Withdrawal and Detox

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

People who drink heavily over an extended period of time develop a tolerance to alcohol. When this happens they have to drink more to feel alcohol’s effects.

Eventually, someone with a tolerance to alcohol can become dependent on it. This means they have to drink to prevent withdrawal. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be intense and even deadly.

There are multiple treatments for alcohol addiction that can help users safely and comfortably quit drinking.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of withdrawal can be psychological and physical. How much, how often and for how long someone consumed alcohol impacts their withdrawal symptoms. People who drink often and a lot experience the most extreme withdrawal symptoms.

Common symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Nightmares
  • Shakiness
  • Fever
  • Irritability

Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. It causes confusion, tremors and hallucinations.

Delirium tremens is most common in people who drink the equivalent of one pint of liquor every day for several months.

Delirium tremens is life-threatening. It can cause heart problems and fatal injuries from sudden seizures. Seizures may occur 12 to 48 hours after stopping drinking. Approximately 1 out of every 20 people who experience withdrawal will suffer from delirium tremens.

Duration of Withdrawal

The first symptoms of withdrawal usually appear within the first 5 to 10 hours after the last drink. Tremors or shakes are common first signs of withdrawal. In severe cases, seizures and hallucinations follow.

Alcohol withdrawal is the worst a day or two after the last drink. Symptoms start subsiding throughout the following week.

Physical symptoms taper off sooner than psychological ones do. Long-term effects can last for months or even years after the last drink. These may include sleep disturbances or lingering depression.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

First 12 hours Heavy drinkers experience tremors a few hours after their last drink. Symptoms during the first 12 hours include sweating, irritability, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting and insomnia.
Days 1-2 Symptoms peak 24 to 48 hours after the last drink. Symptoms are most severe and may include seizures, night terrors, hallucinations and panic attacks.
Days 3-5 Ongoing feelings of nervousness, shakiness and mood swings can last up to a week after the last drink. Delirium tremens may occur during this time as well.
Days 6+ After detox, some former heavy drinkers experience longer-lasting effects of withdrawal. Symptoms are mostly psychological. They may include mood swings, anxiety, irritability, changing levels of energy and trouble sleeping. These symptoms come in waves and can last for months after the last drink.