How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin when a person becomes physically dependent upon alcohol and tries to cut back or quit drinking altogether. The length of time and severity of withdrawal symptoms depend upon many factors. People who experience withdrawal often benefit from enrollment in a professional alcohol detox program for support as symptoms can last for some time and be challenging to cope with alone.



A person who struggles with addiction to alcohol may experience physical and mental health effects for some weeks. Most people begin to experience withdrawal symptoms within eight hours after the last drink, with peak withdrawal symptoms starting within 24-72 hours. Symptoms may fade after the first three days or remain high in intensity for several weeks. Cravings from alcohol addiction may continue even after physical withdrawal symptoms have faded.


The length and severity of symptoms vary depending on many factors including the following:

  • How long withdrawal lasts
  • Amount person drank on a daily basis
  • Dependence on or regular use of other drugs
  • Diagnosis of other medical conditions in addition to alcoholism or substance use disorder
  • Any co-occurring mental health disorder problems

Some common withdrawal symptoms vary person to person but may include the following:

  • Enlarged pupils
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Clammy skin
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite

Other withdrawal symptoms may occur which affect an individual’s mental health. Some of the symptoms can include:

  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Delirium tremens (in severe cases)
  • Fever
  • Extreme agitation
  • Seizures


Medical complications can arise for an individual who has quit drinking. People are encouraged to experience detox under the care of specialists who understand the process and can provide appropriate support. The assistance and care provided by substance abuse treatment professionals cannot be understated. The process will include the following steps:

  • Physical examination to determine if delirium tremens (DTs) is an issue
  • Take blood, urine tests and toxicology screening
  • Develop an individualized care plan to include some combination of medication, therapy and medical care as needed

The goal of detox and rehab is to manage and prevent (when possible) associated medical complications and provide therapeutic support and intervention for long term recovery. Inpatient and outpatient treatment programs are provided which are selected and managed on an individual case by case basis. Withdrawal symptoms range in severity but it is not recommended a person who has been drinking heavily for a long period of time quit cold turkey without the supervision of medical professionals. Enrollment in a detox and treatment program can increase the likelihood of being successful long term in sobriety. Careful planning, persistence, a strong support network and a willingness to succeed are elements which help a person survive withdrawal and thrive in recovery.
Detox is the first step in overcoming alcohol addiction. Treatment helps pull the pieces together and set you on a path to successful sobriety. Call us to find out how we can help you be successful in quitting drinking for good.