Alcohol: Withdrawal and Detox Timeline

What are the Withdrawal Symptoms of Alcohol?

Withdrawal symptoms of alcohol use include:

  • Anxiety, depression, irritability, and other mood disturbance
  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Nightmares
  • Confused thinking, disorientation
  • Physical shaking, being “jumpy” or easily startled
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating, clammy skin, pale skin
  • Increased heartrate
  • Tremors
  • Severe alcohol withdrawal is referred to by the medical term Delirium Tremens. Symptoms of Delirium Tremens may include any of the above as well as:
  • Hallucinations and/or delusions
  • Seizures
  • Extreme confusion/disorientation
  • Severe agitation/irritability
  • Fever
  • Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • Can lead to death

The withdrawal symptoms of alcohol discontinuation can be severe and even life-threatening, and alcohol detoxes under medical supervision may be indicated for the safety of the individual. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can quickly become life-threatening.

All withdrawal symptoms are related in part to the individual’s unique use history and pattern, genetics, physical health, organ damage, neurological issues, other medical problems, the amount used, tolerance, and other individual and environmental factors.

All withdrawal symptoms have the potential to be very medically serious, but alcohol withdrawal symptoms are potentially life-threatening. Even if an individual is not experiencing Delirium Tremens, underlying and/or unknown health issues in combination with alcohol withdrawal can be deadly.

Coping with Withdrawal

Medical safety is the first priority during withdrawal, and an evaluation from a trained medical professional can help an individual and the people supporting them make informed decisions regarding the safest means of detox given the individual’s medical status. Inpatient care may be indicated for a person at risk for Delirium Tremens.

In addition to safety, alcohol withdrawal symptoms present a significant challenge to sobriety, as the individual is frequently motivated to use alcohol again to “self-medicate” against unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Extensive support is available to assist individuals in coping with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Compassionate, expert treatment is available in group, individual, and family counselling; peer support groups; and medications may be helpful as well. Professional addiction treatment specialists can help individuals design a comprehensive recovery plan that addresses their individual needs and concerns.


Suddenly stopping alcohol use can be extremely dangerous, even fatal. We recommend heavy drinkers to look for medical help in an alcohol detox clinic where they can detox safely under medical supervision, using the right dose of medicines. Read more about our alcohol detox programme here.

Page published: August 7, 2019. Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked January 14, 2022