Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: How Long Does Alcohol Detox Take?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a complex mental and behavioral health condition that is characterized by a psychological and physical dependence on alcohol. Dependence forms after long-term daily use. Over time, the body adjusts to having alcohol in the system, and it requires alcohol to function normally. If you are dependent on alcohol and suddenly stop drinking, you will experience symptoms of withdrawal that can range from uncomfortable but mild to severe and life-threatening.

Many people who struggle with alcoholism are hesitant to enlist professional help. Like others, you may be tempted to try and stop drinking by yourself, but this can be a dangerous thing to do. The alcohol withdrawal timeline varies from one person to the next, and without medical care, you could end up relapsing or experiencing potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms.

Knowing what to expect, how long alcohol detox lasts, and how a detox center can help may make you realize just how important it is to ask for help.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms and Timeline

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

About 14.5 million people in the United States ages 12 and older have an alcohol use disorder.[1] While some people abuse alcohol and drink regularly without ever having symptoms of withdrawal, heavy drinkers are likely to struggle with the transition from daily alcohol use to sobriety. In most cases, more severe withdrawal symptoms are associated with higher doses of alcohol.[2]

Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:[3]

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Tremors or shakes
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Hot flashes
  • Impaired judgment and memory
  • Hyperthermia
  • Visual or auditory hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Delusions
  • Delirium tremens (DTs) – are the most severe symptom that is characterized by delirium and a change in consciousness. DTs are most common in older patients with a long history of alcohol use and poor liver function. This symptom is fatal in 5-15% of cases.[4]

How Long Does Alcohol Detox Take?

Symptoms of withdrawal will begin as soon as the levels of alcohol in your blood drop below what is normal for you. Some mild symptoms may begin as early as 5-6 hours after your last drink. However, how quickly withdrawal symptoms start and the overall duration of the alcohol withdrawal timeline varies greatly from person to person due to various individual health factors.

Primary factors that influence how long alcohol detox lasts include:

  • Amount of alcohol regularly consumed – Higher doses of alcohol is associated with more severe, longer-lasting symptoms.
  • Frequency and duration of alcohol abuse – The more you drink, the longer it will take your body to adjust to functioning properly without alcohol.
  • Age, weight, and metabolism – The faster your metabolism, the faster your body can eliminate alcohol and go through the withdrawal process.

Other influential factors include:

  • Liver health
  • Co-occurring mental health conditions
  • Physical health conditions
  • Polysubstance use

For most people, symptoms begin on day one, peak around days 2-3, and last 7-10 days total. After two weeks, most acute symptoms should subside.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline and What to Expect

Because it is difficult to estimate the exact duration of alcohol withdrawal syndrome, the American Academy of Family Physicians has outlined three potential stages of alcohol withdrawal that people often experience.[5] These stages are:

  • Stage 1 (mild withdrawal) – Symptoms usually begin between 6-12 hours after your last drink. During this stage, symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, headache, tremors, gastrointestinal upset, and heart palpitations. These symptoms may continue during later stages of withdrawal, as well.
  • Stage 2 (moderate withdrawal) – Symptoms begin to get more severe and alcohol cravings set in. This usually occurs around 24-48 hours after the last drink. New symptoms may include high blood pressure, increased heart rate, confusion, and abnormal breathing patterns.
  • Stage 3 (severe withdrawal) – Severe withdrawal symptoms include visual or auditory hallucinations, disorientation, and seizures. These symptoms usually appear between 48 and 72 hours after your last drink.

After withdrawal symptoms peak between days 2 and 3, they should begin to subside. After about one week, only mild symptoms will persist. Any symptoms that persist beyond two weeks will most likely be psychological, such as anxiety or cravings. These lingering symptoms are known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS and can easily be managed with lifestyle changes and long-term treatment.

Medical Detox for Alcohol Dependence

Knowing exactly what to expect during the alcohol withdrawal timeline is impossible, so it’s vital that you get help from someone who is prepared for the worst. An alcohol detox center can provide you with 24-hour care and medical support so you can avoid severe withdrawal symptoms, become as comfortable as possible, and endure withdrawal without picking up a drink.

Alcohol detox usually lasts about one week depending on the severity of your symptoms. Detox consists of:

  • An evaluation to diagnose you and formulate an individualized treatment plan
  • Medical stabilization during which you may be prescribed medications such as Valium to cope with symptoms of withdrawal while under medical supervision
  • Treatment planning to connect you with a rehab program for alcohol addiction

“Arise Treatment Center’s goal is to create a safe, comfortable, and nurturing environment for people who are detoxing from alcohol. Our hospitable alcohol detox facility in California provides a relaxing detox environment while our compassionate staff caters to each of your unique needs. And, with an individualized approach, there is no better place to begin your recovery journey.”

Find Support for Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox Today

The thought of detoxing from alcohol can be scary, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Arise Treatment Center is home to a compassionate, supportive community that will be there for you every step of the way. Don’t wait any longer to get the help you need and deserve. Call now to speak with a qualified admission specialist.




We're Ready To Help You Begin A New Life

Our Team of Qualified Addiction Experts are Here to Help