Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

alcohol withdrawal timeline

Alcohol, like all addictive substances, creates a physical and mental dependency in those vulnerable to addiction. With frequency and degree of use, a tolerance will build, and you will need more alcohol more often to achieve the desired effects. As your tolerance builds, so does your dependency on alcohol. Without it, you may begin to feel the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Abruptly ceasing this pattern of heavy drinking for a longer period can lead to painful and even life-threatening symptoms. If you have stopped or are considering quitting alcohol you’re probably already wondering when you can hope to finish the detox process. Here’s everything you need to know about the alcohol withdrawal timeline.

What Happens to Your Body When You are in Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it slows down your brain function and changes the way that your brain sends messages back and forth.[1] If you have been using it heavily for months or years, your body has adjusted to having this depressant present in its system. It had adjusted its normal function to accommodate your drinking.

Your brain has been working hard against the depressive qualities of alcohol in order to keep functioning. When the depressant is suddenly removed from your system, your brain takes time to reacclimate and continues to function in this state of arousal but without the alcohol to slow it down. This causes your brain to overwork. It is this excessive neuronal activity that causes the symptoms of withdrawal you experience when you stop drinking alcohol.

What is the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?

Alcohol withdrawal will begin the moment that your alcohol blood level drops below whatever your brain has become accustomed to accommodating. So, the timeline and severity of withdrawal symptoms are largely dependent on how much and how often you drank. Typically mild symptoms should begin to appear within six hours of your last drink.

A variety of other factors will determine the time it takes for you to complete an alcohol detox. Including your age, your gender, genetics, and overall health. Because of this, it is hard to say for certain exactly how long it will take for you to finish detoxing from alcohol, but generally, symptoms peak within 48 and 72 hours of your last drink, and can last anywhere from 7 to 12 days.[2,3]

What are the Stages of the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?

While the exact alcohol withdrawal timeline will vary greatly from person to person, it is said to be experienced in 4 distinct phases.

Stage 1 (6-12 hours post-drink)

These symptoms are often moderately severe and will include: Anxiety, physical cravings, increased or excessive sweating, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and body tremors.

Stage 2 (12-24 hours post-drink)

In the second stage, you will very likely experience a continuation of some of the symptoms from stage one, but in addition, you will also experience: dehydration, hallucinations, and malnutrition.

Stage 3 (24-72 hours post-drink)

At this stage in the alcohol withdrawal timeline, you will begin to experience severe mood swings, seizures, fever, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and in some cases the potentially fatal condition delirium tremens. This is the most dangerous period of alcohol detox.

Stage 4 (72+ hours post-drink)

By stage 4, your withdrawal symptoms will begin to relent, and you will have some relief. Over the next 4 to 7 days, your symptoms will begin to fade. Though these physical symptoms may be replaced by mental and emotional symptoms like depression or anxiety, they will need to be monitored and treated over time.

What Should You Do After Completing Alcohol Detox?

Do not try to quit drinking on your own. It is extremely dangerous and can in some cases be life-threatening. Seek out the help of medical professionals and complete an alcohol detox under supervision to ensure your safety.

Another important part of your recovery, after completing detox, is to enter a rehabilitation program that will help you start to build the tools you need to maintain your sobriety. In order to avoid the pitfalls of relapse, you will need help in developing new habits, life skills, coping mechanisms, and support systems that will help you to lead a full and rewarding life free from alcohol dependency.

Many professional alcohol detox centers are attached to reputable rehabilitation programs. Each rehabilitation program is different and it is important to evaluate your unique needs and choose a program accordingly.

Alcohol Detox and Rehab Programs in New Jersey

At Moving Mountains Recovery in Randolph, New Jersey, our team of qualified and committed medical professionals is dedicated to helping as safely and painlessly as possible complete the alcohol detox process so that you can get started on the life-changing road to recovery. We are committed to helping you build a full and vibrant life without the use of drugs or alcohol. Contact us today to get more information on our alcohol detox and rehabilitation programs.


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