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How Soon Does Alcohol Withdrawal Start?

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

An image of a person wondering How soon does alcohol withdrawal start?

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

If you have been asking yourself, “How soon does alcohol withdrawal start”, today’s guide will clarify this and other aspects of the detox and withdrawal process.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects 28.5 million adults in the US, according to NSDUH 2020. NIDA defines AUD as a progressive, relapsing condition, meaning you should view recovery from alcohol abuse as an ongoing process instead of a single event like detox or withdrawal.

How fast does alcohol withdrawal start will hinge on many variables. All of the following factors can influence the recovery timeline:

  • Duration of alcohol abuse
  • Quantity of alcohol being abused
  • Any physical comorbidities
  • Medical history
  • Co-occurring mental health conditions
  • Home environment

To maximize your chances of successfully navigating alcohol withdrawal, it pays to gain an understanding of the detox process. This will help you detox safely and to engage with the most suitable alcohol addiction treatment.

What Does Alcohol Withdrawal Feel Like?

AWS (alcohol withdrawal syndrome) refers to the adverse withdrawal symptoms that manifest when someone abusing alcohol moderates consumption or stops drinking completely.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are both physical and emotional.

In the event of mild AWS, symptoms often include fatigue, anxiety, and nausea – more on these symptoms below. At the more severe end of AWS, symptoms include hallucinations and seizures. The most severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening if improperly managed.

Medical professionals use these questions to assess ten symptoms of alcohol withdrawal as follows:

1. Anxiety

2. Agitation

3. Headaches

4. Auditory disturbances

5. Tremors

6. Visual disturbances

7. Difficulty thinking clearly

8. Vomiting and nausea

9. Tactile disturbances

10.  Sweating

How soon does alcohol withdrawal occur, then?

How Long Does it Take to Get Alcohol Withdrawal?

It is estimated that half of those demonstrating problematic patterns of alcohol consumption will experience some degree of alcohol withdrawal symptoms upon quitting drinking.

How long before alcohol withdrawal starts, though?

Most withdrawal symptoms manifest from 5 hours to 24 hours after moderating or discontinuing alcohol intake.

Most mild and moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be self-managed, and these symptoms typically dissipate after less than a week.

For those with severe AWS, medically supervised detox is normally advisable. Severe symptoms often persist for longer, with the most intense of these side effects presenting after a few days of abstaining from alcohol.

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Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

There are three stages of alcohol withdrawal as follows:

  • Mild AWS: Symptoms include headaches, GI disturbances, anxiety, insomnia, and heart palpitations.
  • Moderate AWS: Mild hyperthermia, raised heart rate, confusion, abnormal breathing, and high blood pressure, in addition to the symptoms of mild AWS.
  • Severe AWS: Disorientation, attention issues, hallucinations, seizures, and the symptoms of mild and moderate AWS.

The duration and quantity of alcohol abuse directly impacts the alcohol detox and withdrawal timeline. Any underpinning physical or mental health conditions also influence how long alcohol withdrawal lasts.

Although all cases of alcohol detox are unique, the following timeline is indicative of what to expect during withdrawal.

6 hours after last alcoholic drink

Expect to experience minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms during the early phase of detox.

12 hours to 24 hours after last alcoholic drink

The first day of sobriety is when hallucinations can present.

24 hours to 48 hours after last alcoholic drink

Tremors, headaches, stomach upsets, and other minor withdrawal symptoms linger. These symptoms should peak after 24 hours, then dissipate after just four or five days.

48 hours to 72 hours after last alcoholic drink

Delirium tremens, commonly abbreviated to DTs, is the most severe form of AWS impacting around 5% of people detoxing from alcohol. In the event of seizure, DTs can be fatal. Anyone expecting to experience severe AWS should always consider a medical detox. Quitting at home alone is simply too dangerous.

72 hours after last alcoholic drink

Symptoms of AWS will peak by this phase of alcohol detox for most people.

How Long Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms Last

While there is no fixed blueprint for alcohol detox and withdrawal, most cases of AWS involve symptoms that subside after no more than five days.

In the event of PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome), symptoms can sometimes persist for a month or more.

Fortunately, with the right evidence-based treatment program, you can leave alcohol abuse behind and kickstart sustained sobriety.

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Alcohol Addiction Rehab at Renaissance Recovery

Here at Renaissance Recovery, engage with one of our highly personalized outpatient programs for addiction treatment and build a firm foundation for sober living.

To unpack the psychological aspect of alcoholism, you’ll first need to purge your system of toxins. If you feel you are at risk of developing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, we can connect you with a local medical detox center. After a week or so, the physical component of alcohol use disorder is addressed, allowing you to focus on combating what drives you to abuse alcohol.

For anyone requiring more time commitment than an OP (outpatient program) offers, we also provide the following more intensive forms of treatment for alcoholism:

All of these outpatient programs give you access to the services typically found in residential rehab. Outpatient treatment is less restrictive, though, and it’s also much more affordable. We are happy to accept insurance coverage here at Renaissance.

Regardless of the program you choose, you’ll benefit from medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, and counseling, as well as holistic therapies to supplement this research-based treatment.

Commit to ongoing recovery today by reaching out to admissions at 866.330.9449.

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Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country