If someone is struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, making the decision to quit drinking can be life changing. Unfortunately, making that decision comes with the potential of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can range anywhere from mild to dangerous and can even lead back to people returning to drinking to stop the symptoms. While detoxing can be difficult, you don’t have to go through it alone. At Holland Pathways, we offer medically monitored Detox Programs, along with inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.


What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is caused by physical dependence on alcohol. When someone drinks heavily for an extended period, they will likely go through the withdrawal symptoms when they choose to quit the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and mental. Because the alcohol is a depressant, the brain goes into overdrive to keep the body working properly with alcohol in its system. When alcohol is removed, the brain and body are still amped up, causing withdrawal symptoms.


Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

The longer a person abuses alcohol, the more likely they are to experience withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms can begin about two days after the last drink. Common symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Upset stomach
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Shaking hands or tremors
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue


Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Everyone experiences alcohol withdrawal differently. However, most people follow a general timeline when detoxing from alcohol. The general alcohol withdrawal timeline follows this:

  • Six hours after the last drink: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as six hours after someone’s last drink. Common symptoms at this stage include sweating, anxiety, headaches, and increased heart rate.
  • 12 to 48 hours after the last drink: People will continue to experience minor withdrawal symptoms at this stage. Individuals with a severe dependence on alcohol may experience seizures at this time.
  • 72 hours after the last drink: This time period is when individuals experience the most severe withdrawal symptoms. While rare, people can continue to have withdrawal symptoms for up to month after the last drink.


Factors That Influence the Length of Detox

It is estimated that 50 percent of people who abuse alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms. However, the severity and length of time a person experiences withdrawal will depend on a few personal factors. Factors that may influence how long it takes to detox from alcohol may include:

  • How long the person abused alcohol
  • How much alcohol a person consumed at one time
  • Height and weight
  • Previous alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Abnormal liver functions
  • Age
  • Dehydration
  • Any other drug use

Overall, the heavier a person drinks for an extended period of time, the more likely they are to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Occasionally, more serious symptoms such as seizures may present.  The best way to cope with alcohol withdrawal and to prevent potentially dangerous symptoms is to seek help a medically supervised detox.