alcohol abuse facts

Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

Worldwide, alcohol misuse is the fifth leading risk factor for both disability and premature death. Alcohol is also the third leading preventable cause of death in the US, plus is responsible for a good number of driving fatalities.

And all this is just accidents and deaths. When you take into account how alcohol abuse can significantly wreck relationships, then it’s even more evident that it can be largely detrimental in your life.

But if you have an alcohol dependence, there’s still hope.

If you or a loved one is interested in alcohol detox, then keep reading. We’ll explain the process and what can happen afterward for recovery.

Alcohol Detox Process

When you go through alcohol detox, this is where you rid your body of all traces of alcohol. It can be a very difficult process, especially if your dependence is heavy and long-term.

In fact, it can be dangerous to try and detox on your own. For those who are heavy drinkers, they have the risk of going through alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) if they try and go cold turkey. Some serious side effects can be hallucinations, seizures, and even death.

This is why we highly recommend detoxing under the care of a medical professional, such as those at a rehabilitation center. They can put you on a slow detox program where you gradually cut down your alcohol usage in a safe manner. They can monitor you as you detox to ensure you’re both comfortable and safe.

Not only that, but the care of a medical professional also increases your chance of success and decreases your chance of relapse

symptoms of alcohol withdrawal

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Detox |  Back to top

However way you choose to detox, you’ll most certainly experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The ones you experience and the intensity of them will depend on how often you use alcohol and how long you’ve been abusing it.

Here are some of the common withdrawal symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Raised blood pressure

As you can see, it can be very uncomfortable to go through withdrawal. This is the reason why many people quit detoxing in the middle and drink again. It’s not that they want to get drunk, but rather, they want the withdrawal symptoms to go away.

alcohol withdrawal timeline

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Detox |  Back to top

Again, it’ll depend on the individual what the alcohol withdrawal timeline is like for them. This will depend on the severity of their addiction. However, there are 3 main stages that could potentially happen.

First, they’ll have mild withdrawal symptoms within 6 to 12 hours of their last drink. They might initially have symptoms like a headache, anxiety, hand tremors, and heart palpitations.

Then, in addition to the symptoms from the first stage, they’ll experience moderate withdrawal symptoms. These can include confusion, increased blood pressure and heart rate, and even a little hyperthermia.

Lastly, someone going through alcohol detox might experience severe symptoms as the last stage of withdrawal. This can happen anywhere between 24 to 72 hours after the last drink. They can experience the symptoms in both of the earlier stages, plus disorientation, hallucinations, and seizures.

The last stage is a serious one to be in, and should be avoided at all costs. Again, this is why we highly recommend being under the care of a medical professional for alcohol detox, as they’ll help you withdraw safely without getting to the last stage.

In addition to all the above short-term symptoms, some people might also suffer from long-term withdrawal symptoms. For example, it’s possible for you to have insomnia, mood swings, and fatigue for months after your last drink.

symptoms of alcohol detox

Abuse facts  |  Withdrawal symptoms  |  Withdrawal timeline  |  Back to top

Medications for Alcohol Withdrawal

If you’re under the care of a medical professional for your alcohol detox process, they’re able to prescribe medications for it. These can make it safer for you, not to mention also make your withdrawal symptoms less intense.

For example, they can prescribe benzodiazepines or anticonvulsants to prevent seizures from happening, as well as dampen other withdrawal symptoms. They can also prescribe barbiturates if you have benzodiazepine-resistant alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Alcohol Rehabilitation

After you’re done with alcohol detox, you’re not done yet. Detox might feel like the most difficult part of your journey to recovery, but it’s only the beginning. To really be successful, you need to also go through rehabilitation.

In rehab, you’ll attend counseling sessions. In individual counseling, you’ll learn what your drinking triggers are and how to deal with them in a wholesome way. You’ll also go to group counseling, where you’ll all share in your experiences so you don’t feel as alone in your road to sobriety.

Some rehab centers also have alternative therapies. This is because recovery is a holistic experience, which means you shouldn’t just heal your body. Activities that help heal your mind and soul include art therapy, massage, and yoga.

While you’re in rehab, you might be prescribed more medications to help manage your alcohol addiction. They include:

  • Disulfiram
  • Naltrexone
  • Acamprosate
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Centrally-acting alpha-2 agonists
  • Beta blockers
  • Baclofen

The good news is, not everyone will need these medications to successfully stay sober.

Get Help for Your Alcohol Addiction Today

Now you know the process you have to go through for alcohol detox and withdrawal. Most importantly, the next step you should take afterward is go to rehab. At these facilities, you can receive the care and help you need to live a sober life.

So don’t put things off. While it may be a scary step to take, going to detox and rehab are the best things you can do to turn your life around and fix your relationships!

Would you like to get started on alcohol detox and rehabilitation? Then get in touch with us now.

Medically Reviewed: September 25, 2019

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Your Guide to Alcohol Detoxification.

Written By Jeff Mahre BA MFA MLIS - January 12th, 2017

Addiction to alcohol and the detoxification process can be painful and even life-threatening. We always recommend that any individual who decides to quit drinking should choose to do so in a safe medical detox facility with licensed medical staff. Contact someone who can help you today.