How Long Does Each Stage of Alcohol Withdrawal Last?
In 2015, over 15 million American adults suffered from alcohol use disorder, and almost 90,000 people in the U.S. die from alcohol-related causes each year. This is why it’s essential to get treatment if you or your loved one is struggling with alcoholism. If you do get treatment, though, the first challenge is going through withdrawal. If you’re concerned about alcoholism withdrawal symptoms, you might be wondering what the stages of withdrawal are and how long each one lasts. It’s difficult to be exact (because the stages and their length can differ for each individual), but you can put together a general timeline of what to expect.
How Long Stage 1 Alcoholism Withdrawal Symptoms Typically Last
Alcoholism withdrawal symptoms are generally split into three stages, with the first stage including the most common symptoms, and also being the mildest. The symptoms ordinarily start within 8 hours after the last drink, and ordinarily continue until 24 hours after your last drink. However, stage 2 is often characterized by similar symptoms. The stage 1 withdrawal symptoms from alcohol include:
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
- Stomach problems
- Trouble thinking clearly
How Long Stage 2 Alcoholism Withdrawal Symptoms Typically Last
Stage 2 alcoholism withdrawal symptoms typically start around 24 hours after your last drink, and can continue up to three days (72 hours) after your last drink. Most of the symptoms in stage 2 are more severe versions of those experienced in stage 1 (and include those already listed), but in stage 2 there are additional symptoms that commonly manifest. Also, some stage 3 symptoms can start in this stage, particularly seizures. Stage 2 symptoms include:
- High body temperature
- Increased blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Confused mental state
How Long Stage 3 Alcoholism Withdrawal Symptoms Typically Last
Finally, stage 3 alcoholism withdrawal symptoms represent a severe form of withdrawal called delirium tremens, or the DTs. This is much more likely if you’ve been drinking heavily for a long time, and it can be fatal if left untreated. The symptoms usually start within two to four days after you’ve stopped drinking, but could start as late as 10 days afterwards. Most symptoms will resolve within a week, but the psychological symptoms in particular can last several weeks. Between 3% and 5% of people who go through withdrawal experience stage 3 symptoms such as:
- Severe confusion/disorientation
- Rapid mood changes
- Decreased attention span
Most drinkers won’t experience the most severe symptoms of withdrawal, but even early-stage withdrawal can be very unpleasant, and is best managed by medical professionals. Most importantly, you can’t predict if you or your loved one will experience delirium tremens, so it’s essential to be medically evaluated. A full rehab program can generally provide a medical evaluation, and gives you the best chance of staying sober long-term.
“Alcohol Facts and Statistics” – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
“Outpatient Management of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome” by Herbert L. Muncie Jr., Yasmin Yasinian and Linda Oge
“Alcohol withdrawal” – National Library of Medicine
“Delirium tremens” – National Library of Medicine
“Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal” by Hugh Myrick and Raymond F. Anton
“Recognition and Management of Withdrawal Delirium (Delirium Tremens)” by Marc A. Schuckit
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