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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptom Timeline

The first challenge of becoming sober from alcohol involves going through detox. People considering this often wonder about the specifics of the alcohol withdrawal symptom timeline. It can make it easier to enter detox and complete it when they know what to expect. As well, treatment centers can offer medical and psychological support that reduces and even eliminates many withdrawal symptoms. As a result, detox and the time in subsequent treatment become less risky when it comes to relapse.

What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease that can begin with casual or binge drinking alcohol and then progress into full-blown alcohol use disorder. The person becomes so reliant on alcohol that if they stop drinking, they go through an alcohol withdrawal symptom timeline. Alcoholics find themselves unable to stop drinking on their own and require professional help in order to become sober long-term. Alcoholism carries the risk of a lot of physical damage, including liver damage and failure, heart attack, stroke, brain damage, and more. It also can cause or increase symptoms of mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

What Causes Alcoholism?

Alcoholism can develop in any population, regardless of age, gender, race, religion, or socioeconomic status. It can start for a variety of reasons. For example, when a person begins drinking can influence the development of an alcohol use disorder. Those who begin abusing alcohol as teenagers often become alcoholics in their 20s and 30s. 

Genetics can also play a part in developing alcoholism. Someone with a family history of substance use disorders has a greater risk of developing their own. A history of a traumatic life event or living in a highly stressful situation can also push someone into abusing alcohol. Another contributor has to do with a person’s mental health. Many times, people use alcohol to try to self-medicate when they experience symptoms of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, trauma, bipolar disorder, and more.

Additionally, peer pressure may play a part. Younger people in high school and college often begin drinking a lot of alcohol to feel part of a social group. What starts as just youthful partying can become alcoholism. Males who consume 15 or more drinks per week and females who consume 12 or more per week find themselves at higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

When someone develops an alcohol use disorder, they exhibit a multitude of signs and symptoms. It can be difficult for some people to understand what these symptoms mean. Additionally, loved ones often need a guideline for things to keep an eye on. Signs and symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Frequent hangovers
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shakiness and trembling
  • Difficulty with coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble thinking
  • Sweating
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Redness of the nose or face
  • Blackouts
  • Changes in weight
  • Increase or decrease in heart rate or blood pressure
  • Increase in or development of symptoms related to depression or anxiety

A change in behavior can also signal someone has developed an alcohol use disorder. These behaviors include spending an inordinate amount of money on alcohol, isolating from others, and ignoring obligations, hobbies, or social events in order to drink. Many people with alcohol use disorder find their relationships suffer, along with their careers and schooling. 

A person who suspects their drinking has gotten out of control may try to stop on their own. When this happens, they can find themselves on an alcohol withdrawal symptom timeline. The withdrawal symptoms feel uncomfortable and even painful, which usually drives the person back to drinking to eliminate them.

What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal is defined as the process a person undergoes when they have developed an alcohol use disorder and quit drinking. Alcoholism means a person has developed both a physical and psychological addiction. Because of this, withdrawal symptoms happen when they stop drinking. 

Alcohol is a depressive substance; therefore it depresses the central nervous system. This alters the natural communication involved in cerebral messaging. While someone who does not have a substance use disorder experiences joy and pleasant feelings through the natural manufacturing of chemicals, alcoholics lose that ability. Their bodies rely on alcohol to create these feelings. When the person stops drinking, the alcohol withdrawal symptom timeline begins. Symptoms can range from mild to dangerous to potentially deadly. 

Because of the difficulty of going through alcohol withdrawal, most people cannot quit drinking alone. They require professional detox programs and alcohol withdrawal medications that provide physical and psychological support to keep them safe and comfortable.  

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptom Timeline

The alcohol withdrawal symptom timeline varies per person. Several things can factor into which symptoms a person develops and how long they last. This includes how long the addiction has lasted, how much alcohol was typically consumed, their physical health, and any co-occurring mental health conditions. A general guideline often goes as follows:

Day 1-2: Withdrawal symptoms often start within a few hours of having the last drink. They include nausea, headaches, and mild tremors. Many people also experience anxiety and irritability.

Day 3-5: The initial withdrawal symptoms typically worsen during this time. Others may develop, including sweating, insomnia, vomiting, and nightmares. Hallucinations may occur during this time. Delirium tremens (DTs) can be quite dangerous and should be addressed quickly by medical experts.

Day 6-10: The last stage of withdrawal usually includes the peeking of and then a decrease in symptoms. However, psychological symptoms such as depression and moodiness may continue through this stage. 

In general, withdrawal symptoms should be over after two approximately two weeks, although psychological ones may continue for longer. Someone who develops delirium tremens may contend with a longer withdrawal period, but it typically ends after two to three weeks. 

How Is Alcoholism Treated?

Treatment for alcoholism happens in more than one step. First, the person attends a detox program. This important step allows the body to rid itself of the dangerous toxins the body stores when alcohol abuse has gone on for a long time. The alcohol withdrawal symptom timeline begins during detox. Withdrawal symptoms range from uncomfortable to dangerous and are treated by the medical staff at the detox facility. In most cases, they can reduce or even eliminate withdrawal symptoms, making detox easier and quicker to get through.

After detox, some people go into a residential rehab, which requires them to live in a facility for at least 30 days. Still, others choose outpatient programs, which allow the person to receive valuable addiction treatment while still living in their homes or a sober living facility. After completing treatment, it’s important to have some sort of aftercare plan in place. These can include attending support groups, joining a group therapy program, and continuing individual therapy. The longer a person stays in treatment, the longer they tend to remain sober.

What To Expect During Buckhead’s Alcohol Treatment Program

Buckhead Behavioral Health in offers alcohol rehab in Atlanta, as well as a host of programs to help people leave alcohol abuse in their past. Each person can easily transition into one of our outpatient programs. These include:

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP): PHP provides the most intensive form of outpatient treatment. Participants attend sessions five or more days per week. 

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP): IOP is ideal for clients who do not qualify for PHP but need a step up from a regular outpatient program. Sessions range from two to four days per week.

Outpatient Program (OP): Regular OP takes the least amount of time and can be a step down after IOP or PHP. Sessions usually require attendance just one or two days per week. 

Does Insurance Cover Alcohol Addiction Treatment?

Too often, people assume that alcohol addiction treatment won’t fall under the heading of things insurance will treat. Actually, most insurance companies provide coverage for substance use disorders. Alcoholism and other substance addictions are considered chronic medical illnesses; therefore, they are treated as such. Most insurance companies offer some kind of treatment that can range from detox to residential care to outpatient programs. 

Anyone interested in finding out about what their insurance covers should start by contacting their provider. An insurance rep can answer any questions about what programs they cover and policies they have on staying in-network or going out-of-network. The rep can also discuss possible alcohol withdrawal symptom timelines and which programs address this type of treatment. They can also determine exactly how much out-of-pocket costs might be. For those who have reached their deductible, a lot of treatment is low-cost or free. Keep in mind that the individual should make sure to get prior approval from the insurance company before beginning any program. 

Treatment For Alcohol Addiction in Atlanta

When alcohol abuse consumes a person’s world, they find it impossible to live the life they want to have. Buckhead Behavioral Health in Atlanta understands how to help you stop abusing alcohol and enjoy a sober life. We offer a multitude of levels of care, including virtual care, that make a real difference. You learn how to identify your triggers, avoid relapse, and stay sober for life. We will explain the alcohol withdrawal symptom timeline to expect and help you get through it comfortably. Visit our admissions page now and find out how we can help you get started on a healthy new life without alcohol.

author review

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Rahul Gupta, MD

Written by: Erika Dalton, LMSW
Updated on January 9, 2023
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