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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

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When someone is struggling with alcohol use disorder and decides to take the first step to recovery, it is understandable they would want to know more about the alcohol withdrawal symptoms timeline. This timeline is a general overview of symptoms one could experience as they go through alcohol detox. 

How Do People Get Addicted to Alcohol?

People become addicted to alcohol when they repeatedly drink more than their bodies can handle. Over time, drinking too much alcohol can change how the brain works, making it difficult for people to quit drinking alone. 

People with alcohol addiction often cannot control how much or how often they drink. They may also have intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms if they try to stop drinking all at once. The risk of developing an addiction is higher in people who start drinking at a young age, those who suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression, and those with a family history of addiction. 

In addition, people who binge drink frequently can get addicted to alcohol. Binge drinking is when a person consumes large amounts of alcohol in a short period, often resulting in intoxication. People who binge drink multiple times per week can become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol, leading to an addiction.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is a set of physical and psychological symptoms that can occur when someone suddenly stops drinking after consuming large amounts of alcohol for an extended period. The severity of the symptoms depends on how much and how often the person has been drinking. 

The best-known type of alcohol withdrawal is a hangover. Hangovers are caused by dehydration, so drinking plenty of water can help reduce the effects. However, frequent hangovers could indicate an alcohol use disorder. 

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, agitation, sweating, nausea, vomiting, trembling hands or legs, insomnia, fatigue, and headaches. Severe cases may also involve hallucinations or seizures.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Timeline

  • 0-6 Hours: Within the first 6 hours of quitting alcohol, some people may experience anxiety, agitation, sweating, nausea, and vomiting. 
  • 6-12 Hours: As withdrawal progresses, symptoms may become more severe. Tremors in the hands or legs are common during this period as well as insomnia and fatigue. In some cases, hallucinations can occur. 
  • 12-24 Hours: After 12 hours without alcohol, increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure are likely to occur, along with headaches and difficulty concentrating. Some people may also begin to experience seizures during this time frame. 
  • 24+ Hours: If medical attention is not sought after 24 hours of quitting drinking, delirium tremens (DTs) is a potential danger that involves confusion and disorientation as well as visual disturbances such as seeing something that isn’t there or hearing voices that aren’t real. DTs can be life-threatening if not treated immediately, so seeking help is essential if these symptoms appear. 
  • 24-72 Hours: People may continue to experience physical and psychological symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, tremors, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. They may also feel an intense craving for alcohol and a strong urge to drink again. Severe cases may include seizures or delirium tremens (DTs). 
  • 1-2 Weeks: The physical symptoms should start to subside. However, psychological symptoms such as depression and anxiety may still be present. People may also continue to experience intense cravings for alcohol during this period. 
  • 2+ Weeks: As withdrawal continues past 2 weeks, most people will begin to feel better, although they may continue to experience some mild symptoms such as insomnia or an inability to concentrate. The craving for alcohol can remain strong, so people in recovery need to find healthy ways of coping with these urges without giving in to them.

What are DTs? 

Delirium tremens (DTs) is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that can occur after 24 hours or more without drinking. DTs involve confusion, disorientation, and visual disturbances, such as seeing something that isn’t there or hearing voices that aren’t real. People may also experience rapid mood changes, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, sweating and trembling, nausea, vomiting, and seizures. DTs can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. 

How are DTs treated? 

Treatment for DTs typically involves medications to reduce the intensity of the withdrawal symptoms as well as supportive care such as fluids and nutrition. It may also involve psychological support and counseling to help address underlying issues that may be contributing to alcohol use disorder. In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary for the treatment of DTs.

How Is Medical Detox Beneficial?

Medical detox is the process of using medication to help manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms. This type of treatment is beneficial because it can reduce cravings, minimize physical and psychological discomfort, and prevent more severe complications such as seizures or delirium tremens (DTs). 

In addition to reducing withdrawal symptoms, medical detox provides a safe environment for individuals in recovery. Detox centers are staffed with trained professionals who can provide 24/7 support to ensure patients are comfortable throughout the process. Medical detox facilities also offer counseling services which can be invaluable in helping individuals build healthier coping skills that will allow them to remain sober after they leave the facility.

Individualized Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Orange County, CA

Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, California, is an IMS and JCAHO-accredited addiction treatment center offering customized detox and addiction treatment programs tailored to the person’s needs. We can help you through your alcohol withdrawal symptoms timeline so that you can quit drinking safely.

Start your road to recovery by contacting us today.


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