Alcohol use disorder, commonly known as alcoholism, is a common problem in society. A 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 14.5 million individuals aged 12 and older, and 414,000 adolescents suffered from alcoholism. It is also estimated that about 88,000 people die from alcoholism each year. Despite affecting an individual’s quality of life and causing challenges to the family and community, most find it difficult to quit. The survey revealed that in the past year, only 7.2% of individuals aged 12 and above with alcohol use disorder (AUD), and 6.4% of adolescents with AUD sought treatment. This is mostly because of alcohol withdrawal side effects.
Alcohol detox timeline
The first step to sobriety for alcoholics is medical detox. How long do alcohol withdrawal symptoms last? The duration and intensity of the withdrawal symptoms vary depending on the extent of alcohol addiction. Alcohol withdrawal can be so severe that it leads to alcohol withdrawal death, which is why it is important that a qualified detox professional helps to monitor the detox phase. The alcohol detox timeline is usually as follows;
- 6 – 12 hours; Mild withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, headaches, nausea, shaking, and irritability.
- 12 – 24 hours; The severity of the symptoms increases. The symptoms can include hallucinations, hand tremors, seizures, and disorientation.
- 24 – 48 hours; Hallucinations and tremors could continue. Panic attacks, stomach upsets, and other pains are also common.
- 48 hours – 72 hours; The symptoms start to decrease if the patient was only undergoing a minor withdrawal. However, patients with severe alcohol withdrawal could experience delirium tremens (DT) at this time. Classical, severe symptoms of DT include body tremors, agitation, delirium, hallucination, and seizures. They might have very high body temperatures and heart rates. The alcohol withdrawal symptoms are at their worst.
Thereafter, the alcohol withdrawal symptoms start to taper off. It is, however, important to note that minor symptoms might persist for a few weeks and even up to a month. These can be treated with prescribed medications.
Without proper monitoring, the patient can quickly move through the alcohol withdrawal stages and progress from mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms to severe very quickly. In some cases, this can be fatal.
Alcohol withdrawal guidelines
Alcohol detoxification can be scary for some patients. That is why they need the supervision of an alcohol detox professional to provide them with the support they need to get off alcohol dependency. The detox program helps them to safely and comfortably transition into a recovery program.
Alcohol detox is usually done in the following three stages: evaluation, stabilization, and transition into a recovery program. Each patient usually has an individualized detox treatment plan.
The alcohol detox program can be done in a hospital setting or a residential detox facility. There is also the option of an outpatient detox where the patient attends the program on a daily schedule but stays at home. Outpatient detox is reserved for patients who are not at risk of complicated withdrawal symptoms.
How long does alcohol withdrawal last? Factors such as liver function, use of other drugs, preexisting dehydration, age, and platelet counts may affect how long it takes a patient to withdraw from alcohol. Additionally, quantity and duration of regular alcohol consumption also alter the time taken for the patient to withdraw. For people without liver, heart or any other health problems, the facility might consider a rapid detox process where they are given sedative medication during the withdrawal process.
Other Withdrawal Timeline Information
- niaaa.nih.gov – Alcohol Facts and Statistics
- cdc.gov – Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health
- medlineplus.gov – Delirium tremens
- ncbi.nlm.nih.gov -Alcohol Use Disorders: Diagnosis and Clinical Management of Alcohol-Related Physical Complications
- clinicaltrials.gov – Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal in Hospital Patients
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Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.