Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Just like with any addictive substance, if you use alcohol heavily for weeks, months, or years, you will inevitably develop a physical and mental dependence for it. You will need to have more drinks and drink more often in order to get drunk, and you will need to drink to prevent the body’s physical cravings from arising.
If you suddenly stop this pattern of heavy drinking, you will likely experience withdrawal ranging somewhere from moderate to severe. Alcohol depresses your nervous system, slowing cerebral messaging and altering the way signals are sent and received.
Eventually, the CNS adapts to the alcohol’s presence, and it becomes it’s new normal. The body works on overdrive to fight the depressant effect of the alcohol and to keep neurotransmitters firing clearly. When alcohol suddenly is no longer present, the brain basically overheats causing symptoms of withdrawal to set in.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
In most cases, alcohol detox takes a week for the alcohol to exit the body entirely, but as mentioned above, withdrawal is different for everyone. There are some who get through it without any issues, and there are others who feel the ripple effects for months after.
Most inpatient or outpatient detox programs will go from three days to a week, depending on the patient’s case. Withdrawal symptoms should completely dissipate by day seven; however, cravings and other side effects may linger for months, if not years following medical detox.
Four Phases Of Alcohol Withdrawal
Factors of Alcohol Withdrawal
Although there is a general one-week timeline for alcohol withdrawal, there are multiple elements that might change the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms during that time period. Such factors include:
- Alternative drug use – If you regularly use other drugs in conjunction with your drinking habits, especially with opioids, you may not only have to deal with symptoms of alcohol withdrawal but symptoms of that other drug withdrawal as well.
- Co-occurring mental health issues – Quite often, alcoholics use their alcohol to treat an underlying disorder that they might not even know about. Such latent co-occurring disorders can alter the severity and duration of withdrawals.
- Gender – Men and women drink in different amounts, and their bodies react differently to alcohol withdrawals. This study found that men tend to experience stronger and more frequent withdrawal symptoms including a much higher percentage of men who deal with withdrawal seizures. The reasons for this include the fact that men on average start heavy drinking earlier, drink more alcohol in one sitting, drink more frequently, and are larger (statistically) than women.
- Family History – A family history of alcohol abuse not only increases your likelihood of becoming an alcoholic but also extends or increases the severity of withdrawals.
- The health of patient – Although it is difficult to be a healthy alcoholic, someone who exercises or at least is of average body weight will likely have less severe withdrawals than someone who is obese, especially since their body is running more efficiently.
- Length and frequency of alcohol consumption- The more often and more regularly a person drinks, the more likely their mental and physical symptoms will be severe during the alcohol withdrawal timeline.
- The quantity of alcohol regularly consumed – This should be an obvious one, the more often and more alcohol you are drinking, the more the body will notice the alcohol’s absence. After years of adapting to more and more alcohol, when that alcohol is suddenly gone, the body will go into a state of shock.
Stages of Detox
Alcohol Addiction Services
If you or a loved one is getting treated for alcohol abuse, it is essential you understand the uncomfortable symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, so you can be prepared both mentally and physically. For serious alcoholics, withdrawals can be dangerous, if not fatal, so we strongly recommended that detox occurs with medical professionals.
Now that we have covered the alcohol withdrawal timeline, hopefully, you or your loved one is more prepared for what’s to come. This can be a trying and daunting process, but a life free from alcohol is worth the hardship. That said, it is hard to do on your own. Some trials are better to face with the company. Alcoholics need a support system, people to lean upon, to encourage them, and to help lift them up when it might feel like all is lost.