Symptom Stages for Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol Withdrawal Stages Explained

Symptom Stages for Alcohol Withdrawal

Luckily, alcoholism is a highly treatable disease. Every year, thousands of people beat their addiction and move forward with happy, healthy lives.

That said, getting sober is a big undertaking. Part of the process is dealing with the unpleasant process of withdrawal.

If you or a loved one is attempting to get sober, you should be familiar with the stages of alcohol withdrawal. Which is why we’ve put together this guide to help you out.

What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

Before we look at the symptoms, it’s important that we examine the root of the issue. 

The reason your body suffers from withdrawal is due to the fact that alcohol has a profound effect on your brain’s chemistry. Alcohol suppresses specific neurotransmitters in your brain. This is what causes the feeling of euphoria associated with drunkenness.  

As someone continues to drink heavily over long periods of time, the amount of alcohol needed to achieve the same effect increases. In turn, this causes your brain to adjust to having massive amounts of alcohol surrounding it at all times. 

When you attempt to quit drinking, those neurotransmitters are no longer suppressed and instead become overstimulated. This is what causes many of the withdrawal symptoms one might experience during the medical detox process.

The longer a person has been drinking, the worse those symptoms get. This is because the brain has had longer to adjust to its suppressed state, making the absence of alcohol all the more impactful.

When Will They Start?

Believe it or not, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start as quickly as two hours after having your last drink. This is another factor that will ly be altered by how frequently you drink and how long you’ve been doing so. An alcoholic of ten years will probably notice the symptoms much quicker than someone who hasn’t been dealing with the illness for as long.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may vary greatly from person to person, with some suffering more severe outcomes.

The Alcohol Withdrawal Stages

Let’s look at a timeline of when you will ly experience both the most common and most extreme withdrawal symptoms.

6-12 Hours After Last Drink

These symptoms will begin 6-12 hours after the last drink.

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Shaking
  • Nausea/Vomiting


12-24 Hours After Last Drink

These symptoms will begin 12-24 hours after the last drink.

  • Disorientation
  • Hand Tremors
  • Seizures


48+ Hours After Last Drink

These symptoms will begin 48+ hours after the last drink.

  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Auditory/Visual Hallucinations
  • Fever/Sweating
  • Delirium Tremens


The type and severity of symptoms a person will experience depend on several factors, including how long they’ve been drinking, how much they consume on average, if they abuse other substances, and if they have other complicating medical conditions. More common symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, and nausea will ly be experienced by everyone. On the other hand, seizures, hallucinations, and other more extreme symptoms might only be experienced by heavy, long-term drinkers.

Delirium Tremens

Of all the potential withdrawal symptoms someone can experience, delirium tremens is the most serious. In some cases, it can even be deadly. 

Fortunately, DT only affects about 5% of people going through alcohol detox. Typically, it afflicts people who have abused alcohol for 10 or more years, drink daily, and have a previous history with alcohol withdrawal.

Hallucinations, high fever, and seizures are all symptoms associated with DT. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of those, seek medical treatment immediately.

Acute Alcohol Withdrawal

This is the term used to describe sudden, severe alcohol withdrawal. It typically occurs within the first couple weeks of quitting.

Loss of consciousness, seizures, and delirium tremens can all occur during this period, so it’s best to undergo the process at a hospital or specialized rehab facility. In some rare instances, the process can be fatal, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

For especially heavy drinkers, certain symptoms can persist even after the initial withdrawal period is over. Depending on the severity of your alcohol abuse, PAWS can last from a couple of weeks to an entire year. 

Many of these symptoms are milder, but their persistence can make post-rehab life difficult for some people. Here are a few of the common symptoms.

  • Irritability/Emotional Outbursts
  • Mood Swings
  • Anxiety
  • Low Energy
  • Sleep Trouble
  • Memory Issues
  • Dizziness
  • Accident Proneness
  • Stunted Reflexes


When dealing with PAWS, it’s important to remember that the condition will eventually subside. Often, people relapse in an effort to alleviate the symptoms, but that only makes things worse in the long run. Be patient and understand that things won’t be this way forever.

How to Treat the Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

In the same way that everyone will experience the stages of alcohol withdrawal a little differently, there’s no one size fits all way to treat the symptoms. What might work for one person isn’t effective for another. Ultimately, your approach to treatment will depend upon the severity of your condition, your lifestyle, and many other factors.

If you’re dealing with serious, potentially life-threatening withdrawal, an inpatient program is ly the best route for you. On the other hand, someone mostly in need of guidance and moral support might benefit from an outpatient program.

At the end of the day, the decision is a deeply personal one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some professional guidance. If you or a loved one is ready to get sober but need a little assistance, click here to get in touch with hard-working professionals who know how to help. 



What are the Stages of Alcohol Detox?

Symptom Stages for Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol detoxification is the process that your body goes through when ridding itself of toxins built up through long-term consumption of alcohol. Detox is generally the first step of any treatment program for alcohol addiction. 

Depending on the individual and the severity of the addiction, the exact alcohol detox process will vary. Alcohol detox can be generally divided into three stages. Each stage differs in the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.

It is understandable to become slightly overwhelmed by learning about alcohol detox and the process of getting clean. We’d to encourage you to view this journey as a healing process. Although it is challenging, the long-term gain is much more rewarding. 

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Before we define the stages of alcohol detox, we must first understand what alcohol addiction is. Alcohol addiction, also referred to as alcoholism, is the most severe form of alcohol abuse. Those that struggle with alcohol addiction often feel as though they cannot function daily without alcohol. 

Consequently, this leads to interpersonal and physical issues that worsen over time. Career goals, personal matters, relationships, and overall health are all part of the equation that becomes affected.

Alcohol addiction must be recognized, and help must be sought after. Leaving addiction alone will only worsen its symptoms. Alcohol abuse can be recognized by some common symptoms, such as: 

  • Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
  • Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
  • Making excuses for drinking such as to relax, deal with stress, or feel normal
  • Choosing to drink over important responsibilities or priorities 
  • Becoming isolated and distant from loved ones
  • Drinking alone or in isolation
  • Feeling hungover when not drinking
  • Change of appearance (i.e. unkempt, untidy appearance)
  • Change of company (new group of friends you hang out with)

Fortunately, there are many components of treatment to overcome alcoholism. Treatment programs at a rehab such as North Jersey Recovery Center aim to guide you through the entire recovery process. From therapy to medical care, your needs will be met each step of the way.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Experiencing alcohol withdrawal is a tell-tale sign that your body and brain have become dependent on alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal alters the body’s response when a person suddenly stops drinking after prolonged and heavy alcohol use. As a result of long-term use, both the body and the brain become dependent on drinking frequency and patterns. 

Quitting “cold-turkey” results in your body not being able to readjust to functioning without alcohol quickly.

This adjustment period causes the discomforting side effects of alcohol withdrawal, shakes, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety. It is important to emphasize that this is temporary.

Through alcohol detox and treatment, withdrawal symptoms alleviate, and you’ll find significantly improved health living a sober life.

Alcohol detox at a rehab facility under medical supervision is crucial. This is mainly due to the life-threatening health complications that can arise during alcohol detox. A rehab center will ensure your safety during detox with the right medication if necessary, as well as 24/7 support.

Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal 

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS) is the term that refers to symptoms that occur when a heavy drinker suddenly stops or significantly reduces their alcohol intake. These symptoms range from physical to emotional. They can include anything from mild anxiety and fatigue to nausea. 

During alcohol detox, symptoms of AWS are monitored and treated throughout the entire process. Symptoms of AWS include, but are not limited to:

  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure

These symptoms may worsen, which is why we strongly urge individuals to undergo alcohol detox at an accredited rehab facility. The most severe form of withdrawal syndrome is known as delirium tremens (DT). DT can include signs and symptoms of:

  • Extreme confusion
  • Extreme agitation
  • A fever
  • Seizures
  • Tactile hallucinations, such as having a sense of itching, burning, or numbness that isn’t taking place
  • Auditory hallucinations or hearing sounds that don’t exist
  • Visual hallucinations, or seeing images that don’t exist

Severe AWS symptoms are a medical emergency. A high fever, hallucinations, and heart disturbances are all reasons to seek immediate help and call 911. Addressing alcohol addiction will help you to avoid the worsening of symptoms over time.

Treating Alcohol Withdrawal: The Timeline of Alcohol Detox

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal take place in three main stages during alcohol detox. These three stages go from mild symptoms to severe. However, as the detox process comes to an end, you’ll find yourself feeling much better and your normal self again. It may be a process, but it’s a process that’s well worth it. 

To reiterate, AWS produces a broad range of symptoms that typically follow a timeline. These symptoms start between 6 and 24 hours after the last drink and can range in severity. 

Stage 1: Mild Symptoms

Mild symptoms will arise within about 6 to 8 hours of the alcohol detox process. These symptoms include fairly minuscule physical disturbances, as well as changes in behavior and mood.

These symptoms can be similar to those of a hangover, so it is essential not to look past them.

For an individual that has consumed a lot of alcohol for a substantial amount of time, it is crucial to address these symptoms. 

The first symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Convulsions
  • Whole-body tremor
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shakiness
  • Hypertension
  • Heart failure

Stage 2: Moderate Symptoms

As the withdrawal symptoms from stage one of the alcohol detox begin to alleviate, the symptoms of the second stage will start to take place. The second stage of withdrawal is more serious. It typically begins within 12 to 24 hours of the last drink. However, it can take as long as three days for these symptoms to settle in. 

The symptoms of the second stage include:

  • Higher blood pressure
  • Respiration
  • Fever
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Sweating
  • Irritability

Stage 3: Severe Symptoms

Patients tend to experience severe symptoms between 48 to 72 hours into detoxification. The most severe effects include delirium tremens and seizures. One of the most dangerous aspects of these effects is that they can occur without a warning sign.

Approximately 3-5% of patients will experience DTs. This is why medical supervision during alcohol detox is crucial, not just recommended. Our priority is to keep you safe and comfortable as you continue along the recovery journey.

The third state includes symptoms of:

  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Agitation

It’s important to keep in mind that this timeline differs depending on each unique person. The best way to keep track of the alcohol detox process is to have it monitored by a team of trained professionals. Alcohol detox is the first step of a sober and fulfilling life.

Drugs Used in Alcohol Detox

Medication will be administered during alcohol detox when necessary. If that’s the case, our medical staff will ensure that everything is done carefully and safely. Part of the alcohol detox process includes keeping the patient’s system in balance and avoiding major physiological upsets. Some examples of medications used are:

Benzos are commonly used to alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms and prevent alcohol withdrawal seizures. Seizures are one of the most common causes of fatality in alcohol withdrawal, so additional anticonvulsant drugs, such as Keppra, are often used as well.

Treatment After Alcohol Detox

Once alcohol detox is completed, the next part of the recovery journey begins. Depending on your situation and the severity of the addiction, the program will vary. However, no matter the treatment, all of our patients receive the same core, quality treatment. 

Inpatient rehabilitation, otherwise known as residential treatment, is one of the most common ways to treat alcohol addiction. In an inpatient rehab program, the patient resides at the treatment facility for the full duration of the program. Most programs last anywhere from 20 to 90 days but can be longer if needed.

One of the main benefits of inpatient rehab is 24/7 access medical professionals during alcohol detox, as well as after. Each day will have a structured routine and include a variety of different methods towards treating alcohol addiction.

These methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups, one-on-one therapy sessions, and much more. Residential treatment removes all distractions and environmental triggers by placing you in a supportive and healthy community. 

Seek Help Today!

Alcohol addiction does not need to control your life any longer. Alcohol detox is the first step in reclaiming your life and finding fulfillment again. We believe in personalized treatment for each patient’s unique circumstances. 

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we have many alcohol treatment resources to help you along the journey. Our team of expert physicians, psychologists, and other medical professionals are eager to help you change your life. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here for more information about alcohol detox and corresponding treatment programs. 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Medical Reviewer

Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered.

She has provided substance abuse and mental health counseling, clinical coordination, and advocacy to individuals, families and groups, and specializes in co-occurring disorders for both adults and adolescents.


Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms, Signs & Timeline // OYNB

Symptom Stages for Alcohol Withdrawal

In this blog post we are going to discuss alcohol withdrawal symptoms: the typical symptoms and stages of withdrawal, what brings on alcohol withdrawal, and what you can do if you are experiencing alcohol withdrawal.

If you are dependent on alcohol, it is recommended by the NHS to seek medical advice to manage your withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms are ly to occur among people who consume alcohol in large quantities for a prolonged period and then stop abruptly. Symptoms tend to begin 6 to 24 hours after the last alcoholic drink. There are typically three stages of alcohol withdrawal:

Symptoms: anxiety, tremors, headaches, palpitations, gastrointestinal disturbances

Symptoms: mild symptoms and abnormal sweating, increased blood pressure, abnormally rapid breathing or heart rate, confusion, mild hyperthermia

Symptoms: moderate symptoms and disorientation, impaired attention, visual and/or auditory hallucinations, seizures

It is recommended to seek urgent medical advice if you are experiencing any of these alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and to manage your withdrawal.

The first stage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms starts with 6 to 12 hours after your last drink. The The early stage symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are changes in behaviour and mood as well as some minor physical side effects, mimicking a hangover. 

It is easy for loved ones to look over these signs of alcohol withdrawal as the are just having a hangover. For an individual that has consumed a large amount of alcohol over a prolonged period of time it is important not to ignore these initial signs. 

The symptoms experienced in stage 1 can feel the same as  with a hangover and you may not experience anything more severe. However those who have been more regularly for a longer period of time may experience symptoms from stages 2 or 3. 

The first stage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Headaches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Unclear thinking 
  • Alcohol cravings
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Vomiting 
  • Hand tremors

Signs of alcohol withdrawal in stage 1 

As well as the symptoms listed above the first stage withdrawal symptoms can also have you feeling anxious or stressed. You may be experiencing mood swings, restlessness and a real lack of energy. Sleeping can be difficult with insomnia and nightmares very common in this stage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

After 12 to 48 hours after your last drink you will start to experience stage 2, mild symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These alcohol withdrawal symptoms are more intense and now you will be showing clear signs of alcohol withdrawal. 

The second stage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Irregular blood pressure
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Fever 
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Seizures 

Signs of alcohol withdrawal in stage 2  

The signs of alcohol withdrawal in stage 2 are far more severe. As seizures may start during this period of time it is important to seek the help and advice of a medical professional. It is common to become easily confused and extremely irritable. 

During this time loved ones will be able to see clear signs of alcohol withdrawal. 

In your alcohol withdrawal timeline, normally between 48-72 hours you will start to experience severe symptoms. This period can be fatal due to the fact that “delirium tremens” (also known as DTs), a potentially life threatening condition and seizures can both occur without warning.

The third stage of alcohol withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • Delirium tremens
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever 
  • Excessive sweating  

Signs of alcohol withdrawal in stage 3

During this period, 48 to 73 hours after your last drink, the signs of alcohol withdrawal are very clear for all to see. Seizures and hallucinations are quite ly at this stage in the alcohol withdrawal symptoms timeline.

It is estimated that roughly 3 – 5% of individuals in alcohol withdrawal will experience DTs. 

If you feel you are experiencing the symptoms from stage 3, get in touch with a medical professional for guidance on how to manage your withdrawal. 

Please note this is only a rough alcohol withdrawal timeline and it is important to note that withdrawal symptoms and signs vary from person to person.

If you continue to drink excessively and regularly you may find your symptoms get more and more severe. 

If your nightly glass of wine or beer has turned into several or even a bottle or two or it may be at a stage more your alcohol dependence  is negatively affecting your:

  • Home life
  • Work / career 
  • Relationships

You may be wondering what to expect once you start to give up drinking and if you are ly to have any alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

You may even have a loved one who drinks heavily and you're urging them to pursue sobriety and you want to know what he or she might be facing on the journey there.

OYNB is a community of people that have changed their relationship with alcohol for the better and are on hand to support you through this change in lifestyle. Taking the preventative step today to avoid even suffering from alcohol withdrawal symptoms today could be the best answer.  

If you want answers to the most common alcohol withdrawal questions such as:

  • How much do you have to drink to experience alcohol withdrawal
  • When does alcohol withdrawal start
  • How long does alcohol withdrawal start for
  • What does alcohol withdrawal feel
  • How to deal with alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Then look no further, we have answered these questions that help you determine the signs of alcohol withdrawal. Click the drop downs below. 

The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal tend to start within 6 to 24 hours after the person's last drink of alcohol.

The more that you drink per day and the more consecutive days and weeks that you drink alcohol, the more ly you are to go through alcohol withdrawal. 

Chances of alcohol withdrawal if you are a man:

  • Drinking 8 standard drinks a day for a month, you are in danger of minor withdrawal symptoms. 
  • 13 alcoholic drinks a day for a month then you have about a fifty-fifty chance of having major life threatening withdrawals. 
  • Drinking 10 standard alcoholic drinks a day for a week will lead to minor withdrawal.
  • 18 drinks a day for a week to major life-threatening alcohol withdrawal.

Chances of alcohol withdrawal if you are a woman:

  • 6 standard alcoholic drinks every day for a month then you have about a 50% chance of going through minor withdrawal. 
  • A woman who has been drinking 11 standard drinks a day for a month has about a 50% chance of going through major life threatening withdrawal. 
  • A woman who has 8 standard drinks per day for a week has about a 50% chance of having minor withdrawal. 
  • a woman who drinks around 15 standard drinks a day everyday for a week has about a 50% chance of having major alcohol withdrawal.

Please note this information and data is only a guide and the answer to “How much do you have to drink to get alcohol withdrawal?” varies from person to person.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms such as tremors and/or seizures can last anywhere between three days to several weeks. 

Typically, alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin within hours to a day or two after your last drink and are usually at their worst around 24 to 72 hours after you stop drinking as explained in the alcohol withdrawal timeline above. 

However certain alcohol withdrawal symptoms : 

  • Changes in your sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings

These symptoms can last for weeks or even months. You'll ly begin to feel better around five days to a week after you stop drinking, your body will thank you! 

The exact experience and severity of alcohol withdrawal varies from person to person. With this in mind what alcohol withdrawal for each person feels , can be vastly different for each person. 

It is important to deal with alcohol withdrawal symptoms this should be done in a methodical manner and by seeking help from professionals. 

If you have regular alcohol withdrawal symptoms you will potentially need:

  • Medical supervision
  • A prescription medication

Both are required to avoid the danger of having a fit, which could result in permanent injury or death. 

Although severe withdrawal symptoms can take up to a year to fully recover from, most people feel better within 3-7 days of stopping drinking. The first 48 hours are ly to be the worst. 

For some people, insomnia caused by giving up drinking can be challenging, resulting in the urge to start drinking again in the hope that the alcohol will help make you sleep.  

If you experience this, remember that your sleep patterns will almost certainly start to return to normal once your brain recovers its normal functions.

Here is what to do instead to help ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms

  • Keep yourself hydrated with plenty of non-alcoholic drinks (but avoid caffeine)
  • Try to eat regularly
  • Your GP may prescribe medication to help relieve your withdrawal symptoms 

If you believe you are heavily alcohol dependant, seek medical advice when quitting drinking.

Time to take a break 

If you think you could benefit from a break from alcohol then join One Year No Beer on one of our challenges today. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur when you abruptly stop consuming alcohol after a prolonged period of excessive drinking. These withdrawal symptoms can range from acute(severe) too mild.

Severe withdrawal symptoms form alcohol can be very serious and in some instances they can be fatal. Since withdrawal symptoms get wore with time it is a good idea to understand whether your alcohol withdrawal symptoms are getting more severe and if that is the case you should be seeking help from professionals.

The most severe symptoms usually occur between two and five days after you give up drinking. That means that the first couple of days may NOT be a good indicator of your risk of more serious health related problems.

Moderate vs. Excessive Drinking

It is a good idea to first understand the differences between moderate and excessive alcohol consumption.

Moderate drinking

First of all, moderate drinking is: up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Two, moderate drinking is considered safe for most people over the age of 21.

Finally, A (one) drink is commonly defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine containing
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled liquor or spirits, such as whiskey, gin, rum, or vodka

Excessive drinking

Excessive drinking or heavy drinking and sometimes called binge drinking (Binge drinking means you've been consuming multiple drinks during one occasion), or drinking that's done by anyone who is pregnant or under the age of 21.

So excessive drinking for women, is four or more drinks and for men, it's five or more alcoholic drinks.

Heavy drinking occurs when women have eight or more drinks a week and men have 15 or more drinks per week.

An important note to remember is, the majority of people who drink excessively do NOT have an alcohol disorder and/or aren't dependent on alcohol.

How exactly does alcohol withdrawal work?

If you're a heavy drinker even if you're not an alcoholic you are ly to experience at least some symptoms if you stop drinking all of a sudden .

Alcohol is commonly used around the world by people to help them relax and overcome stress or anxiety. Alcohol increases the effects of GABA on the body to produce this exact outcome. GABA is a neurotransmitter responsible for:

  • creating feelings of calm and euphoria.
  • decreases glutamate, another neurotransmitter that creates excitability.

One of the reasons people find themselves drinking more and more is because it becomes more difficult to increase our levels of GABA and decrease our levels of glutamate. 

As a result you need to drink more alcohol to get the same outcome. 

Your body becomes accustomed to these changes and responds by producing more glutamate and less GABA.

When you quit drinking alcohol all of a sudden, you are no longer impacting these two neurotransmitters, but your body is still over producing glutamate and underproducing GABA. As a result, you may become hyper excited: anxious, restless, and shaky.

If you were a heavy drinker, your symptoms may be much more severe, progressing to:

  • tremors
  • seizures
  • serious high blood pressure


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