How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
Last Updated: September 8, 2023
How long alcohol withdrawal lasts depends on several factors, including previous alcohol use and overall health. But you can use a general timeline as a guide during your withdrawal.
While the duration of alcohol withdrawal symptoms varies for each individual, the physical symptoms will typically last for about a week to a week and a half, while the psychological symptoms of withdrawal can last for several weeks or months. Everyone’s experience will be somewhat different; however, the course of alcohol withdrawal symptoms is generally predictable.
The Alcohol Withdrawal Process
Alcohol withdrawal typically creates a variety of different physical symptoms that come in three distinct phases. These include:
- Onset and intensification: Symptoms will start about 6–24 hours after your last drink and will gradually intensify. New symptoms will appear during this phase.
- Peak: Physical symptoms will peak in intensity and number around 48–72 hours after your last drink. All the major symptoms you will experience will be present at this peak and be at their most intense.
- Reduction: Following the peak, physical symptoms will gradually reduce in their intensity and number for the next few days, gradually disappearing over the next 4–10 days.
Alcohol withdrawal can create many different symptoms. Some of the mild symptoms people may experience include:
- Clouded thinking
- Decreased appetite
More moderate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Mood swings
- Sweaty, clammy skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pale skin
Alcohol withdrawal can also lead to severe, life-threatening symptoms. Seizures are a potential complication of withdrawal and can be a serious problem. Hallucinations can also develop. The most serious condition that can occur with alcohol withdrawal, however, is called delirium tremens. This condition is fatal about 37% of the time if not treated and can cause a dangerous fever, hallucinations, psychosis and other serious complications.
What Factors Influence the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?
There are several factors that can influence the alcohol withdrawal timeline; however, the amount of alcohol used and the duration of use are the key factors that affect this. The longer and more heavily you have used alcohol, the more likely it is that your alcohol withdrawal will take longer and create more intense symptoms.
Another major influencer of the alcohol withdrawal timeline is previous attempts to stop using alcohol. If you have gone through withdrawal before, you are more likely to experience serious complications and have a longer withdrawal.
Other factors, such as genetics, your general health, the presence of mental illness, the use of other substances and your age, may all play a role as well. The most impactful factors, however, will be your history of alcohol use and your history of withdrawing from alcohol in the past.
Why Medically Assisted Alcohol Detox Is Important
Medically assisted alcohol detox involves having medical professionals monitor you during the detox process and provide medications for any symptoms that develop. This form of detox can be very important for anyone who is likely to experience serious withdrawal symptoms. Conditions like delirium tremens can be fatal if not treated, making it very important to have medical help during detox.
While medically assisted alcohol detox is vital for those likely to experience moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms, it also helps keep you comfortable during detox. Detox can be a very unpleasant experience, leading many to begin drinking again to avoid the distressing symptoms. But having medical help and advanced treatment available at any time during detox can make the entire process more pleasant and comfortable.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a condition that can persist after the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are completely gone. It is important to address following detox, as it can create several psychological symptoms. PAWS symptoms can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Alcohol cravings
- Decreased ability to cope with stress
- Impaired sleep
Support After Detoxification
Detoxification is an important step in alcohol addiction recovery, but having support and follow-up after detox is essential for long-term success. Often, rehab is quite beneficial and provides support that can help alleviate or avoid the potential negative effects of PAWS.
In addition to rehab, support after detox can include medications to help reduce cravings and treat mood problems. Support can also include therapy, support groups and many other resources to help maintain sobriety.
Continuum of Care Treatment at The Recovery Village Atlanta
At The Recovery Village Atlanta, we provide a full continuum of alcohol addiction care, from the minute you stop drinking until you no longer need any professional help and support to stay sober. We provide detox services to help you get off alcohol, inpatient rehab that can help in your first weeks of sobriety and outpatient rehab to provide longer or more flexible post-detox support. We also provide a variety of other services designed to meet your unique needs while fitting with your lifestyle.
Alcohol addiction can seem daunting, but you don’t have to do it alone. We know what it takes to succeed and are here to help you in your addiction recovery journey. Contact us today to learn how we can help you achieve a life free from addiction.
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MedlinePlus. “Alcohol.” March 22, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023.
Newman, Richard K.; Stobart Gallagher, Megan A.; & Gomez, Anna E. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” StatPearls, August 29, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023.
Berman, Jacob. “Alcohol withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, February 28, 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023.
Rahman, Abdul & Paul, Manju. “Delirium Tremens.” StatPearls, August 22, 2022. Accessed August 9, 2023.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome from Alcohol.” 2023. Accessed August 9, 2023.