The Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Explained

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Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV.

The Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Explained
Going through alcohol withdrawal is an important step in the recovery process. Find out what you need to know about alcohol withdrawal below. 
Alcohol withdrawal is a difficult process which can put you in medical danger if you don’t take precautionary steps. The longer you have been drinking for, the harder it is to stop. Going “cold turkey” and stopping all at once can put excess pressure on your heart. To be clear: it’s not that you shouldn’t stop drinking, it’s just that you should get medical assistance to do it. Seek medical advice about quitting drinking. If you have come to Help4Addiction, you are in the right place to make a good start.  Help4Addiction have helped hundreds of people in addiction to find the services that they need to make a full recovery. Our rehab selection service matches you with the rehab facility most likely to suit your needs. Use our online contact form to request a call back or call us directly on 0203 955 7700. Find our online consultation service here.

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal

Before we explore the timeline for alcohol withdrawal, we should refresh what it is we are discussing. When you stop drinking alcohol, Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) kicks in after a few hours. These are the symptoms of relinquishing your addiction. The longer you drank for and the more frequently you drank, the more abundant the alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be. Some of these symptoms can even cause your heart to stop, which is why you should never go cold turkey or stop drinking without another person present.  When you drink for a long time, the alcohol starts to change your body. The longer you let this continue for, the harder it is to return to normal. 

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal vary from mild to moderate too intense. You can find a full list of alcohol withdrawal symptoms on our website, but let’s review the mild, moderate, and intense.

Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • An upset stomach 
  • A red face
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Sweating
  • Hand tremors
  • Appetite changes

Moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Changes to your mood

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Hyperthermia 
  • Detox tremens 
The severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can strike when you stop drinking. Make sure you don’t go cold turkey, that you are not alone when you quit drinking, and that you seek a detox clinic or rehab facility to help you with this potentially deadly step.  You may also suffer from post alcohol withdrawal syndrome. These symptoms can last for years after you quit drinking but can be effectively handled with therapy. It can onset one or two weeks after your symptoms cease. 

How Long Before The Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Start to Affect You?

This depends on how frequently you drink. If you drink daily, the withdrawal symptoms will begin at the time you usually take your first drink. If you drink weekly, the withdrawal symptoms might start on the Friday or Saturday night, whenever you drink heaviest. 

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

When you stop drinking, the first symptoms – those milder ones – will start from as little as a few hours after your last drink. They will gradually increase in intensity over the next 24 hours. Towards the end of this period, you will find the symptoms increase again. The symptoms may become more severe. They will intensify within those first 48 hours. They may start to intensify as little as 12 hours after your last drink. This is when you are in the danger zone for Delirium Tremens, hallucinations, and the other severe symptoms. These can last right up until the 72 hour period, but should start to wear off around 48 hours in.  

How long does it take for alcohol to leave your body?

We covered the timelines of drug withdrawal in a previous article, but not the time it takes for alcohol to fully evacuate your system. Alcohol will remain in your hair and fingernails for longest. It stays in these areas for 3 months. Alcohol leaves your saliva and your urine inside of 24 hours, but only stays in your blood for 6. 

What are your Options to Help you Quit Drinking?

Obviously quitting drinking alone is a bad idea. If you enter DTs you must get medical care immediately. If you fail to do so, you put yourself at risk of death.  If you are a very mild drinker and fear you are developing an addiction, you can go through detox at home. This requires a consultation from a specialist medical advisor who will provide you with a tailored pack. This pack contains detailed instructions on how to detox safely as well as a variety of medications which can help make the process easier. At home detox is only suitable for the mildest drinkers. Anything more than a regular 14 units a week will require in-house detox. When you go to a detox clinic or choose a rehab facility, they will aid you while you go through these symptoms. You will have a room to recover in, a team of medically trained staff on hand to help you, and a list of activities that you can take part in which aim to take your mind off the withdrawal symptoms. Residential rehab should take you through the detox process with medical help. Once you have passed through the dangers points in the alcohol detox timeline, and are over the crucial 72 hour period, it becomes a battle of will remain alcohol-free and go on with your recovery. The best way to do this is in a rehab clinic, where you have the help and support of both your peers and trained professionals.

How to Find a Rehab Near You?

The simplest, fastest way to find a rehab clinic in your area is to contact Help4Addiction. Let our trained advisors talk you through your options and find a program that is right for you.

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