How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

Published On: February 11, 2021

If you think you have an addiction to alcohol and wish to change your habits, it may seem helpful to completely stop drinking. However, you must never attempt to withdraw from alcohol without the help of a medical professional.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can begin within 5-10 hours after your last drink, peaking between 24 and 72 hours. [1] But 1 in 20 people can experience delirium tremors – these can begin 48-72 hours after your last drink and can last for up to two weeks. [2]

Abruptly cutting out alcohol after a long period of heavy use can cause withdrawal symptoms ranging from nausea and perspiration to seizures and even death. It’s important that you seek medical advice before decreasing or stopping your alcohol use, particularly if you suspect you have an addiction.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is the process that your body goes through when you stop or reduce your alcohol intake.

If you drink regularly, your body can get used to having alcohol in your system. As alcohol slows down your brain and nervous system, your body works harder to mitigate the effects and keep you as alert and functioning as possible. When the alcohol intake is stopped or reduced, your body is left in a hyper-alert state which can result in withdrawal symptoms. [3]

If you’ve attempted to stop drinking in the past and experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it’s likely that you will experience them again.

The Process of Alcohol Withdrawal

You can experience mild, moderate or severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can change from mild to severe in a matter of hours, so extreme care must be taken.

If you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms between drinking sessions, this can be an indication that you have become physically dependent on alcohol and should seek medical help.

Mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

These symptoms can begin within 5-10 hours after your last drink and peak between 24 and 72 hours.

They include:

  • Nausea
  • Itching
  • Slight headaches
  • Feeling damp and clammy
  • Mild involuntary tremors
  • A lower tolerance to sound and light

Moderate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

These symptoms can begin within 5-10 hours after your last drink and peak between 24 and 72 hours. They include:

  • Feeling restless and anxious
  • Increased perspiration
  • Persistent nausea and retching
  • Pins and needles
  • Noticeable tremors when arms are outstretched
  • Slight mental confusion

Severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

These symptoms can begin 48-72 hours after your last drink and can last for up to two weeks (reference). This is known as delirium tremors (DTs) which can lead to seizures and even death.

Delirium tremors can get worse very quickly. If you or someone you know is experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, seek immediate medical help. They include:

  • Seeming or feeling agitated
  • Hallucinations: seeing, hearing or feeling things that aren’t there
  • Intense perspiration
  • Constant nausea and/or vomiting
  • Coarse tremors: involuntary shaking that is clearly noticeable

Post-acute withdrawal (PAWS)

Along with the physical symptoms listed above, alcohol withdrawal can also cause emotional and psychological symptoms. This is the second stage of withdrawal known as post-acute withdrawal (PAWS). [4]

As your body and brain chemistry adjust and return to normal, the resulting chemical fluctuations can have an effect on your emotions and mental state.

PAWS can occur on and off for around two years after detoxification.

Symptoms include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Most people experience PAWS, but the symptoms will improve overtime as you move further along your recovery journey.

How To Complete Alcohol Withdrawal Safely

The risks of alcohol withdrawal are greatly lowered when undertaken in a medical setting. Never attempt to withdraw from alcohol by yourself.

Specialised alcohol detoxification programmes will support you throughout the withdrawal process, allowing you to greatly reduce or completely stop your alcohol intake under the supervision of an expertly trained team.

If you’re interested in finding a suitable detoxification programme, our team are available to answer any questions and point you in the right direction.

Finding Support After Alcohol Withdrawal

Safely withdrawing from alcohol under the care of a medical professional is an important first step on the road to recovery. However, it’s important that you continue your progress with the help of a specialised addiction treatment programme.

Reaching out for help can feel scary and daunting, but our team are here to help guide you through your journey. Many of us have been in your position and know from experience that it’s possible to live a happy, fulfilling life without alcohol.

Get in touch today so we can assist you in choosing a recovery programme that will help you achieve your long-term sobriety goals.






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