Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin within hours after your last drink. Learn more about alcohol withdrawal here.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

When someone stops drinking or attempts to reduce how much they drink, alcohol withdrawal symptoms will occur. The duration and severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms will depend on the individual and the severity of their addiction.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome or AWS is the term used to describe the collection of symptoms that someone with an alcohol use disorder experiences when they stop or significantly reduce the amount they drink.1

When someone experiences alcohol withdrawal syndrome, they often struggle with various physical and psychological symptoms. Depending on the individual, these symptoms will range from mild such as headaches and nausea, to severe. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include potentially life-threatening medical emergencies like seizures and breathing problems.

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When do Withdrawal Symptoms Begin?

AWS symptoms can begin within six hours after your last drink.2 For some, it may take longer. The onset of AWS depends significantly on how much and how often you drink. The time it takes for your body to process the alcohol out of your system and the effects of withdrawal to occur is based on how much alcohol is there to start.

Generally, alcohol is present in your urine and saliva for twelve to twenty-four hours after your last drink. However, this time frame can vary widely depending on your relationship with alcohol.

What are Alcohol Withdrawal Signs?

Early Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal will vary from person to person. However, like withdrawal from many other substances, there are several common symptoms most people may experience. Typical early withdrawal symptoms include:

Severe Symptoms

Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can occur in those who struggle with critical addiction. The most significant of these is delirium tremens or DTs. DTs or delirium tremens are shaking and tremors experienced by someone undergoing detox.

Delirium tremens is often present in individuals suffering from extreme alcohol withdrawal. Unfortunately, they can result in seizures, making them one of the more life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. DTs are, unfortunately, relatively common. Some statistics show they occur in approximately one out of every twenty cases of alcohol withdrawal.
They are most common among those who are severely addicted to alcohol and have experienced alcohol withdrawal in the past. Symptoms of delirium tremens include more than just shaking and trembling. The most common symptoms are fatigue, fever, hallucinations, intense confusion, and fever. In addition, severe and life-threatening seizures can also occur.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Six Hours After Last Drink

The alcohol withdrawal timeline occurs in three stages. The first stage consisting of mostly mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms begins within six hours after your last drink and lasts for approximately twelve hours. People often experience:

Twenty-Four Hours After Last Drink

Beginning approximately twelve to twenty-four hours after your last drink, withdrawal escalates to stage two. During stage two, most people experience moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This stage lasts for approximately thirty-six hours ending about two days after your last drink.

During stage two, withdrawal symptoms become more severe and challenging to manage without addiction treatment support. In addition to previously mentioned symptoms, other symptoms that may develop include seizures and hallucinations.

Forty-Eight to Seventy-Two Hours After Last Drink

The final stage of withdrawal or stage three is the most dangerous. Some stage three alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening if immediate medical intervention is not available, underscoring the importance of detoxing at an alcohol rehab where medically assisted detox is available.

Stage three begins approximately forty-eight hours after your last drink and ends (usually) one to two days later. Common symptoms that are part of stage three include:

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Stages

Stage One

As noted above, alcohol withdrawal occurs in three stages. The duration and severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms each person experiences during each stage will vary widely. In general, stage one of alcohol withdrawal is accompanied by mild, largely manageable symptoms.
For someone with a mild dependency on alcohol, their withdrawal symptoms may remain mild and not worsen throughout the detox process. This reaction is not true for all cases, however.

Stage Two

Many people who seek help at an alcohol rehab to get sober will experience all three stages of withdrawal. As the body processes alcohol out, stage two withdrawal symptoms occur.

During stage two, some of the more intense physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal occur. Stage two and stage three alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be complex and challenging to manage without help and, potentially, alcohol withdrawal medications designed to reduce symptom severity.

Stage Three

During stage three, the risk for alcohol withdrawal delirium and alcohol withdrawal seizures increases. Although the most severe symptoms occur in a small number of cases approximately 3%-5%, they can lead to sudden medical emergencies that require emergency intervention to manage safely. The more severe stage three withdrawal symptoms make seeking alcohol withdrawal symptom treatment crucial to a safe and successful recovery from chronic alcohol abuse or addiction.3

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Although it is possible to detox from mild alcohol addiction at home, it is impossible to predict who will experience severe or significant withdrawal symptoms. While the more severe symptoms are frequently associated with heavy or long-term drinking, there is no rule regarding how detox affects each individual who is seeking sobriety from alcohol addiction. For this reason, it is essential to seek help at an alcohol rehab to put struggles with alcohol in the past.
Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Where to Seek Help?

At a professional alcohol rehab, skilled medical professionals will provide physical and psychological support and guidance as you progress through detox. They will be there to monitor your vitals and ensure medical intervention is available should you experience complex or dangerous withdrawal symptoms.
Depending on your unique situation, they may also offer alcohol withdrawal medications to help reduce the intensity and severity of certain alcohol withdrawal symptoms. When the more intense and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms are under control, it is possible to focus on healing.

Alcohol Rehabilitation

Once detox is complete, you will transition into an alcohol rehabilitation program consisting of therapy and ongoing mental health support. As part of therapy, you will learn more about addiction and how to overcome triggers and other factors that may lead you to begin drinking again after completing rehab.

The steps to recovery are different for each person seeking lasting sobriety. At a professional alcohol rehab, you can take those steps in a safe and supported environment where skilled professionals can help you through each stage of the recovery process.