What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS) is a condition that affects people suffering from alcoholism or alcohol abuse who are either detoxing from the drug or have greatly reduced their alcoholic intake. According to the National Institutes of Health, if untreated, six percent of alcohol-dependent patients develop symptoms of withdrawal.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens

If you, or a loved one, are suffering from an alcohol addiction or withdrawal, seek help immediately. Some stages of acute withdrawal can lead to severe side-effects and death. Call Drug Treatment Center Finder’s 24-7 hotline at 855-619-8070 to speak with one of our specialists about seeking treatment, or check out our locator to find a drug treatment center in your area.

What Causes Withdrawal?

As a person continues to drink more alcohol, their body eventually builds a tolerance. This tolerance causes them to drink more to feel the same effects before the tolerance. Eventually, withdrawal will occur when the person stops drinking alcohol. Withdrawal can occur consciously or obliviously for someone suffering from an alcohol addiction. Whether a client is detoxing from alcohol at a treatment facility or someone with an alcohol use disorder has stopped drinking for a few days due to alcohol poison or kidney and liver failure, withdrawal will occur nearly two hours after the last drink and will last for up to 72 hours.

Withdrawal Will Vary Based on Severity of Addiction and Underlying Conditions

Depending on the severity of the addiction, some people will experience longer acute withdrawal. In this case, the person may be experiencing a much harsher withdrawal and the symptoms may not taper off until the fourth or fifth day. It’s important to remember that acute withdrawal can be detected by a physician at a detox facility.

Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Fever
  • Agitation
  • Mood changes
  • Deep sleeping
  • Fear
  • Inability to concentrate

To read more about the signs and symptoms of acute withdrawal, refer to our signs and symptoms of withdrawal page.


Alcohol Detox

Alcohol Withdrawal Detox

Alcohol detox usually lasts between seven to 10 days. Detox is necessary for the body to rid itself of any toxins and for the body to readjust to its normal state of equilibrium. The withdrawal timeline usually occurs within the time spent at a detox facility. Usually, symptoms will peak between 24 hours and 72 hours, but for those who are detoxing from a more severe alcohol addiction, some symptoms may not subside until 10 or more days after detox has started.

This is why it’s important to continue treatment even after detox is over. Outpatient rehabilitation (30 days) is recommended for those whose symptoms are classified as mild or moderate. However, a 60- to 90-day residential rehabilitation center is recommended for those suffering from a severe addiction and an underlying mental health disorder known as dual-diagnosis.

To learn more about the timeline of withdrawal detox, refer to the timeline and symptoms tabs.

Alcohol Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

Alcohol Withdrawal Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of withdrawal can be characterized within each phase of the timeline: mild, moderate, severe. In the milder to moderate phases, common alcoholic withdrawal symptoms range from insomnia and headaches to abdominal pains

But as symptoms start to subside, some alcoholic recovery symptoms known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) include:

  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Loss of energy
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Unusual sleeping patterns

PAWS can last up to two years after an addict detoxes and experiences withdrawal from an alcohol addiction.

Common Symptoms

  • Shakes
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Brain Fog
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Delirium tremens
  • Disorientation
  • Stomach Pains
  • Sweats
  • Vomiting
  • Moist Palms
  • Visual Hallucinations
  • Panic
  • Pacing

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Alcohol Withdrawal Duration

Since each person responds to withdrawal differently, the timeline for each individual may vary depending on various factors. Age, longevity of addiction, and illness all play a role in determining the duration of withdrawal for someone. The typical withdrawal usually lasts anywhere between six to 72 hours after the last drink. Conditions begin to taper off during the fourth or fifth day, but this could not be the case for someone who is suffering from a severe addiction, according to WebMD.

Complete Alcohol Detox Symptom Timeline, Duration

  • Day 1 (mild)

    The mild stage of acute withdrawal can begin as soon as two hours after the last drink is consumed and usually ends in 24 hours. The symptoms of this stage are milder and consist of headaches, nausea, light sensitivity, and other signs associated with a hangover. A person who doesn’t have a severe alcohol addiction may only experience the first stage of withdrawal. But still be aware that the symptoms felt in this stage could be the result of alcohol poisoning. Therefore, if the side effects are persistent or worsen, seek help immediately.


  • Day 2 (moderate)

    The moderate stage of acute withdrawal begins to occur between 24 hours to 48 hours after detox has begun. Common signs and symptoms of this stage are tremors, confusion, hypothermia, and high blood pressure. This stage is usually felt by those with a prolonged alcohol dependency. Someone in this stage may find it necessary to find an outpatient clinic or residential rehabilitation to detox from their addiction. If you are in need of a detox at a medical or rehab facility, our locator can help you find the nearest drug treatment center.


  • Day 3 (severe)

    At the 72-hour mark, a patient may begin to experience a more severe stage of withdrawal. The duration of this stage may last for a week or longer. Common symptoms of this stage are seizures, delirium tremors, disorientation, and impaired attention. Someone in this stage should be hospitalized and under 24-hour medical supervision. According to the American Family Physician, people who are more susceptible to this stage are over the age of 30 with an increased amount of time since alcohol consumption, or a previous medical history of seizures. To ease patients’ symptoms, different medications are used to target specific side-effects of acute withdrawal.

Alcohol Detox Withdrawal Medications

Alcohol Withdrawal Medications

For those in the moderate to severe stage of withdrawal, it is important to seek professional help immediately. Trying to detox from this serious addiction at home can leave someone vulnerable to a prolonged withdrawal duration. At a hospital or rehab facility, physicians help to ease the withdrawal process of their patients with specific medications to help with anxiety, shakiness, and depression.

Since withdrawal is a clinical diagnosis, here are some medications that can be used for symptom relief. Benzodiazepines are commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Anticonvulsants are also used to treat withdrawal as an alternative to benzos because they are not as addictive.

Medications that can Relieve Symptoms

  • Ativan – Ativan or Lorazepam is a benzo that is used to relieve anxiety during withdrawal. Since alcohol addiction affects the central nervous system and GABA chemical in the brain, Ativan calms the nervous system as it readjusts to its normal state.
  • Chlordiazepoxide – This sedative is used to treat anxiety, withdrawal, and tremors. Also known as Librium, it is a hypnotic-sedative benzo that works to slow down the movement of chemicals in the brain. As a result, it eases tension, muscle spasm, and causes sedation. Diazepam, a common drug used for withdrawal, also treats the same symptoms.
  • Tegretol – This anti-convulsant or anti-seizure medication is used to decrease nerve impulses that cause pain and seizures.

Dangerous Withdrawal Methods, Medications, Environments

There are a number of medications that aid with symptoms, which are used in a variety of treatment centers and have proven to be successful in many people’s lives. It is highly recommended that someone with an addiction problem seek help before taking any of the medications below.

Alcohol Withdrawal Frequently Asked QuestionsAlcohol Withdrawal Treatment Options

  • Can you die from withdrawal?

    Severe symptoms from withdrawal can result in death. Seizures and symptoms of delirium tremens can lead to suffocation and death, especially for those suffering from epilepsy. If you have a previous history of seizures and are withdrawing from alcohol, seek medical attention immediately.


  • What can help with withdrawal symptoms?

    In detox, medical professions will administer benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants to treat anxiety, depression, muscle spasms, pain, seizures for those with severe alcohol symptoms.


  • What are the first symptoms of withdrawal?

    Some of the first alcohol withdraw symptoms are similar to the symptoms of a hangover and includes:

    • Nausea
    • Stomach Pain
    • Anxiety
    • Headaches
    • Memory loss
    • Shakes

  • What are cold turkey withdrawal symptoms?

    If you have been dealing with an alcohol addiction for a long period of time, going cold turkey is not recommended and can even extend the withdrawal phase. Going cold turkey from alcohol can lead to severe symptoms including:

    • Seizures
    • Delirium Tremens
    • Hallucinations
    • Vomiting
    • Memory loss
    • Brain Fog

    If you are suffering from an alcohol addiction, seek treatment at an outpatient center or at a residential facility immediately.


  • How much does alcohol detox cost?

    The cost of alcohol detox and treatment varies, depending on the treatment program. Outpatient care costs less than inpatient treatment, which can cost nearly $600 a day. Check with your insurance policy to see how much coverage you are eligible for. Those with Medicare and Medicaid can receive medical coverage through their insurance policies.

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Types of Alcohol Withdrawal

Beer Alcohol Withdrawal

beer alcohol withdrawal

Understanding Underlying Elements in Beer Withdrawal

Beer has become the quintessential alcohol beverage of almost every demographic in the US. It’s sold almost everywhere, and craft breweries continue to pop up in major cities across the country. Despite its popularity, beer drinkers are not excluded from becoming vulnerable to alcohol withdrawal or developing a subsequent drug addiction. On average, beer contains between three to 10 alcohol content by volume (ABV levels), which may seem like a small amount of alcohol to some, but continual drinking of any type of alcohol can lead to a drinking disorder or addiction.

Prolonged beer drinking can cause:

  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Drunken driving
  • Unprotected sex
  • Domestic violence
  • Suicide

Beer Withdrawal

Myths about Drinking Detox Plans and Drug Combination
There is a common misconception that prescription pills can help taper off alcohol use. This is not true. Instead, mixing pills such as Valium, Benadryl, Vicodin, and Percocet, with a Budweiser, Miller Lite, or Samuel Adams beer can cause drowsiness, organ damage, slowed breathing, impaired motor skills, and dizziness.

Mixing beer with medicine is always advised against. If you have a prescription for any medication, it’s imperative that you follow the directions for use on the label. If not, the lethal mixture of ethanol, painkillers, and sleeping pills can lead to long-term illnesses, such as cancer, or an accidental overdose.

Beer Withdrawal FAQs

  • Can I withdraw with a non-alcoholic beer?
    Drinking non-alcoholic beer during recovery can lead to an urge to begin drinking alcoholic beverages again. This is why it’s important to not taper off alcohol use with nonalcoholic beer. Some alcoholic beers contain about .5 percent alcohol and can result in relapse or more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens, which includes hallucinations, fevers, and seizures.

Liquor Alcohol Withdrawal

liquor alcohol withdrawal

First Look at Liquor Withdrawal Severity

When it comes to hard liquor, such as vodka, Tequila, Hennessy, or Bourbon, withdrawal symptoms can be more severe than wine or beer as a person perpetually consumes a higher amount of alcohol. These drinks are often mixed with soda or juices to dilute the “hard” taste, but this popular mix only leads to a higher amount of liquor and sugar being consumed.

“Soon, a person will start to develop a tolerance for liquor and its taste, turning it into an addiction.”

Consuming opiates does not help with acute alcohol withdrawal from liquor either. It only causes slowed breathing, delusion, and impaired judgment. The most common medication prescribed for alcohol withdrawal are benzodiazepines and anticonvulsants, but they should only be administered by a medical specialists at a detox facility. Since withdrawal can start as soon as two hours after your last drink, here are some signs to look out for to tell if you’re going through withdrawal from hard liquor:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors
  • High blood pressure
  • Delusion

If two or more of these symptoms persist for up to 72 hours or weeks at a time, then you may be suffering from more than just a hangover from last week’s shenanigans, but from moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal.

Liquor Withdrawal

Liquor Withdrawal Symptoms, Mild, Moderate, Severe

Since hard liquor tends to contain more alcohol, the symptoms of withdrawal can be more severe, especially within people age 30 and older. While mild liquor withdrawal symptoms should still be treated and monitored by a staff of medical professionals, detoxing from hard liquor can lead to moderate or severe symptoms, which may acquire medication for treatment.

Liquor Withdrawal FAQs

Wine Alcohol Withdrawal

wine alcohol withdrawal

Understanding Wine Withdrawal

Wine is an alcoholic beverage that is fermented from grape juice and other berries. It generally contains more alcohol than beer but less alcohol than hard liquor. Popular wines such as Moscato, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Chardonnay have a sweeter taste and are commonly consumed at social gatherings, such as weddings, parties, and lounges. Although red wine is an antioxidant and is beneficial in moderation, too much of it will result in an alcohol addiction, which will need to be treated with detox at an alcohol and drug rehab facility. Unfortunately, wine abuse is on the rise among drinking mothers and middle-aged women.

According to a 2015 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 5.3 million women in the US drink in a way that threatens their health. With wine becoming a staple drink among upper-middle-class and educated women, female drinkers are catching up to their male cohorts when it comes to binge drinking and alcohol abuse. A binge-drinking study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found college-age (18 to 24) and senior female drinkers (65+) had similar binge drinking patterns: an average of three times a month.

Wine Withdrawal

Wine Withdrawal Very Dangerous, Can Be Deadly

Just like any form of alcohol withdrawal, wine withdrawal can be dangerous and even deadly. When detoxing from wine, it’s important to consider factors that can affect the severity of your alcohol withdrawal. Some of these factors include

  • Age
  • Prolonged drinking
  • Genetics
  • Gender
  • Previous medical history

Often, someone may mistake withdrawal with a long hangover, but this simple mistake can cause someone to experience prolonged withdrawal symptoms. For men and women who regularly binge drink and suddenly stop drinking for 24 to 48 hours, it’s especially important to determine whether or not they have entered into the withdrawal phase.

Prolonged Health Problems From Wine Alcohol Withdrawal

Toxins absorbed in the body, medical issues, weight, and years of drinking all play a role in how someone withdraws from wine. According to the NIAAA, women who drink heavily are more prone to breast cancer, fetal alcohol syndrome, and alcoholic liver disease. Men who struggle with drinking are more susceptible to alcohol-related deaths, infertility, and mouth cancer, reports the CDC.

Complications Caused by Acute Wine Withdrawal

But the most severe complications from acute alcohol withdrawal from wine can cause a person to relapse to self-soothe symptoms, or even die. According to the NIAAA’s Complication of Alcohol Withdrawal manual, 90 percent of seizures occur within the first 24 to 48 hours of alcohol withdrawal and five percent of patients experiencing these delirium tremens are at risk of death. The complications from delirium tremens and seizures can be reduced with immediate medical attention.

If you are concerned about acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms, refer to our alcohol withdrawal guide here. If you are currently experiencing prolonged nausea, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, call our 24-7 specialists at (855) 619-8070 for help with finding a local detox center and alcohol treatment facility.

Wine Withdrawal Frequently Asked Questions

  • How to break the habit of drinking wine?
    Breaking the habit of drinking wine can be done through detox. But it’s important to seek help from alcohol withdrawal at an outpatient center or a detox and residential drug facility.

  • How to reduce drinking wine?

    If you are concerned about developing a drinking problem from your wine habit, you can reduce your wine intake by avoiding places with alcohol or only drinking on certain days throughout the week or year. Stopping cold turkey is not advised and can lead to serious health problems.


How Many Americans Are Alcoholics?

Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States–7.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge-drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.

How Many Deaths Are Caused By Alcohol In America?

Nearly 88,000 people (about 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

In 2013, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 10,076 deaths (30.8 percent of overall driving fatalities).

Alcohol Withdrawal Statistics

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In 2014, 87.6 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 71.0 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.9 percent reported that they drank in the past month.

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In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).

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More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study