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How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last? What to Expect

Nicholas Conn
Nicholas Conn

Nicholas is a leading addiction expert UK's go-to man on related matters for the national press, TV and radio.

Woman putting hands in front of her glass to imply she has has enough to drink

Alcohol withdrawal is a significant phase for any individual who decides to stop drinking alcohol after prolonged or heavy use. The duration of alcohol withdrawal can vary depending on several factors including your overall health, the severity of alcohol dependence, or whether you need to seek medical assistance.

In this blog, we will explore the impact alcohol withdrawal has on people and provide insights into how long alcohol withdrawal lasts and what to expect.


What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person who has been drinking heavily for a long duration suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake.

This causes the body which has been accustomed to functioning with alcohol to react to its absence, leading to withdrawal symptoms. These can vary from mild symptoms to severe and in some cases can be life-threatening.


Why is Understanding the Duration of Alcohol Withdrawal Important?

Understanding the duration of alcohol withdrawal can ultimately help you to manage and treat the condition. Knowing how long the withdrawal process will last will help you and your healthcare professional prepare a treatment plan that is suited to your needs and prepare for potential complications.

Also, understanding the duration of alcohol withdrawal can aid in preventing relapse, as you may be more likely to seek help and remain consistent with your recovery plan if you are more aware of the potential challenges you may face.

Overall, understanding the duration of alcohol withdrawal can greatly improve the chances of a successful recovery and tailor a treatment plan that best suits your needs.


Factors Influencing Alcohol Withdrawal Duration

Many factors influence the duration of alcohol withdrawal – and it is important that, when managing the condition, you are aware of these factors to experience a successful recovery. Here are the key factors that may impact the duration of your alcohol withdrawal:


Duration and Amount of Alcohol Use

The length of time you have been drinking heavily and the amount of alcohol consumed can significantly impact the withdrawal process. Long-term heavy drinkers are more likely to experience more severe and prolonged withdrawal symptoms – therefore, requiring a tailored and monitored treatment plan.


Individual Health Factors

Your health including liver function, nutritional status, and mental health disorders can also impact the severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms. Having better overall health can lead to experiencing milder symptoms due to the body being in better condition than heavier drinkers.


Age and Gender

Age and gender also play a role in alcohol withdrawal. Older individuals may discover that they may face more challenges recovering from an alcohol addiction due to age-related health. Gender differences can also affect how alcohol is withdrawn and the severity of the withdrawal symptoms overall.


Typical Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal

Different stages make up the timeline of alcohol withdrawal and the length of withdrawal varies based on many factors. One size does not fit all, but here is a typical timeline to give you an idea:


Initial Symptoms (6-12 hours)

The first stage of alcohol withdrawal typically begins within 6 to 12 hours after your last drink. During this period of withdrawal, you may experience symptoms including:


  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

These symptoms that you may experience are usually very mild however, at times you may find them uncomfortable and distressing.


Acute Withdrawal (12-72 hours)

The acute phase of withdrawal is the most intense and can last from 12 to 72 hours after the last drink. Symptoms during this phase can often escalate quite quickly to:


  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Seizures are considered to be a highly dangerous symptom and particularly concerning as they can lead to severe complications and even death if not managed properly.


Peak of Withdrawal Symptoms (24-48 hours)

The peak of alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally occurs between 24 to 48 hours after your last drink. At this period of withdrawal, the risk of severe symptoms such as seizures and tremens is at its highest. Delirium tremens is a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes.


Subsiding Symptoms (3-7 Days)

After the peak period, you will discover that symptoms gradually start to subside. When it reaches the third day, many people begin to feel some relief even though some severe withdrawal symptoms you may have experienced.

At the end of the first week, most acute withdrawal symptoms should significantly reduce however, it is still possible for you to experience the remaining effects.


Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Even though the acute phase of withdrawal symptoms ends within a week, some people still experience post-acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome, which can last for several weeks to months. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome can include:


  • Mood Swings
  • Anxiety
  • Low Energy
  • Insomnia
  • Cravings for alcohol


Common Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

There are a variety of withdrawal symptoms that range from mild to severe that you may experience over the duration. Here are some of the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:


  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Increase heart rate
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Delirium tremens


Seeking Help with Rehab Centres UK

Alcohol withdrawal is a complex and challenging process that varies depending on your personal needs. Understanding the timeline, symptoms, and factors affecting withdrawal can help in managing the process in the most effective way.

With the right medical supervision and guidance, you can navigate withdrawal safely and move towards a healthier lifestyle.

If you are seeking professional healthcare guidance, look no further than Rehab Centres UK. As a team, we want to make your journey to recovery as smooth as possible by providing you with the most effective alcohol withdrawal treatment method based on your needs.

Start your recovery journey with us today and move closer to a sober lifestyle.

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