Understanding alcohol withdrawal and the alcohol withdrawal timeline is important for alcoholics wishing to seek treatment. Attempting to detox from alcohol without supervision from addiction professionals can be extremely dangerous.

When a person with alcoholism or alcohol use disorder suddenly stops drinking alcohol, many alcohol withdrawal symptoms may arise. The severity of alcohol withdrawal can range from mild to life-threatening. As such, it is vital for alcohol withdrawal symptoms to be monitored and managed by addiction professionals. From physicians to therapists, medically-supervised detox can be life-saving for alcohol addiction and heavy drinkers.

As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol impairs the brain’s functions by interrupting the connections between neurons. When someone who has drunk too much appears to lose judgment and coordination skills, it is because of this interruption caused by alcohol. When a person with an alcohol abuse disorder continues to drink heavily or daily, they will develop a tolerance. Thus their brain will adapt and require alcohol consumption to feel normal.

When a person has developed an alcohol dependence suddenly decides to stop drinking, their body’s nervous system will go into shock. This result of this shock is alcohol withdrawal. Some of the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

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  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Delirium tremens
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Shaking
  • Heart palpitations
sad man sitting hugging his knees on the stairs of a building

These withdrawal symptoms vary based upon the severity of alcohol addiction and the length of time the person has been drinking. Delirium tremens is an extreme alcohol withdrawal symptom experienced by about 5 percent of alcoholics.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

For the majority of alcoholics, alcohol withdrawal symptoms will subside after seven days. On the alcohol withdrawal timeline, there are a few stages that a person may go through as they withdraw from alcohol.


The first stage of the alcohol withdrawal timeline is irritability, which can be intense and long-lasting. Many people will start drinking again at this point to find relief from irritability. This can last for several weeks or even months.

During the second stage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, a person may have stomach pains and be unable to eat. During this stage, there can be nausea and vomiting, and a frequent need to go to the bathroom.

Within about 72 hours, a person enters the third stage of the alcohol withdrawal timeline. They may hallucinate or feel confused and might see things that are not there or think that they are being watched or followed.

During the fourth stage, an individual may start to develop shortness of breath at night. They may also have trouble sleeping because of the feeling of being uncomfortable and short of breath.

During the last stage of withdrawal, a person will experience intense mood swings. This looks different for everyone, with some people feeling anger and others’ sadness.

Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal

Going through alcohol withdrawal symptoms without the supervision of an addiction professional can be extremely dangerous. Seizures can be lethal if one hits their head or aspirates food, leading to choking and death. Drug and alcohol rehab programs can monitor a person and provide medications that will ease some symptoms and reduce the likelihood of serious complications.

When a person finishes detox, they are cleared to being an alcohol rehab treatment program. Treatment is essential to developing skills to aid someone in living life without the use of alcohol.

Are you or a loved one suffering from alcohol addiction? You are not alone. We are here for you, and we are here to help.