Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

Learn more about what you can expect during the stages of alcohol withdrawal and how to ease the process with a proper detox

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome – or simply AWS – is the name given to the sum of symptoms you experience when you quit drinking. The symptoms can be summarized in 3 stages of alcohol withdrawal that can start as soon as 6 hours after your last drink.

The alcohol withdrawal timeline is not entirely fixed, meaning that the appearance and duration of your symptoms will largely depend on the duration of your addiction, your overall health, and how your body responds to treatment.

Unfortunately, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are many and can be quite uncomfortable for any recovering addict. In fact, detoxing under medical supervision is highly recommended because these symptoms can change drastically and – if mishandled – can pose serious health threats.

A general alcohol withdrawal timeline can be expected to peak within 3-5 days after the last drink, and decrease after 7-10 days. However, alcohol withdrawal symptoms that affect your psychological state can actually last much longer.

Alcohol abuse and addiction have many long term effects, and someone that has struggled with the issue will only be able to control and overcome the abuse with a proper detoxification and rehabilitation program.

When you start detoxing, it is imperative to do so under medical supervision. Doctors and nurses have the expertise and knowledge to keep your alcohol withdrawal symptoms controlled, avoiding health conditions and life-threatening situations.

In order to understand why the symptoms can be risky, we have to look at the 3 stages of alcohol withdrawal mentioned above, and see the transition our body goes through when detoxing, and how it can develop into severe episodes if mishandled.

The alcohol withdrawal timeline and stages can be summarized as follows:

Stage 1:

This stage is characterized by the appearance of restlessness, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, etc. This can begin within 4 to 8 hours after the last drink.

Stage 2:

A patient going through this stage, will suffer from high blood pressure, high body temperature, irregular breathing, irregular heartbeat, mood swings, increased agitation and confusion. These symptoms can appear 24 to 72 hours after the last drink.

Stage 3:

On this final stage of mainly physical symptoms, alcohol withdrawal symptoms include fever, tremors (DTs), seizures, hallucinations, paranoia. This phase starts 72+ hours after the last drink.

These stages of alcohol withdrawal are very complex. And the symptoms a patient can experience can change dramatically in a matter of minutes. Because of these characteristics, it is of high importance to go through withdrawal at a detoxification facility and rehab center.

Furthermore, this alcohol withdrawal timeline mainly refers to the actual withdrawal symptoms. There are many consequences to alcoholism that can affect someone for the rest of their life.

A person that has been abusing alcohol may experience the following health conditions, long after they’ve gone through alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and even a rehabilitation treatment:

  • Fatty liver
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pancreatitis
  • Risk of cancer (mouth, throat, esophagus, liver)

If you are thinking about quitting, you should do so in a proper and safe way. Ensuring that you withdrawal under the right circumstances and environment, plays a great role in your recovery journey and decreases your chances of falling off the wagon.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.