Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person who’s drunk heavily for weeks, months, or years experiences physical and psychological symptoms after cutting back or quitting alcohol. Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to detox or to withdraw from, which is why medically monitored detox is recommended. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to severe and may vary in duration depending on the severity of the person’s drinking habit. If you’re a long-time drinker and want to quit, then you may be wondering, “How long does alcohol withdrawal last?” Understanding this process, what it entails, and the safest way to go about it is crucial in staying safe and achieving your goal of quitting alcohol.
What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?
You could say that alcohol withdrawal is the result of alcohol’s effect on your central nervous system (CNS). As a depressant, drinking slows down activity in the brain, producing a calming and sedative effect, often referred to as a “buzz.” When you drink heavily for long periods, your central nervous system adjusts to this constant flow of alcohol.
The brain then adjusts to keep itself more awake and to maintain nerve communication when you drink. When these levels suddenly drop, your CNS remains in this high-energy state, which is alcohol withdrawal. At this point, it is crucial to seek out withdrawal management from our rehab in Texas in order to handle these symptoms safely.
How Long Does an Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
How long alcohol withdrawal lasts varies from person to person. Normally, the more alcohol the person drinks, the more severe their symptoms will be. So, exactly how long after the last drink does alcohol withdrawal begin?
Below are the stages of the alcohol withdrawal timeline and the symptoms that may occur while detoxing.
- 6 Hours After the Last Drink: How soon does alcohol withdrawal start? Symptoms can begin as soon as 6 to 8 hours after your last drink. People in this stage may experience symptoms like headache, anxiety, stomach pains, insomnia, poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting. The heavier a person drinks, the more severe these symptoms will be.
- 12 to 24 Hours After the Last Drink: From 12 to 24 hours after a person’s last drink, they may experience symptoms like high blood pressure or increased heart rate, confusion, mild hyperthermia, abnormal breathing, hallucinations, and seizures.
- 24 to 48 Hours After the Last Drink: At this stage, minor withdrawal symptoms may include headache, tremors, and an upset stomach. These symptoms may peak after 18 to 24 hours and begin to dissipate after four or five days.
- 48 Hours to 72 Hours After the Last Drink: Some people, usually chronic drinkers or people with alcohol use disorders, may experience a severe form of alcohol withdrawal known as delirium tremens (DT) or alcohol withdrawal delirium. The most common symptoms of DT are grand mal seizures and severe confusion. A person in this stage of alcohol withdrawal may also have a high heart rate, seizures, or a high body temperature.
- 72 Hours After the Last Drink: Three days, or 72 hours, is usually the point in alcohol withdrawal where symptoms are at their worst. In rare cases, moderate withdrawal symptoms may persist for a month. These include rapid heart rate and illusions (seeing things that aren’t there).
Alcohol depresses the central nervous system to produce a relaxing and euphoric effect. However, because the body works to balance itself, alcohol will also signal the brain to excite or stimulate the central nervous system. When you stop drinking, you’re taking away alcohol from existing and new receptors that your CNS made to balance itself. As a result, this system remains on hyperdrive.
Anxiety, irritability, nausea, tremors, and rapid heart rate are the most common signs of alcohol withdrawal. In more severe cases, such as those involving alcoholism, DT can occur, producing symptoms like hallucinations, high body temperature, illusions, and paranoia. The alcohol withdrawal timeline can be lengthy and painful if the detoxification process is not done under medical supervision.
Alcohol withdrawal treatment at home is never advisable as it can lead to devastating consequences. Fortunately, our rehab in Texas offers detox as well as alcohol addiction treatment to help our patients safely withdraw from this substance and manage their cravings. Recovery from alcoholism is possible through effective Texas addiction treatment.