Josh Chandler | January 19, 2018

The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline and How to Cope with Alcohol Detox

Coming to terms with alcohol addiction is not easy. To help someone through the alcohol detox process it’s important to understand the alcohol withdrawal timeline.

Did you know that 88,000 deaths per year are a result of excessive alcohol use?

Alcohol addiction can be difficult to navigate, especially if you are witnessing a loved one experience it. It is all the more difficult given this high statistic about alcohol abuse.

Luckily, it is possible for an individual struggling with an addiction to detox from it safely and effectively. It is possible to start living an addiction-free life.

An alcohol detox is not easy, however, and not always predictable.

It’s important to understand the alcohol withdrawal timeline. This way, you can know what to expect when you’re helping someone through their first detox.

Read on for more insight.

What is Alcohol Detox?

A detox is the process an individual undergoes to safely withdraw from a drug. Detoxing means experiencing healthy withdrawal under medically supervised conditions.

Addiction can be very hard to release because of the intense withdrawal symptoms a body undergoes when it is not under the drug’s influence. These withdrawal symptoms will differ from person to person.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include nausea, tremors, sweating, headache, anxiety, and loss of appetite. In very severe cases, withdrawal can cause seizures and lead to other life-threatening conditions.

Detoxing does involve withdrawal symptoms. But it helps people release a drug’s toxicity with medical guidance. Physicians may administer medications to make sure someone safely withdraws from alcohol.

Many rehabilitation centers have a medical detox treatment facility on site. People who sign up for rehab may have to undergo a detox treatment before they are eligible for addiction treatment.

The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

It can be painful watching a loved one undergo detox treatment. This is especially so if the loved one is experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

Understanding the alcohol withdrawal timeline is the first step you can take to supporting anyone undergoing detox.

1. 2-8 Hours After the Last Drink

This is the first stage of the alcohol withdrawal timeline. Depending on the severity of the addiction, individuals will experience these symptoms as early as two hours after they have finished an alcoholic drink.

Withdrawal symptoms happen following the departure of alcohol from the bloodstream. Alcohol elevates moods and increases feelings of pleasure in the body.

This is because it releases intense amounts of dopamine in the brain. Without this dopamine release, withdrawal symptoms appear.

The symptoms of this first stage are mainly physical. Many people can also experience anxiety right away. Others can experience nausea, vomiting, intense abdominal pain, or other digestive issues at this point.

Many people will also have trouble sleeping and may even begin to experience shaking or minor convulsions.

If your loved one is experiencing these symptoms, medical detox should be an immediate solution.

2. 24-72 Hours After the Last Drink

A lot of people are surprised that withdrawal symptoms can last for so long following the last alcoholic drink. It’s important to keep in mind, however, how powerful alcohol addiction really is.

The body comes to expect alcohol in order to sustain dopamine levels in the brain. Without alcohol, it takes time to let go of this dependency.

One to three days following the person’s last drink, an individual will move on to more severe withdrawal symptoms. These include an elevated blood pressure, erratic, racing, or slow heart rate, sweating, and a higher body temperature.

At this point in the alcohol withdrawal timeline, anxiety levels may also be very high. Some individuals experience confusion or minor hallucinations at this point.

Stage 2 symptoms can last for up to two or three days. Once again, if you notice a loved one in this condition, it is imperative to initiate medical detox.

3. 72 Hours After the Last Drink

A lot of individuals don’t make it to stage three of the alcohol withdrawal timeline. This is because they consume more alcohol to make the symptoms go away.

Stage 3 symptoms are also the most severe and life-threatening symptoms an alcohol addict can experience.

If an individual keeps avoiding alcohol during this timeline, they may experience Stage 3 symptoms up to a week after they’ve had their last drink.

These symptoms include higher levels of anxiety in the body that can become severe agitation. They also include fever, major hallucinations, seizures, and body tremors.

A small percentage of people withdrawing from alcohol at this point may experience delirium tremens (DT). This is a potentially fatal condition if untreated.

In general, withdrawal symptoms will leave the body fully within a week after having the last alcoholic drink.

The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: Other Things to Know

While these stages give you a rough sense of what a withdrawal timeline looks like for an individual struggling with alcohol addiction, every person is different. Some people may experience Stage 3 symptoms, for example, 24 hours after having a drink. Others may only experience Stage 1 symptoms and never get to Stage 2.

Withdrawal symptoms will depend upon the individual’s age, gender, body type and makeup, and level of addiction.

Regardless, the most important thing to keep in mind is the fact that no one should have to undergo withdrawal without medical supervision. In fact, they shouldn’t. It can be life-threatening not to have a medical professional monitoring vitals.

This is because alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant. It essentially puts the brain and nervous system to sleep.

Once the nervous system isn’t under this influence anymore, it’s like a glass jar going from extremely hot to cold temperatures very quickly.

In many cases, the jar shatters. A medical professional will ensure that this transition is smooth and safe.

Final Thoughts

It can be challenging witnessing someone experiencing withdrawal symptoms, no matter what stages arise. It’s important to know exactly what goes into a withdrawal timeline so that you can be informed for the future.

At Muse Treatment, we are here to help you step closer to an addiction-free life. We are also here to help you navigate a loved one’s addiction and rehabilitation.

Learn more about our detox program today. Or feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have about the withdrawal timeline.

Addiction,Alcohol Addiction,Alcohol Rehab,Detox,Recovery,Withdrawal,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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