has the highest success rate for providing a comprehensive and supportive environment throughout all the stages of alcohol withdrawal and detoxification.