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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline, Diagnosis, and Treatments

alcohol withdrawal treatment programs

Withdrawal from alcohol, commonly known as the alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS), is the uncomfortable process your body undergoes when you try to quit drinking alcohol or are simply unable to drink alcohol for whatever reason (for instance, if you can’t acquire it). 

Continuous alcohol use will adapt the body to its presence in your system. You may experience unpleasant and sometimes deadly withdrawal symptoms if you quit drinking suddenly.

Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), can induce physical changes in the body, making it challenging to manage alcohol use. It can also make it extremely difficult to lessen or quit alcohol abuse.

This article describes the most common signs and symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal. It will also explain how alcohol withdrawal symptoms interact with the body in the hours and days following cessation of heavy drinking and their treatment.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms might occur as early as two hours after your last drink. Usually, symptoms peak within the first 24 to 48 hours of discontinuation. During this period, you may suffer the most uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, fast pulse, fluctuations in blood pressure, sweating, tremors, and fever.

While some people experience relatively minor withdrawal symptoms, others may suffer from more severe side effects. For example, delirium tremens is considered one of the most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It can arise during the first 48 hours following your last drink and involves confusion, severe shaking, hallucinations, and high blood pressure. 

Heavy drinkers who suddenly quit drinking may have any range of harmful symptoms. Therefore, it’s crucial for people experiencing withdrawal to undergo medically-assisted detox.

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal often occur according to the following timeline:

6 to 12 Hours Post-Ingestion

As little as six hours after you take your last drink, mild symptoms might appear. They may consist of:

  • Shaky hands
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia

12 to 24 Hours Post-Ingestion

Within the first two days after you quit, more severe problems may begin, including hallucinations, seizures, and disorientation. You can see, feel, or hear things that aren’t there.

48 Hours Post-Ingestion

DTs, or delirium tremens, typically begin within this period. These severe symptoms include vivid hallucinations and delusions. Approximately 5 percent of those experiencing alcohol withdrawal have them. Those individuals may also have:

  • Seizures
  • Heavy sweating
  • Confusion
  • Racing heart
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure

Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms may occur during the first few days and weeks after someone stops consuming alcohol. Acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome refers to the common withdrawal symptoms experienced by heavy drinkers when they suddenly cease their alcohol consumption. 

During this period, you’re most in danger of momentarily losing consciousness, experiencing delirium tremens, and having seizures. Due to the potentially life-threatening health consequences that might occur during acute alcohol withdrawal, it is advised that you never quit drinking on your own and instead seek treatment at a hospital or a specialized rehab center. A medical practitioner can monitor your mental and physical health throughout the day to ensure that symptoms do not worsen.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

After the acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms have faded, some persons may face prolonged side effects. This phase is less common and is called post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS encompasses withdrawal symptoms that occur after acute withdrawal and can make post-rehab living challenging for certain persons. 

Depending on the intensity of your alcohol usage, PAWS can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year.

Common withdrawal symptoms of PAWS include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Memory problems
  • Chronic nausea
  • Intense cravings
  • Increased accident proneness
  • Low energy
  • Anxiety
  • Delayed reflexes
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability and emotional outbursts


Alcohol withdrawal is easy to diagnose if you experience common symptoms when you cease excessive, frequent drinking. If you have already experienced withdrawal symptoms, you will likely experience them again if you begin and stop excessive drinking. There are no specialized tests for the diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal.

You have ingested enough alcohol to harm other organs if you face withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor should carefully examine you and perform blood tests for alcohol-related damage to your heart, liver, blood cell counts, nerves in your foot, and gastrointestinal system. Your doctor will examine your regular diet and look for vitamin deficiencies because poor nutrition is often in alcohol addicts.

People who drink often find it challenging to be entirely honest about how much they’ve consumed. You should honestly report to your doctor about your drinking history so you can be adequately treated for withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can change quickly; within hours, you could go from mild side effects to more severe ones. Various alcohol treatment programs concentrate on assisting people in overcoming drinking issues, no matter how minor or severe they may be. 

Those battling alcohol dependence might benefit significantly from specialized treatment centers. For instance, treatment professionals will be able to assist in easing some of the most uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and offer support around-the-clock during the whole recovery process.

Since there is no “one-size-fits-all” method for treating alcoholism, rehabilitation programs often include:

Inpatient Treatment

Patients battling alcohol addiction have access to a secure, supervised setting at inpatient rehab centers. This type of program is the most intensive form of addiction treatment, with 24-hour care and often 30-, 60-, or 90-day programs.

Outpatient Treatment

Patients in outpatient rehab can attend to their daily responsibilities while recovering. As individuals will be exposed to drinking triggers and other influences, this approach is best suited for those with less severe types of alcohol abuse.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

To help ease painful withdrawal symptoms, several treatment programs provide medication-assisted therapy. Certain medications help alleviate alcohol withdrawal, allowing patients to concentrate on other parts of their rehabilitation. For example, benzodiazepines can lessen alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Individual Counseling

Counselors in alcohol rehabilitation offer assistance during the ups and downs of alcohol withdrawal. Counselors look to see for underlying causes that may have contributed to a patient’s alcoholism and train them on how to overcome various obstacles on the road to recovery.

Support Groups

Long after rehabilitation, recovery continues. Support organizations like Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous provide a forum for persons in alcohol recovery to talk about their treatment objectives and struggles. You’ll have the motivation to keep up your sobriety because of this.

You will go on to additional treatment techniques, activities, and programs after the alcohol withdrawal period. These will provide you with the skills and resources you need to stay in treatment, avoid triggers, and lead a healthy life after rehab.

Table showing the timeline of alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does your body feel when you quit drinking?

Withdrawal symptoms might include sweating, tremors, sleep difficulties, fast heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, anxiety, restlessness, and even seizures.

How long after you stop drinking Do you feel the effects?

Up to 24 hours after you have quit drinking, early symptoms will be mild. They may include nervousness, hand tremors and trembling, perspiration and headaches. As time goes on, alcohol cravings will rise, and feelings of fatigue and despair might occur.

How long does it take your brain to go back to normal after stopping drinking?

The latest research suggests that it takes at least two weeks for the brain to start returning to normal, which is when the alcohol recovery timeline begins. Until the brain recovers, its ability to inhibit the temptation to drink is diminished. This is because alcohol has affected the cognitive function of the brain.

How bad is alcohol withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is a terrifying phase. The addict usually goes through the following symptoms:
inability to speak or sleep
extreme agitation
entire body aches
difficulty breathing
profuse sweating
heart palpitations
uncontrollable shakes
high fever
hallucinations (visual, auditory, tactile)

What happens during alcohol withdrawal?

When you quit drinking suddenly, your body is deprived of the effects of alcohol and needs some time to get used to life without it. Shakes, sleeplessness, nausea, and anxiety are some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms brought on by this transition phase.

Live a Sober Life with The Haven Detox 

Although alcohol withdrawal can be painful, it is a crucial step toward recovery. When undertaken under the guidance of medical specialists, alcohol withdrawal is a lot safer and more straightforward process.

The Haven treatment facility provides a wide variety of addiction treatment programs that can be personalized to your unique needs, including effective alcohol rehab treatment. Led by a world-class team of consulting psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and other medical experts, we support many people battling addiction, working with them to build a brighter future.

For additional information, contact us at (561) 328-8627!

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