In the world of alcohol addiction treatment, the period immediately following an individual’s last drink is known as withdrawal. During this time, alcoholism withdrawal symptoms start to present themselves and cause discomfort and pain, with more severe withdrawal symptoms being fatal in some cases and in need of immediate medical attention.

What Alcoholism Withdrawal Looks Like

Withdrawal symptoms begin within the first few hours after your final drink and can last a lifetime if acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome develops. Those suffering from alcohol use disorders will experience mild withdrawal symptoms to start, with more serious symptoms coming later.

During withdrawal, alcohol intake is reduced to zero while a medical team helps address symptoms. Alcoholism withdrawal syndrome is the presence of withdrawal symptoms even once long-term sobriety has been achieved. Those who drink heavily are at a higher risk of lifelong withdrawal symptoms.

Man experiencing headache from alcoholism withdrawal while working


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Alcohol use disorder, or alcohol addiction, can make it a challenge to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms as everyone responds differently to both alcohol and the withdrawal period. Typically, medical detox will be used, as there are several approved medications to make withdrawal safe and as comfortable as possible by diminishing the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Mild symptoms commonly experienced include:

  • Emotional irregularity
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Tremors and shaking
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

Those who’ve suffered from substance abuse or heavy abuse alcohol over a long period of time will show evident alcoholism signs and experience severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms to a higher degree. Tremors become seizures, fatigue turns into disorientation, and, in cases of severe alcohol dependence, hallucinations lead to delirium tremens. While it can be fatal, delirium tremens is only seen in less than 5% of withdrawal patients.

It’s easy to see why so many people who struggle with alcohol abuse choose to continue their drinking problem rather than seek out alcohol abuse treatment. The reason treating alcohol withdrawal symptoms in a professional setting is so important is that its detoxification period is one of the most severe of any substance. Life-threatening withdrawal symptoms make medical professionals a required part of any alcohol withdrawal timeline.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Take?

As with any alcohol abuse problems, the withdrawal and treatment timeline will look different from person to person. Some engage in binge drinking or heavy alcohol consumption on an infrequent basis and barely experience alcohol withdrawal side effects. When this practice becomes a habit, there’s no alcohol health professionals can recommend as safe. Sobriety is the only way through alcohol addiction.

Even with everyone’s mind and body being composed of different health issues, genetic factors and amount of alcohol-related physical complications, there’s enough data available to create a timeline for the road to recovery.

Woman with a severe form of withdrawal resting her head on top of the toilet bowl after vomiting

It All Comes Down to the First 72 Hours

Alcohol withdrawal is short but can be an extremely dangerous process when done outside a treatment center. Within the first few hours after stopping alcohol use, the milder symptoms listed above will start manifesting at a low intensity. The next 24-48 hours will introduce more severe symptoms, such as hallucinations, while also ramping up the strength of the existing symptoms.

The final milestone from 48 to 72 hours after your last drink is when delirium tremens is typically seen. DTs can completely alter a patient’s reality, causing them to confuse what’s real and what isn’t amidst hallucinations and mental fatigue. To stop drinking permanently, this hurdle must be overcome.

How To Overcome Alcohol Withdrawal

Substance abuse treatment has come a long way and now includes additional support for those going through severe alcohol withdrawal. Since alcohol use disorder can look drastically different between individuals, it takes a full team and constant supervision to provide the personalized care needed for the management of alcohol withdrawal. Mental disorders coexisting with alcoholism call for even more specialized treatment and mental health services administration.

Alcohol detox combines medical supervision, experienced addiction specialists and medication to cover all aspects of withdrawal. Medical care is also available for any medical emergency outside the anticipated symptoms. The more concerning side effects, such as alcohol withdrawal seizures, require medical care.

A Look at Alcohol Detoxification

Getting through withdrawal with the motivation and energy to continue through to treatment is one of the greatest boons of medical detox. Medications such as benzodiazepines, disulfiram and naltrexone are all federally regulated and approved to assist with any alcohol withdrawal syndrome or symptom.

Throughout the withdrawal timeline, your recovery team will use these medications to help reduce the severity of symptoms and cravings by supporting the central nervous system during its time of healing. Certain medications also act as a deterrent for drinking as they make short-term effects of drinking, such as the flushing of skin and low blood pressure, have a much quicker onset.

Once detox is completed and a medical professional signs off on your current state of health, you’ll start transitioning to treatment. The type of treatment entered after withdrawal depends on the severity of the underlying addiction. For some, outpatient treatment with weekly meetings is enough. Those without a healthy and supportive home environment benefit greatly from a residential or an inpatient alcohol center as it gives them a safe space to practice the skills and coping mechanisms they’ve developed during therapy.

Alcoholism Treatment Is Closer Than You Think

Providing treatment for those suffering from alcoholism, withdrawal symptoms, and addiction in Arizona is why we opened our doors at our greater Phoenix location. We understand the severe confusion and pain brought on when you suddenly stop drinking. Chronic alcohol use no longer rules out the option of future sobriety.

We encourage you to contact us online or call us directly at 602-466-9880. At Camelback Recovery, a leading addiction treatment center in Phoenix, AZ, we can help you determine which treatment is needed and quickly complete the intake process to get you or a loved one prepared for a life free of alcohol.