Making the decision to quit drinking is an important step for your health, both physically and mentally. If you have been drinking heavily or for a long time, you will need to detox your system from the addictive substance. It is wise not to try to do this alone as you will experience withdrawal symptoms during the process. One of your first questions when starting this journey may be, how long does alcohol withdrawal last?
The Withdrawal Experience
What happens when you stop drinking? Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that your brain and body will rely on as you drink more and more often. When you stop drinking or significantly decrease your intake, you will experience the symptoms of withdrawal as your system is no longer being constantly fed the depressant.
The time it takes for you to first feel the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, as well as the range and severity of symptoms, will depend on a number of factors, including how long you’ve been drinking and how much you typically drink. You might experience a range of symptoms, from mild tremors to a more serious condition known as delirium tremens or the DTs.
Most people will experience many of the same symptoms, with varying degrees of severity after their last drink. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains, though, that many people experiencing alcohol withdrawal will have these symptoms at some point during the process:
- Feeling exhausted
- Mood swings
- Feelings anxious, nervous, or irritable
- Unclear thinking
- Trouble sleeping.
The most severe symptom is delirium tremens, which can include an increased heart rate, visual hallucinations, hypertension, an elevated body temperature, agitation, and excessive sweating. The DTs can also result in seizures and could lead to death if not treated promptly and appropriately.
When you are ready to quit drinking, you’ll want to know how long alcohol withdrawal lasts so you can be prepared. Although the timeline can be different depending on your circumstances, generally you can expect to have these symptoms as you progress through withdrawal:
6 hours after your last drink, you will experience minor withdrawal symptoms. If you have a long history of heavy drinking, you could have a seizure at this point.
12 to 24 hours later, you may begin to have hallucinations. You may see or hear things that aren’t there. This can be a scary symptom but is usually not a serious health threat.
24 to 48 hours later, you will continue to experience minor withdrawal symptoms including tremors, a headache, and an upset stomach. These symptoms may start to decrease after four or five days.
48 to 72 hours later, you may experience the most severe symptom, delirium tremens. At this point, your withdrawal symptoms could become life threatening.
72 hours later is when your withdrawal symptoms may be at their worst. Your symptoms could last for up to a month beyond this point, including an increased heart rate and hallucinations.
Don’t Go It Alone
A survey of almost 8,000 individuals going through alcohol withdrawal revealed a range of symptoms and experiences. Some had mild symptoms early in the process while others reported more severe and even frightening symptoms. Most of the people who described severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms were trying to go through the detoxification period on their own without professional supervision.
The survey respondents who were helped through the withdrawal period by a healthcare professional reported milder symptoms overall and experienced a shorter timeframe for their withdrawal. It is critically important that you seek help for properly managing your alcohol withdrawal symptoms, for your overall health and well-being during withdrawal and beyond, into addiction recovery.
CONTACT BRC RECOVERY FOR HELP GETTING SOBER
We are here to help you through your alcohol withdrawal. Most of our professional staff are in recovery themselves and understand where you’ve been. We can help you get sober and stay healthy. At BRC Recovery, we help you work with you to heal your mind and your body while addressing the underlying issues that lead to your addiction to alcohol. We bring you real change for your life, with proven treatment options that will empower you to recreate and reclaim your life.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we offer a safe, clean environment so you can continue receiving the highest quality of care. To learn more about our services and to get the help you need, please call BRC Recovery at 1-866-291-2676 to speak to our team.