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.

Here’s Why Alcohol Withdrawal Can Be Deadly

There is a lot of information circulating about alcohol detox and withdrawal symptoms. The jumble of details can be confusing for those dealing with an alcohol use disorder and their loved ones. Alcohol abuse is dangerous, damages the body, and impacts a person’s entire life. Detoxing from alcohol is a necessary first step towards recovery and sobriety. However, alcohol detox can also lead to withdrawal. For the most part, alcohol withdrawal is uncomfortable and difficult, but not deadly. There is no way for someone to know how their body will handle alcohol detox unless they consult a doctor, though. Some people with alcohol use disorders are at a higher risk for delirium tremens and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. With proper care and medically-supervised treatment, the effects of alcohol withdrawal can be minimized in a safe environment. Keep reading to learn why alcohol withdrawal can be deadly and how to safely detox from alcohol.

Delirium Tremens (DTs): Symptoms, Causes, Duration, and Treatment

Alcohol use is common in the United States, with slightly over half of adults indicating they had consumed an alcoholic beverage during the past month as of 2018. What is less common, however, is alcohol addiction and its consequences, as roughly 6 percent of adults in the United States have a diagnosable addiction called an alcohol use disorder, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Ongoing alcohol abuse and addiction can lead to significant consequences, such as health problems, serious injuries, and difficulty functioning in work or family life. Another consequence of alcohol abuse is dependence, meaning that the body does not function well without alcohol. When a person who develops an alcohol dependence stops drinking, he or she will typically experience withdrawal. One serious form of withdrawal, called delirium tremens, can be fatal; however, proper medical care can prevent complications from delirium tremens and allow those living with alcohol addictions to participate in ongoing treatment to achieve lasting sobriety.

Alcohol (ETOH) Withdrawal Syndrome: Symptoms, Treatment, and Detox Time

Alcohol abuse is common in the United States. According to recent data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 5.8 percent of adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder, which is the term used to describe a diagnosable alcohol addiction. One of the signs of an alcohol use disorder is experiencing withdrawal symptoms in the absence of alcohol, meaning that once a person stops drinking for a period, withdrawal will begin. Reports from American Family Physician suggest that each year, about 2 million Americans will experience some sort of alcohol withdrawal. This can range from mild symptoms to severe withdrawal conditions that require hospitalization.