Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: How Quickly Do Symptoms Start?

When a person comes to a doctor’s office, two things will point toward a diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal: the first is long-term alcohol use with sudden cessation, and the second being symptoms typical of withdrawal (these will be explained in the following paragraphs). For the symptoms, physicians use a largely accepted algorithm known as the CIWA-Ar (Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment) protocol. This survey takes a snapshot of a patient to determine how severe their withdrawal is at a point in time during their visit.

What doctors look for when determining severity of alcohol withdrawal: The categories assessed by the patient include nausea and vomiting, tremor (often in the hands), auditory, tactile or visual hallucinations, sweats, anxiety, headache, agitation, and disorientation. Additionally, the doctor will measure heart rate, blood pressure, and do a physical exam. Each category is measured out of 7 points, with 7 being the worst (the exception to this is disorientation, which is measured out of 4 points). The maximum score in the assessment is a 67, with patients under 10 usually being safe without medication, and with any number over 20 being considered severe withdrawal. However, this scale is meant to determine the severity of withdrawal, and is not as helpful in laying out a timeline of when these symptoms will present. For that, it is more helpful to understand the body’s reaction to the cessation of alcohol use.

Understanding Alcohol Withdrawal – Treatment, Causes, Timeline & Dangers

When you make the decision to stop drinking, either gradually or suddenly, you may experience symptoms of withdrawal. While the exact symptoms of withdrawal will be different depending on the severity and longevity of addiction, there are some commonalities for withdrawal. Understanding the symptoms of withdrawal can help you prepare for the journey ahead. Keep reading to learn more about alcohol withdrawals and what to expect during the process.

What causes alcohol withdrawal?

Prolonged use of alcohol or alcohol abuse alters the brain’s chemistry. When copious amounts of alcohol are present or alcohol is used in high volumes, the body has to adapt. The mind adjusts to a new “normal” state with alcohol present. Once alcohol is removed, the body has to readjust to a new state of normal.

How Long Does it Take to Detox from Alcohol?

When a person decides to stop drinking, they are likely to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The detox process for alcohol can take several days or several weeks, depending on multiple individual factors. Alcohol detox will be different for everybody, but there are some common symptoms to expect during this time. Keep reading to learn more about the timeline for alcohol detox and treatment options for those with an alcohol use disorder.

What is alcohol detox?

Alcohol detox is an important step in treating an alcohol use disorder. The process involves flushing alcohol from the body completely and results in withdrawal symptoms. When someone’s body becomes dependent on alcohol over time, they develop alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder. Because your body is receiving chemicals from alcohol, your brain stops producing those specific chemicals, causing a dependency.

Making the decision to quit drinking is far from easy, but it is crucial to a person’s health and overall wellbeing. Prolonged alcohol consumption in excessive amounts leads to a buildup of toxins and waste products in the body. Alcohol detox begins the addiction treatment process as the body rids itself of toxins.