Alcohol Withdrawal, Timeline & Detox

Alcohol use disorder has long become a problem in the United States, adding up to the piling problems such as vehicular accidents and road fatalities. Today, the Transcend Recovery Community team looks at alcohol withdrawal and how this condition may affect people while undergoing recovery from life-threatening physical dependence. Read on to find out more.

Alcohol Withdrawal Explained

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when someone who engages in binge drinking or chronic alcohol abuse/alcohol use disorder suddenly stops their consumption of alcohol.

However, when an individual abruptly ceases their alcohol consumption, from which they have developed physical dependence, their body may manifest moderate symptoms to severe withdrawal symptoms. The central nervous system is directly affected as it puts the brain, body, and neurotransmitters into immediate shock.

As the neurotransmitters are blocked because of alcohol abuse or continued alcohol use, the brain's neurotransmitters must once again work their way by adjusting to gain the sensitivity needed for them to properly operate.

Individuals who have experienced severe withdrawal symptoms from alcohol tapering, these people may experience severe pain or discomfort that might extend the treatment period for quite some time. While admittedly hard, those who have experienced alcohol withdrawal could attest that patience and a strong support system have helped them go through this ordeal—no matter if they just had minor withdrawal symptoms or mild symptoms, or more severe withdrawal symptoms.

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal?

While alcohol recovery is tedious and very tricky for most people, experiencing "alcohol withdrawals" is a normal aspect of recovery, be it for drug addiction or other related alcohol abuse problems. An individual may undergo various stages of withdrawal from the moment they have engaged or decided to undergo alcohol addiction treatment.

Here are some of the known stages for the actual alcohol withdrawal timeline. Let's go through each one of them:

  • Stage I - This usually occurs at the most crucial time which is the first six to 12 hours. During this time, many symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may be felt. The alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include but are not limited to the following:
  • lack of appetite
  • nausea
  • insomnia
  • stomach upset
  • headaches
  • Stage II - The next stage happens in the next 12 to 48 hours which may allow an individual to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as withdrawal seizures and hallucinations.
  • Stage III - Occurring in the span of 48 to 72 hours, this may prove to be the most crucial and dangerous phase. Individuals may experience unpleasant symptoms such as fever, sweating, confusion, palpitations, high blood pressure, and delirium tremens (a very fatal condition).
  • Stage IV - The final phase of the program involves the ceasing or improvement of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms to be slightly better than in the earlier days. Most symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may go away in 7 days or approximately one week.

Note that the stages will all happen effectively up to the individual's last drink. It's also important to note that out of all the four stages, Stage III proves to be the most dangerous of all, especially as it has the worst alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It's best to talk to a licensed physician to be informed on how to face even the most severe symptoms during supervised medical detox. It also helps an individual and their friends and loved ones better prepared for any incoming medical emergency.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

a drunk man having a withdrawal with alcohol is sleeping on the table with a whiskey on his glass

Similar to when a person may experience withdrawal symptoms from Ibuprofen & alcohol withdrawal, alcohol detoxification may last for a certain duration. Depending on the severe symptoms, it may peak at around 48 to 72 hours after the individual's last drink.

Additionally, it can also last for days (seven to 10 days) or even for as long as 2 weeks. The more psychological symptoms due to alcohol use disorder may linger for a while. These may last even after two weeks and could stay for up to months if not addressed right away.

The amount of alcohol consumed (regardless of whether they're eight or more drinks), will dictate how a person may experience the severity of withdrawal. An individual must receive medical attention right away.

What Is Delirium Tremens?

Delirium tremens or alcohol withdrawal delirium is one of the most extreme symptoms that a person may experience from their detox from alcohol. It is characterized by a state of delirium with a noticeable change in behavior or level of consciousness. At least 5% to 15% of these cases are fatal.

Factors Affecting Alcohol Withdrawal

When reviewing the effects of alcohol drinking on a person, it's also necessary to look at various factors that may affect how a person may be affected by alcohol withdrawal. Here are some of the factors at hand:

  • Amount of alcohol consumption
  • Weight
  • Age
  • Co-occurring mental illness
  • Physical health issues
  • frequency of alcohol use, whether it's moderate drinking or worse.

What Happens During Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox may seem like a simple process. But in reality, alcohol use detoxification or addiction treatment entails a lot of hard work and dedication not just from the end of medical professionals, but from the recovering individual as well.

Before an individual can be admitted to a program for the treatment of their alcohol dependence, they may first undergo a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. It may entail the process of blood work, examination of medical history, mental health, and abuse alcohol history. It helps a medical professional to determine appropriate treatment options that an individual may need to combat their issues and to identify what is needed to be addressed with both alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Next would be the actual process of "detox" from alcohol. That said, it's not as simple as asking someone to stop drinking. It would still need thorough professional medical advice. In some cases, an individual may need prescription medication for patients who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Other drugs needed for the detox process should be discussed with the attending recovery specialist even before they receive treatment.

The detoxification process involves other aspects of treatment apart from requiring someone to stop drinking alcohol. They may also join solo or group behavioral therapy to help an individual process their excessive drinking problem or alcohol addiction. Getting support from people who have also undergone these issues will greatly benefit them in better understanding their chronic alcohol use disorder.

Common and Dangerous Withdrawal and Detox Symptoms

As part of a successful outpatient mental health program, it's important to first identify the different symptoms to keep you posted. Here are the most common and even dangerous withdrawal symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Abnormal liver function
  • Delirium tremens
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety

What Is the Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal?

The good news is that there are ways to combat alcohol withdrawal syndrome to make alcohol detox much more bearable for a patient. Here are the different alcohol withdrawal treatment options available:

  • Prescription of anti-anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines
  • Beta-blockers or hypertensive medicine for a slower heart rate
  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Thorough examination or diagnosis of the individual to determine the severity of the alcohol withdrawal case.

These options can be found in both inpatient and outpatient treatment options. The inclusion of sober living arrangements during treatment and recovery is also important to give individuals more room to focus on their growth and rehabilitation.

Can Transcend Recovery Help with Alcohol Withdrawal?

While Transcend Recovery Community doesn't treat individuals for their withdrawal symptoms or substance use disorders/substance abuse issues, it provides additional support through useful services like transitional housing arrangements that empower patients in a safe space for rehabilitation. You can contact us right away to learn more about our full range of services.

Transcend Recovery Community

Transcend Recovery Community family of sober living homes provides a safe place for those undergoing mental health and addiction treatment to live with like-minded peers. Our community-based approach to sober living (similarly to a halfway house) facilitates an open and welcoming environment, where members, staff and team can provide support and encouragement on the path to a sober and healthy life. Transcend's Los Angeles sober living homes are located in some of the most iconic areas of the city, filled with luxurious and upscale amenities, providing plenty to do for those in our transitional housing community.

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