Making the decision to quit drinking can be life-changing, especially if a person is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction. Unfortunately, the downside of stopping drinking is the potential for withdrawal symptoms.
People who regularly consume alcohol or who drink heavily are likely to experience some if not many of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These symptoms can range from mild to dangerous and can even lead people to return to drinking in an attempt to stop the withdrawal symptoms.
While detoxing from alcohol can be difficult, it doesn’t have to be done alone. Treatment programs like the ones offered at The Treehouse help individuals safely and effectively withdraw from alcohol and provide round-the-clock support. This can improve the likelihood of completing a detox program and increase the chance that someone will go on to formal treatment and remain sober in the long-term.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
When a person drinks heavily for an extended period of time, he or she will likely go through the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol when quitting the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and mental and can range from mild to severe to even dangerous.
Alcohol withdrawal is caused by physical dependence on alcohol. When someone regularly consumes alcohol, the body and brain become used to having this substance in the system. Because alcohol is a depressant, the brain has to work extra hard to keep the body working properly with alcohol in the system. This puts the body in a “keyed-up” state to deal with the regular consumption of alcohol. When alcohol is removed, the body remains in this state and a person will experience withdrawal symptoms.
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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Quitting drinking after abusing alcohol for an extended period of time can cause the nervous system to remain in the keyed-up state mentioned earlier. The longer a person abuses alcohol, the more likely he or she is to experience withdrawal symptoms.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- upset stomach
- shaky hands or tremors
- mood swings
In severe cases, a person can experience delirium tremens, or DTs. These symptoms may begin around two days after the last drink and can be dangerous and even deadly. An estimated five percent of heavy drinkers will experience DTs.
Symptoms of delirium tremens may include:
- excessive sweating
- increased body temperature and heart rate
Experiencing DTs can be life-threatening if not properly treated. If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of delirium tremens, seek medical help immediately.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
Everyone will experience alcohol withdrawal differently. However, most people will go through alcohol detox along a general timeline. The severity of alcohol dependence and the amount of time a person has abused alcohol will influence the severity of symptoms experienced.
The general alcohol withdrawal timeline is as follows:
- Six Hours After Last Drink — Individuals may begin to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms as soon as six hours after their last drink. Common symptoms at this point include sweating, anxiety, headache, and increased heart rate.
- 12 To 48 Hours After Last Drink — People will continue to experience minor withdrawal symptoms during this time. Individuals with a severe dependence on alcohol may have seizures during this time.
- 72 Hours After Last Drink — This is typically when individuals experience the most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. People may also begin to experience symptoms of delirium tremens 48 to 72 hours after their last drink. While rare, individuals can continue to have withdrawal symptoms for up to a month after the last drink.
Most people will have a cessation in symptoms one to two weeks after their last drink of alcohol. However, everyone is different and there are a number of personal factors that can affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms and the amount of time it takes to completely detox from alcohol.
Factors That Influence How Long It Takes To Detox From Alcohol
An estimated 50 percent of people who abuse or are addicted to alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms. However, the severity and length of time a person will go through alcohol withdrawal will depend on a number of personal factors.
Factors that may influence how long it takes a person to detox from alcohol include:
- how long a person has abused alcohol
- how much alcohol a person consumed at one time
- height and weight
- previous history of alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- abnormal liver function
- other drug use
In general, the heavier a person drinks for an extended period of time, the more likely he or she is to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The best way to cope with alcohol withdrawal and to prevent potentially dangerous symptoms is to participate in a medically supervised detox program.
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Treatment Options For Alcohol Withdrawal And Alcohol Addiction
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction and are concerned about the detox process, there are several treatment options to consider. The Treehouse, located in Scurry, Texas, offers medically supervised detox programs that can help individuals safely and comfortably withdraw from alcohol. Our treatment center also offers customized inpatient programs of recovery, so individuals can easily transition from detox to a formal treatment program.
To learn more about how long it takes to detox from alcohol, contact one of our treatment specialists today.
- Industrial Psychiatry Journal — Clinical management of alcohol withdrawal: A systematic review
- WebMD — What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
- The New England Journal of Medicine — Recognition and Management of Withdrawal Delirium (Delirium Tremens)