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Alcohol Withdrawal Stages


Millions of people suffer from alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction every year. Millions also try to quit drinking without success due to the withdrawal symptoms that ensue. Generally speaking, detoxing from alcohol occurs during a 5-7 day window of time, although this period may be extended in certain cases. People often relapse at some point during the alcohol withdrawal stages as a result. However, it doesn’t mean that achieving sobriety is impossible.

Once the body has become acclimated to functioning with alcohol in the system, the process of withdrawal is often painful and uncomfortable. If you try to detox on your own, the side effects and cravings can be too much to handle. Avoiding relapse is one of the many reasons why it is recommended to go through alcohol withdrawal under the care of a treatment facility. Not only will there be medical staff to monitor your body’s reaction to the withdrawal side effects, but you’ll also have the support you need to make it through the different alcohol withdrawal stages successfully.

Everyone who suffers from addiction to alcohol has a different experience to share. The same is true for detox and recovery. Although the disease is the same, the treatment, timeline, and outcome is unique to your personal experience. There are numerous reactions in the body that cause it to go through alcohol withdrawal and the subsequent side effects.


Factors That Affect Alcohol Withdrawal

Your liver is responsible for breaking down alcohol in your system so that you my rid it through urine output. But when alcohol is not metabolized, it becomes absorbed in other parts of the body like your brain. This is when you feel the “buzzed” feelings of relaxation that appear alongside symptoms like slurred speech, slowed motor skills, and memory lapses.

Chronic drinking affects how much you need to produce these feelings. The more you drink, the more your body builds up a tolerance. Consequently, the craving for alcohol keeps increasing more and more. Your body adjusts to the amount of alcohol you drink but it continues to damage your liver and other organs.

On the other hand, abstaining from alcohol is another drastic change to your body and can be dangerous to attempt on your own, if you are a chronic drinker. Symptoms that occur during the different alcohol withdrawal stages will vary from person to person. It depends on several factors such as:

  • How long you’ve been drinking
  • How much you typically drink per day
  • Your overall health
  • If you suffer from any other health conditions
  • If you currently use any other substances that would alter your recovery

If you’ve been an alcoholic for several years, the withdrawal period may take longer than the typical week. Excessive alcohol use affects your body’s physiology. Any sudden changes, even positive ones, can cause a shock to the system. As a result, as you go through the alcohol withdrawal stages, you’ll most likely experience the most severe side effects in the first few days as your body tries to adjust.


The Different Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

Stage 1: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms will occur within the first 24 to 48 hours but for some, they can begin in as little as a couple of hours after your last drink. During this first phase of alcohol withdrawal, you can expect severe symptoms, such as profuse sweating, fever, tremors, insomnia, and changes in blood pressure.

Stage 2: Symptoms may increase and include delirium, shaking, and hallucinations. This is your body’s direct reaction to being without alcohol. It’s also common to experience nausea, vomiting, headaches, and anxiety. Any and all of these symptoms can last through the entirety of your detox.

Stage 3: Once you get closer to a week without drinking alcohol, the symptoms will start to subside. Though, some people may feel the intensity of symptoms for the duration of the withdrawal period. Others may experience the most painful and uncomfortable days right in the beginning. Although these are all side effects that are likely to occur, the body is unpredictable. There’s no guaranteed way to know how your body will handle alcohol withdrawal.

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) follows this typical alcohol withdrawal timeline:

  • The first phase of withdrawal symptoms begin roughly 8 hours following the first drink.
  • Symptoms typically are their most severe during the first 24-72 hours.
  • Symptoms begin to subside and decrease within 5-7 days of alcohol withdrawal.
  • Most symptoms will completely disappear following one week; although they can last longer depending on your specific condition.

When your body and mindset are already vulnerable to the effects of alcoholism, relapse can and does happen. It is far more common when trying to go through detox on your own rather than seeking the assistance of a detox center or treatment facility. Without the right kind of care to help you through the stages of alcohol withdrawal, it may become inherently more difficult to stay on track in a healthy way.

There is help available to you so you don’t have to go through withdrawal alone. It can feel overwhelming but it is doable and sobriety is achievable with the right kind of treatment and care.


Signs of an Alcoholism

Not all cases of alcoholism look the same. They can range in severity and can go untreated for several years for people who don’t think they have a problem with alcohol. Alcohol abuse can be hard to identify but if your friends or family members have shared concerns about your heavy drinking, you may want to consider if you can identify with any of the following:

  • Are there often times that you drink more than you intended?
  • Have there been times that you have tried to cut back or refrain from drinking altogether?
  • Do you often get sick from excessive alcohol consumption?
  • Do you crave alcohol and/or the urge to drink?
  • Have your drinking habits led to interference at work, school, the law, or among your family and friends?
  • Does drinking make you feel more anxious or depressed either while drinking or immediately after?
  • How does alcohol affect you and those around you?

These are just a few of the questions that may point to signs of alcoholism. You may not always immediately see the damage it is causing. In addition to your outward behavior and actions, the effects of alcoholism can be damaging to your body.


Effects of Alcoholism On The Body

You might be surprised how much alcoholism can cause damage to many of your internal organs, not only the liver, which can build up waste due to an inability to filter out toxins. Alcoholism can affect your digestive system and cause an inflammation of the pancreas. Also, when your body is unable to regulate your blood sugar levels, it can lead to related diseases such as diabetes or hypoglycemia.

Alcohol also has a profound effect on your central nervous system and can affect your speech, your motor skills, sense of balance, and memory capabilities, in addition to various other side effects. Chronic drinkers also are more prone to heart-related complications and diseases such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

When your body reaches a point where it can no longer effectively metabolize the amount of alcohol that’s being consumed, that’s what puts your health in danger.


What to Expect from Detox and Inpatient Treatment

Once you’ve identified a need to treat your alcoholism, there are a few things to know about the process. Detox is always the first step in any treatment process. During the detox period at a treatment center, professional staff will securely and safely monitor your condition. They will also do everything they can to ease you off of your addiction in the least painful way possible. You’ll be in an environment completely focused on your health and withdrawal from alcohol in a safe way. From there, the next step is to seek treatment to sustain your sobriety.

You can decide if inpatient or outpatient treatment is more suited to your preferences and what you need for your long-term health. Many facilities have detox and inpatient treatment in the same place, so you can build off the progress you’ve made during the detoxification period.

All treatment is focused on detecting the source of your alcoholism and finding solutions at the root of the problem. This is done through a combination of group therapy, one-to-one-therapy, life skills post-recovery, and education about alcoholism as a disease. Once you have an idea of what triggers your craving to drink and understand the toll it takes on your body, the better chance you have to identify alcohol substance abuse and avoid it in the future.

In the first days of treatment, it may seem like you’ll never know a life without alcohol. But over time, your body will become healthier and stronger and your mindset will as well. It takes time and the right combination of treatment to ensure a sober future. Inpatient care can last anywhere from 30-60-90 days and beyond. The official alcohol withdrawal timeline is determined by how well you are progressing through treatment.

Inpatient treatment also gives you the opportunity to step away from your current environment while you focus on your recovery. This can be helpful to truly detox from life’s current stressors, cravings, and temptations. With treatment, you will slowly gain more confidence and feel more in control of your decision-making. It will help you understand what areas of your life may lead to alcohol use and how to avoid them or positively handle them in the future. You’ll have to completely change your lifestyle once sober, which can take an adjustment period to adapt to and accept. Inpatient alcohol treatment will guide you as you transition back to a world without alcohol use.

Once out of inpatient care, you will still have access to tools and resources to help you with your long-term sobriety. Recovery is an ongoing process that requires work to treat it every day.


Outpatient Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

Outpatient treatment is another rehabilitation option that allows you to stay in your own home rather than live temporarily in another residence. Outpatient treatment follows the same kind of protocol as inpatient care with different counseling and education programs. But it can be flexible to your schedule and other responsibilities. This is also an option for you if you’ve already gone through the full alcohol and drug rehab and recovery treatment period at an inpatient facility and just need some extra support in your sobriety.

In certain instances, people who have been through inpatient care before may turn to outpatient treatment as a primary options, especially if there has been a relapse. If this happens, you will still be required to go through the detox process as the starting point of your treatment, although you shouldn’t view relapse as a failure. It’s a step backward but if and when it happens, you get up and try again.


Help for Alcohol Addiction Is Available

Despite the painful side effects associated with the alcohol withdrawal process, remember that the symptoms are temporary. Once you’ve made the strong decision to become sober, you’ve just made a huge step forward in the right direction. While alcohol treatment and recovery may not be easy, it’s worth it to take back control of your life. Fortunately, you have help available whenever you are ready to make the choice to seek detox care.

Alcoholism can feel like a lonely disease but your recovery doesn’t have make you feel alone. By going through the withdrawal stages in a facility dedicated to your well-being, you’ll have support to help you through every stage. If you want to achieve long-lasting sobriety or if you are a loved one researching choices for your friend or family member, we are here to help guide you through the process.

Here at Luminance Recovery, we understand it can be a difficult decision to enter rehab. But it can be a live-saving one. You deserve to look forward to your future and what it holds for you. You deserve to feel happy and healthy. Although alcoholism means alcohol has a hold on you, it doesn’t have to be a permanent one. You have the choice to take back your power and be in charge of your own life. If you’re ready to take the first step and start the detox process, contact Luminance Recovery today.

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