Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Treatment

Written by Brennan Valeski

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

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The effects of alcohol misuse and binge drinking impact millions of people around the world, leading to a myriad of health issues and societal problems. When people use alcohol frequently and excessively, it can lead to physical dependence, causing the body to adapt to the presence of alcohol and leading to withdrawal symptoms when alcohol consumption is reduced or stopped. 

Understanding alcohol withdrawal, its symptoms, timeline, and treatment options is crucial for those struggling with alcohol use disorder and their loved ones, as it can be the first step towards recovery and a healthier life.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal refers to the symptoms that happen when someone with alcohol dependence suddenly stops or reduces alcohol intake. These symptoms can be severe, leading to severe health complications that can be life-threatening if not properly managed. Recognizing the signs of alcohol withdrawal and seeking appropriate treatment is very important, given its risks.

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can vary widely, influenced by individual factors. These factors can include your average level of alcohol consumption, the duration of dependence, and your overall health. Some people experience mild symptoms, while others undergo severe and potentially life-threatening conditions. 

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

During alcohol withdrawal, there are a range of common symptoms you may experience. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Sweaty, clammy skin
  • Elevated heart rate

With medical help, managing many of these symptoms and their intensity can be reduced. Recognizing these symptoms early can also help prevent the progression to more severe conditions. 

Severe Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can escalate to severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms, such as:

An uncommon but potentially deadly condition called delirium tremens can also sometimes develop. This condition causes confusion, hallucinations, severe sweating, seizures, and other problems and is fatal up to 37% of the time if not treated. Immediate medical care is crucial when experiencing severe symptoms to prevent fatal outcomes.

The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Someone likely to experience withdrawal symptoms should know the timeline they should anticipate. While the alcohol withdrawal timeline may differ depending on the individual, it typically follows a somewhat predictable pattern. The timeline typically follows:

  1. 6-12 hours after your last drink – Early symptoms begin to appear, which can include anxiety, tremors, and headache.
  2. 12-24 hours after your last drink – Symptoms may intensify and can include increased nausea, vomiting, and irritability.
  3. 24-48 hours after your last drink – The risk of seizures increases, and symptoms like confusion and agitation may become more pronounced.
  4. 48-72 hours after your last drink – More serious symptoms can develop, including severe conditions like delirium tremens, characterized by extreme confusion, hallucinations, and high blood pressure.
  5. 72+ hours after your last drink – Symptoms will gradually reduce in intensity and severity for many people. In very serious cases, severe symptoms may continue for several days before abating.

Recognizing the stages and duration of alcohol withdrawal is essential for preparing for and addressing withdrawal symptoms promptly and effectively.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment Options

There are several treatment approaches available for managing alcohol withdrawal, including detox, rehab, therapy, and aftercare. Each option plays an important role in aiding recovery and addressing the different aspects of alcohol addiction, helping individuals regain control over their lives.

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox is the initial step in treating alcohol dependence. During this step, your body clears alcohol from your bloodstream and readjusts to its absence. This process involves getting through physical withdrawal symptoms and reaching a state where you are ready for further treatment. A successful detox provides you with your initial sobriety.

Alcohol Rehab

While detox helps you become sober, alcohol rehab focuses on helping you develop the skills and resources you need to stay sober. Alcohol rehab, which can be residential or outpatient, offers structured treatment programs that address the underlying causes of alcohol addiction. In rehab, you receive medical support, counseling, and therapies that help build resilience and coping strategies, helping you sustain your long-term recovery.


Therapy is an important component in alcohol addiction treatment, providing you with the tools to understand and combat your addiction. Through various therapeutic approaches, you can explore the triggers and patterns of your alcohol use, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and work towards sustained sobriety. Therapy often plays a role during detox, rehab, and aftercare


Aftercare supports your alcohol addiction recovery after rehab, offering ongoing support and resources to maintain sobriety. It includes support groups, counseling, and relapse prevention strategies that help you reinforce the skills learned during treatment and address any challenges in your recovery journey.

Alcohol Addiction Support and Resources

Several local and national resources are available to further aid in alcohol addiction recovery. These include: 

Leveraging these resources can provide additional support and guidance, enhancing your chances of long-term recovery.


MedlinePlus. “Alcohol.” March 22, 2022. Accessed September 28, 2023.

Berman, Jacob. “Alcohol withdrawal.” February 28, 2023. Accessed September 28, 2023.

Newman, Richard K.; Gallagher, Megan A. Stobart; & Gomez, Anna E. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” StatPearls [Internet]. July 21, 2023. Accessed September 28, 2023.

Rahman, Abdul & Paul, Manju. “Delirium Tremens.” StatPearls [Internet]. August 14, 2023. Accessed September 28, 2023.

Huebner, Robert B. & Kantor, Lori Wolfgang. “Advances in Alcoholism Treatment.” Alcohol Research & Health. 2011. Accessed September 28, 2023.

Alcoholics Anonymous. “Alcoholics Anonymous.” 2023. Accessed September 28, 2023.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.” 2023. Accessed September 28, 2023.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “SAMHSA’s National Helpline.” 2023. Accessed September 28, 2023.


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