a man struggles through the stages of alcohol withdrawal without professional help

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

When someone has abused alcohol for a long time, alcohol withdrawal can be uncomfortable and even painful. The body and brain have become used to alcohol over time, and they will struggle to function correctly without it over the different stages of alcohol withdrawal. It’s essential that the withdrawal process be done safely. Our San Antonio alcohol rehab provides essential medical attention and monitoring for people who are ready to detox from alcohol. Call 1.844.675.1628 for more information.

Why Do Withdrawal Symptoms Happen? 

Because alcohol is a depressant, the central nervous system slows down when someone drinks heavily. The body compensates by producing more stimulants, like the “feel-good” chemical dopamine. As a person develops alcohol use disorder, they often need to drink more often and in larger quantities to feel the same effect. The body produces even more stimulants as a result, and eventually, body and brain balances are thrown out of balance. 

Once a person with alcohol use disorder stops drinking, the body and brain continue to overproduce stimulants. Since the brain has adjusted to the presence of alcohol, its absence means the brain struggles to return to normal functioning. 

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last? 

For some people, alcohol can leave their system within a few hours with only mild withdrawal symptoms. For others, the withdrawal process takes a week or longer. 

In general, it takes about 24 hours for alcohol to completely leave your system. But withdrawal symptoms can continue after 24 hours. Symptoms typically begin within six hours of your last drink, peak within 24 to 72 hours, and last for up to seven days. 

However, the length and severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary for each individual depending on: 

  • Weight, age, and gender 
  • Other mental and physical health concerns they have 
  • How long they have been abusing alcohol 
  • How much alcohol they drink 
  • Whether they combine alcohol with other addictive substances 

People who drank larger amounts of alcohol for longer periods or who have a family history of alcoholism or other health issues will usually experience more severe symptoms. 

Early Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal 

Within six hours of your last drink, alcohol begins to leave the body. At this point, you can expect withdrawal symptoms to begin. Early-stage symptoms last for about 24 hours or longer—typically one to two days. 

You may have a headache, nausea, an upset stomach, and heart palpitations. Sweating and mild shaking or tremors are also common. You might become anxious, have trouble concentrating, or have trouble falling and staying asleep. 

Middle to Late Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal 

The middle to late stages of alcohol withdrawal may come with severe symptoms that require medical attention. Within 12 to 24 hours of the last drink, some people experience more serious symptoms than they did in the early stages, such as: 

  • Seizures 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Unusually rapid breathing 
  • Disorientation 

Symptoms typically peak, or reach their worst point, 24 hours after the last drink. This is the time when you’re most at risk for seizure during detox. Most symptoms will begin to ease after 72 hours, or three days. 

About 10% of people who go through alcohol withdrawal will have severe mid- to late-stage symptoms that can be life-threatening. These include fever, mental confusion, delusions, and hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there). Delirium tremens, a rare withdrawal symptom that includes hallucinations and delusions, is a risk between 48 and 72 hours after the last drink. 

Final Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

Fortunately, alcohol withdrawal doesn’t last forever. Most people recover from withdrawal symptoms within four to seven days of their last drink, or about a week. 

However, some symptoms can linger for weeks or months, particularly if you have overcome a severe alcohol dependency. Insomnia, depression, and anxiety, for instance, can last for several weeks after other alcohol withdrawal symptoms have resolved. 

Detox Safely with The Right Step Hill Country 

The smartest, safest way to detox is in a professional alcohol rehab program. Our Texas alcohol rehab provides ongoing medical monitoring. If your symptoms worsen, you’re able to get medical attention immediately. You will begin with an intake interview to give us a better understanding of your individual needs and alcohol use history, so we can provide the right level of care. Though you’ll still experience withdrawal symptoms in a medical facility, you’ll remain safe and be as comfortable as possible. Your symptoms are likely to be much less severe than they would be if you detox on your own. 

Our team works with you through the entire process of recovery, where detox is just the beginning. Whether you are enrolled in an inpatient, outpatient, or partial hospitalization program, you’ll receive personalized care and attention from our staff. Learn more about how to take back your life from alcohol use disorder by calling 1.844.675.1628 or filling out our online form

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