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Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal Timeline

According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) estimated 86.3 percent of the American population (over the age of eighteen) to have had at least one drink in their lifetime.

It is important to note that individuals that drink alcohol do not necessarily develop an addiction to the substance. Many people in the world drink alcohol in moderation or even on a regular basis without any issues. The Mayo Clinic has even published findings that indicate drinking alcohol in moderation may have health benefits. However, many individuals that engage in binge drinking increase their susceptibility for developing an alcohol problem. Although alcohol is a legal substance for consumption by individuals over the age of twenty-one in America, when abused it can lead to severe short and long-term consequences and, if done nonchalantly, the detox process can be deadly.

woman seeking help


Detoxification, for short detox, is the process of ridding one’s body of any abused substances. Any individual that has habitually abused alcohol has likely developed a tolerance to the substance, which means in order to attain the same physical response from ingesting alcohol, he or she must increase the amount of alcohol consumed. This can have serious effects on how an individual’s body functions both with alcohol in its system and without. In order to assure an individual’s safety throughout the duration of the detox process, it is best for an individual to undergo a medical detox. This enables immediate medical intervention during the detox process should it be necessary. It also provides an individual with twenty-four-hour supervision throughout the duration of detox.

Withdrawal Symptoms

There are a variety of withdrawal symptoms that can manifest during the detox process, and some may linger beyond the acute detox phase. An article published in American Family Physician breaks down alcohol withdrawal symptoms into three stages, ranging from mild to severe. The combination of withdrawal symptoms an individual may experience will depend on several factors and will be specific to each individual. Some examples of withdrawal symptoms that have the propensity to manifest can include any of the following:

  • Mild Stage (one): stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, anxiety, decreased appetite, tremors, depression, fatigue, mood swings, heart palpitations, mental confusion, and/ or foggy thinking
  • Moderate Stage (two): elevated blood pressure, increased respiration, irregular heart rate, sweating, irritability mental confusions, mood disturbances, increased body temperature
  • Severe Stage (three): extreme agitation, fever, seizures, severe confusion, hallucinations, delirium tremens

Factors that will contribute to an individual’s detox process include an individual’s personal health history, the presence of any co morbid disorders, the amount of alcohol consumed each time, length of time drinking, an individual’s age, and if the individual mixed alcohol with other substances. The higher the tolerance and more dependent upon alcohol an individual is, the greater the individual’s risk is to suffer from severe withdrawal symptoms during detox.  According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) alcohol withdrawal is highly variable.  

Withdrawal Timeline

Every person is different and will have a somewhat unique set of withdrawal symptoms and varied timeline when it comes to detoxing from alcohol. The National Liberty of Medicine does provide a general timeline with regard to alcohol detox. It is divided into four steps and broken up as follows:

  • Stage one: withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest around six to eight hours after drinking one’s last alcoholic beverage
  • Stage two: withdrawal symptoms peak between twenty-four to seventy-two hours after drinking one’s last alcoholic beverage
  • Stage three: withdrawal symptoms begin to taper off between five to seven days after one’s last drink of alcohol 
  • Stage four: lingering withdrawal symptoms that continue beyond one week of an individual’s last drink of alcohol

Even though alcohol is legal, the detox process from this substance can lead to severe consequences and have dangerous outcomes for individuals that are not adequately supervised. 

Further Information

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous.

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. 

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