June 13, 2023

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

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When someone who is dependent on alcohol suddenly moderates or discontinues its use, they may encounter a range of unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms known as alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically manifest within eight hours after the last alcoholic drink and reach their peak between 24 and 72 hours.

Common physical manifestations of alcohol withdrawal include headaches, nausea, vomiting, tremors, increased heart rate, sweating, and elevated blood pressure. In severe cases, individuals may experience seizures or DTs (delirium tremens), a life-threatening condition characterized by severe confusion, hallucinations, and agitation.

Alcohol withdrawal may also involve various emotional and psychological symptoms. These may include anxiety, irritability, restlessness, depression, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and disturbed sleep patterns.

For those wondering “How long can alcohol withdrawal last”, the severity and duration of symptoms can vary among individuals, although how long alcohol withdrawal lasts usually conforms to a standard timeline.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

How long does alcohol withdrawal last” is one of the most common questions asked by those thinking about alcohol detox. In most cases, the alcohol withdrawal process is complete within one to two weeks, following this timeline:


      • 6 hours: Minor withdrawal symptoms often present approximately six hours after the last alcoholic beverage. In some cases, those with a long history of heavy drinking may even experience seizures during this early phase.

      • 12 to 24 hours: At this point of detox, a small percentage of individuals undergoing alcohol withdrawal may experience hallucinations, hearing or seeing things that are not present.

      • 24 to 48 hours: Minor withdrawal symptoms tend to persist during this period. These symptoms can include headaches, tremors, and gastrointestinal discomfort. If someone is going through mild alcohol withdrawal, symptoms typically peak after 18 to 24 hours, subsiding after four to five days.

      • 48 to 72 hours: Some individuals may encounter DTs (delirium tremens). DTs can lead to an extremely rapid heart rate, seizures, or high body temperature and can be fatal if unmanaged.

      • 72 hours: This is the time when alcohol withdrawal symptoms are typically at their most intense. In rare cases, moderate withdrawal symptoms may persist for up to a month (post-acute withdrawal syndrome).

      • 3 to 5 days: Most physical withdrawal symptoms tend to improve within this timeframe. Symptoms such as tremors, headaches, gastrointestinal discomfort, and rapid heart rate will gradually subside.

      • 5 to 7 days: Psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal – anxiety, irritability, depression, and insomnia – may persist or even intensify during this period. It’s common for individuals to experience mood swings and difficulty sleeping.

      • 1 to 2 weeks: Most physical symptoms should have resolved by this point, but psychological symptoms may still persist. It is not uncommon for individuals to continue experiencing cravings for alcohol.

      • 2 weeks and onwards: Psychological symptoms can continue to linger for several weeks or even months after quitting alcohol. PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) may include symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood swings, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and trouble sleeping. However, these symptoms gradually lessen over time.

    How many days alcohol withdrawal lasts will depend on factors that include:


        • Duration of alcohol abuse

        • Extent of alcohol abuse

        • Co-occurring mental health disorders

        • Physical health status

        • Use of other addictive substances

      Alcohol withdrawal can be a serious medical condition, especially for those with a history of heavy or prolonged alcohol use. Seeking professional medical assistance and supervision during the withdrawal process is strongly advised to ensure safety and appropriate care.

      a woman looks out a window to represent the question, "how long doe alcohol withdrawals last?".

      Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

      When someone consumes alcohol heavily and repeatedly, it affects the brain’s receptors and leads to tolerance and physical dependence. Abruptly stopping alcohol consumption can trigger uncontrolled firing in the CNS (central nervous system), triggering various withdrawal symptoms that can range in severity within a matter of hours.

      Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:


          • Nausea

          • Mild itching

          • Slight tremors

          • Heightened sensitivity to sounds and light

          • Clammy feeling

          • Mild headaches

        Moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:


            • Frequent nausea and dry retching

            • Pins and needles, burning sensations, or numbness

            • Visible tremors when holding outstretched arms

            • Increased sensitivity to noises and discomfort with bright light

            • Sweating, anxiety, and restlessness

            • Decreased mental alertness, such as not knowing the day of the week

          Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:


              • Persistent nausea, retching, and vomiting

              • Hallucinations, including auditory, visual, or tactile sensations

              • Coarse tremors

              • Profuse sweating

              • Acute confusion, inability to recognize surroundings or familiar people

            In the event of delirium tremens, individuals may experience seizures as alcohol acts as a depressant of the CNS (central nervous system depressant), and sudden withdrawal can trigger hyperactivity in the CNS.

            Alcohol Withdrawal FAQs

            How long do symptoms last when you quit drinking?

            The duration of alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary, but they typically begin within hours after the last drink and can last for a few days to a week or more.

            What happens 4 days after you stop drinking?

            Around four days after quitting drinking, individuals may experience the peak of withdrawal symptoms, which can include anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and hallucinations in severe cases.

            What is the most serious withdrawal symptom associated with alcoholism?

            DTs (delirium tremens) is considered the most serious withdrawal symptom associated with alcoholism. It is characterized by severe confusion, hallucinations, fever, and seizures and requires immediate medical attention.

            What happens after 3 weeks of no alcohol?

            After three weeks of abstaining from alcohol, individuals may start to experience physical and mental improvements, such as better sleep, increased energy levels, improved mood, and a reduction in cravings. However, it’s important to note that the recovery process varies for each individual, and long-term support and treatment are often necessary for sustained sobriety.

            A young man sits with his hands rubbing his face to represent how long alcohol withdrawal lasts.

            Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal 

            When it comes to managing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, there are several treatment options available. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of symptoms, individual needs, and professional recommendations. Treatment can be administered in either an inpatient or outpatient setting, depending on the individual’s circumstances and the level of medical monitoring required.

            The following medications may be administered during alcohol withdrawal:


                • Benzodiazepines: Medications such as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), and lorazepam (Ativan) are commonly used to alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications. They help reduce anxiety, tremors, seizures, and insomnia by acting on the CNS. These medications should be prescribed and monitored by a healthcare professional due to their potential for misuse and dependence.

                • Naltrexone: Naltrexone is an FDA-approved medication that can help individuals with alcohol use disorder maintain sobriety. It works by reducing alcohol cravings and blocking the pleasurable effects of alcohol if a relapse occurs. Naltrexone can be administered orally or via a monthly injection (Vivitrol).

                • Acamprosate: Acamprosate is another FDA-approved medication used to support abstinence in individuals with alcoholism. It helps stabilize brain chemistry, reducing alcohol cravings and promoting long-term sobriety.

                • Antidepressants: Antidepressant medications may be prescribed to individuals experiencing depression or anxiety during alcohol withdrawal or those with a co-occurring mental health condition.

                • Anticonvulsants: Certain anticonvulsant medications, such as gabapentin or carbamazepine, may be used to control seizures or manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

              Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, can also be a component of alcohol withdrawal treatment. This form of therapy aims to address the underlying psychological and emotional factors contributing to alcohol use and provide coping strategies for maintaining sobriety. Common types of therapy for alcohol withdrawal include:


                  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy):: CBT helps individuals identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with alcohol use. It focuses on developing healthier coping mechanisms and skills to prevent relapse.

                  • MET (motivational enhancement therapy): MET is a person-centered approach that aims to enhance an individual’s motivation to change their drinking behaviors. It helps individuals explore their goals, values, and reasons for seeking recovery.

                The choice between inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcohol withdrawal depends on the individual’s needs and the severity of their alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient treatment, conducted in a residential facility, provides round-the-clock medical monitoring, intensive therapy, and a structured environment. It is typically recommended for individuals with severe withdrawal symptoms, medical complications, or a history of unsuccessful outpatient treatment.

                Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, allows individuals to receive treatment while living at home. It offers flexibility and the ability to maintain daily responsibilities. Outpatient programs may involve regular visits to a treatment center for medical check-ups, therapy sessions, group support, and medication management.

                Consult with a healthcare professional or addiction specialist to determine the most appropriate treatment setting and approach based on individual circumstances and needs. A comprehensive treatment plan that combines medication, therapy, and ongoing support can significantly increase the chances of successful alcohol withdrawal and long-term recovery, regardless of how long do alcohol withdrawals last.

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                Get Treatment for Alcohol Addiction at Gratitude Lodge 

                At Gratitude Lodge in Southern California, we are dedicated to helping individuals overcome alcohol addiction and co-occurring mental health conditions. With our pet-friendly rehab centers located in Newport Beach and Long Beach, CA, we provide a nurturing environment for whole-body recovery.

                Our top priority is your safety and well-being. That’s why our supervised medical detox program offers a carefully monitored process that ensures the safest and smoothest pathway to detoxification and ongoing recovery. Once your system is purged of addictive substances, you can seamlessly transition into one of our specialized treatment programs for alcohol use disorder at Gratitude Lodge, including:


                  At Gratitude Lodge, our treatment programs incorporate a range of evidence-based interventions and holistic approaches to support your recovery journey. These interventions include:


                      • Psychotherapy

                      • Individual counseling

                      • Group therapy

                      • Family therapy

                      • Holistic therapies

                      • Aftercare

                    To take the courageous step towards lasting recovery from alcohol addiction, trust in Gratitude Lodge. Contact our admissions team at 888-861-1658 and embark on a transformative journey of healing and self-discovery.

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                    Joe Gilmore

                    Joseph Gilmore

                    Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
                    Jenni Bussi

                    Jenni Russe MS, LPCC

                    Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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