Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: What Happens After You Go Cold Turkey?

Are you looking for ways to help your loved one sober up and start over? Are you wondering what would be the best way to go about it? 

There are more than 15 million Americans with an alcohol abuse disorder, but only about 6% of them get treatment. If your friend or family member is committed to overcoming their alcohol addiction, this article’s for you. We’ll show you a typical alcohol withdrawal timeline and help you find a reputable rehab facility.

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding how and where to quit drinking. Although the end goal is always the same, the road to recovery is different for each person. But one thing is certain and is the same for everyone: the right time to do it is as soon as possible. 

Common Signs Of Alcohol Addiction

The first step towards recovery from alcohol abuse is admitting that you have a problem. But that step might take some time to be taken. However, it is important to know if what you are dealing with is an addiction or not. But how can you tell if your friend or loved one has actually developed alcoholism?

In general, an alcohol abuse disorder means that a person repeatedly drinks more than they had planned. Binge drinking is defined as having more than five drinks at one time for men and four for women. The amount of drinks someone takes, however, is not the only thing to look out for.

There are multiple red flags that point out that drinking has gone from casual to addictive. While one or two items are not necessarily a cause for concern, checking off multiple boxes might be a sign that there is a problem. Some of these possible red flags are:

  • Their alcohol use may interfere with their finances or involve them in legal trouble
  • They seem to have lost interest in activities and/or people they once enjoyed
  • Lacking proper hygiene, personal appearance is more diminished than usual
  • They tend to avoid eye contact often (especially worse if they’ve displayed bloodshot eyes recurrently)
  • Often smelling of smoke and/or alcohol, either on their breath or their clothes, even during the day
  • Overtly secretive behavior and/or being more introverted than they usually are
  • Extreme changes in eating and/or sleeping habits (too much or too little), to the point of affecting physical appearance
  • Displaying manipulative behavior and/or constantly lying, especially in relation to alcohol abuse
  • Manifesting extreme mood swings and/or emotional and psychological instability, to the point of experience paranoia or psychosis
  • Experiencing problems with concentration and/or memory 

It can be hard to spot alcohol abuse sometimes because some people might only drink alone. Some might even stash alcohol in unusual places – a big sign that their consumption has exceeded the acceptable limits. If you suspect alcohol abuse, though, it might be time to intervene.

Alcohol Abuse In Teens And Young Adults

Surprisingly, about one in three teens drink during their high school years struggle with alcohol. They are at a much higher risk than adult drinkers for alcohol-related car accidents, sexual promiscuity, and drug abuse. 

Signs of alcohol abuse and drug abuse in teens include trouble in school, worsened academic performance, secretive behavior, and sudden changes in mental health. They may also start hanging out with new people, start becoming aggressive, miss curfew, or be suspended constantly.

As a parent, you have the legal power to put your child into a rehab facility if they’re 17 years old or younger. There are specialized rehab centers for teens, and your insurance may cover the costs. However, the preferred course of action would be to talk to your teen first, understand what is happening, and try to come to an agreement, if possible, regarding treatment.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: What To Expect

Ideally, your friend or family member will realize that they have a problem with alcohol. No matter how they come to accept that, they will first need an alcohol detox. Any process of recovery for alcoholism requires it as a first time. One of the reasons why detox needs to be completed first is the withdrawal symptoms, which, at their best, are extremely uncomfortable.

Whether they detox at a rehab center or at home, they will experience a wide range of withdrawal symptoms in the first few weeks. Though the process varies for everyone, symptoms usually follow the same pattern. The timeline will depend on the level of addiction, how much they were drinking when they decided to quit, genetic factors, etc. However, detox usually follows a pattern:

First 12 hours

Symptoms will begin mildly, and then start to worsen with time. Most people will experience nausea, headaches, irritability, shaking, and anxiety in the first 6 hours. In cases of severe addiction, recovering alcoholics also experience seizures as early as this point, but they might be less likely.

24 Hours

On the first day, they might experience some of the more intense effects of alcohol withdrawal. Their shaking might get worse and become hand tremors. Now, there is also a higher risk of experiencing seizures as well. Disorientation is a natural part of the process at this point, considering the circumstances. Some people have also reported experiencing hallucinations but on different levels.

Day 2

Now at the 48-hour mark, hallucinations are more commonly reported. For more intense cases of addiction, some people might start experiencing panic attacks. Nonetheless, at this point, the symptoms of those struggling with moderate to mild addiction might start getting less intense. Still, they will likely continue to experience these milder symptoms for some time.

Day 3

This can be considered the most dangerous point of an alcohol detox. Delirium tremens (commonly called alcohol withdrawal delirium) might happen. It can make both the heart rate and body temperature go up, as well as cause seizures. Withdrawal symptoms might also begin to come and go, and this point, making this a more unstable part of the process.

Day 3 – Day 7

This instability of symptoms will continue for a while. Additionally, other, more moderate symptoms might be experienced simultaneously. There is also still a risk of them experiencing delirium tremens until the first week is done too.

After the First Week

Usually, symptoms will have become more stabilized by now, and only the minor ones might continue. Though it might be hard to predict when they’ll stop, they are easier to manage at this stage.

Each person will go through their own process and faces different difficulties and symptoms. Many people might try to detox cold turkey on their own for a number of reasons. Undergoing detox at home is one option, but for many reasons, it’s a much better idea to seek professional help.

The Advantages of Medically-Assisted Detox

For those who wish to not go through the process of detoxification by themselves, there is the option of medically-assisted detox. It is comprised of medical supervision as the patient experiences a variety of withdrawal symptoms. As detoxification is something everyone hoping to overcome alcoholism must do, they do not need to go through it alone – or dangerously.

Handling these symptoms is not as simple as one might think. Even milder symptoms can trigger something dangerous. Trying to use over-the-counter medicine might be harmless, but it might also not be too safe. Even then, things can easily get out of control as more intense issues like seizures and hallucinations are a possibility. 

By having someone with proper medical knowledge, they can provide pain management in a safe way. They will know what can be prescribed and administered without making symptoms worse or triggering any major side effects. 

By looking at the timeline, it is clear how life-threatening detoxification can be for some. Most symptoms are awfully bothersome in their best-case scenario. That can drive someone to do anything to relieve themselves. And that includes drinking, even if a little bit, in an attempt to lessen the intensity of the symptoms. However, this is a risky attempt that might make the body go into shock. Depending on how much they drank, one dose might even prove lethal.

Therefore, relapse prevention is one of the best reasons to pick medically-assisted detox, too. With proper supervision and in a controlled environment, patients won’t have opportunities for relapse at all. And they won’t have to resort to “one little dose” to feel better, either.

Long-Term Recovery Options

Not all the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are physical. Your friend or loved one might experience mental symptoms as they try to withdraw from alcohol. They may be depressed, angry, or even suicidal. Paranoia and anxiety are also common, often leading to severe relapse.

Breaking the cycle of alcohol abuse and dependency can take years. That’s why a professional rehab situation is ideal. Rehabilitation centers offer supervised withdrawal and professional counseling to take your loved one through the rehab process as gently as possible. Long-term rehab statistics are promising: about 33% of people with alcohol use disorder make a full and lasting recovery.

Again, you may not realize that your loved one has a problem. They may be extremely secretive about their alcohol abuse. You may be tempted to attribute their behavior to stress or mental illness when they’re really drinking in secret. 

What Comes After Detox?

The next step would be starting a treatment program. While detoxing is required for recovery, it surely is not enough to overcome addiction. Addiction is a disease, so it needs proper treatment. As mentioned, there are other aspects of their addiction and lifestyle that need to be addressed as well.

Rehab is comprised of therapy, counseling, support groups, and relapse prevention activities. These can be provided in either an inpatient (24/7 stay at the facility) or outpatient setting (patient only needs to go to rehab for treatment sessions). They can last anywhere from 28 days to as much as 120, depending on what is recommended for the patient.

Once they’re out of rehab, the journey to recovery is a lot more in their hands. Aftercare consists of continuing therapy and attending support groups. For some, the option of sober living might be much more effective and safer in terms of avoiding relapse. Recovery is a lifelong journey, but it does not have to be as hard as it sounds!

Is It Time For An Intervention?

If you suspect that your friend or a family member has an alcohol abuse problem, it might be time for an intervention. An intervention is a conversation that has rehabilitation as its goal. 

When you talk to your family member, it’s important to keep your comments positive. Talk to them about how committed you are to their recovery and what you see for them in their future. 

If you can, take the time to practice your remarks before the actual intervention. You might be nervous about confronting your loved one about their drinking, so it’s a good idea to write down what you plan to say. If you feel like it might be too much for you, you can always get someone properly trained to lead the intervention. A therapist, an addiction specialist, a psychiatrist, or a counselor could all help you with their experience and know-how.

Don’t expect a positive response right away. In fact, you should expect a negative response at first. Your loved one might not realize the extent of their alcohol addiction and may not want to seek treatment. It’s important to remain supportive, though, and offer them the chance to pursue a residential rehabilitation program.

Get All The Help You Need At Coastal Detox

While starting detox can be scary, there is no need to go through it alone and without medical help. We at Coastal Detox can help you recover from addiction every step of the way, including detox. If you’d like, you can take a tour of the facility with your loved one. They may feel more comfortable committing to a treatment program if they can see it first. 

If you’re worried about payment, know that drug rehabilitation is, on some level, covered by insurance. We have teamed up with major insurers to help make treatment more affordable, and we can help you explore payment options. 

Medically-assisted withdrawal can help people in their quest for sobriety because it allows them to focus on their mental health. Our professionals can provide all the tools needed for addiction recovery, independence, and healthy living. Contact us today to schedule a tour or find out more about our services and state-of-the-art facilities.

Real Client Testimonials

  • My experience at Coastal Detox was great. Very grateful that I had the option to stay here for treatment. Great food and truly caring staff. Definitely recommend Coastal if you are in need of detox or wish to be in a residential level of care.

    Gabriella S. Avatar
    Gabriella S.
    1/22/2020
  • The place is super nice with absolutely amazing food. Like 5 star restaurant quality food. The staff and therapist definitely care about every client and want what’s best for them. This isn’t one of the sketchy places in Florida that just has a nice website. It really is a great place.

    nickbruck101 Avatar
    nickbruck101
    2/14/2020
  • Coastal detox has an amazing staff, they are caring, devoted and caring for their clients. I cannot say enough about there level of care and response to their clients. I highly recommend them to those who need help.

    Donna M. Avatar
    Donna M.
    4/10/2019
  • This facility is amazing.I would highly recommend it to anyone struggling with addiction.The entire personnel from Judy,the director to Annie,the outreach coordinator will facilitate a smooth intake process.Your recovery journey awaits you with an on-site therapist in sight .All the tools are here for your ample needs.The techs know directly who to refer you to.,especially Tony and Karen. Confidentiality and professionalism are their top priority. Take the step

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    Joan C.
    1/21/2020
  • Every staff member made this process easier. In the darkest hours they shined light. Judy was absolutely amazing. They helped so much and my family will forever be grateful to everyone there. If you or your loved one needs help, rest assured that they will get the best care.

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    suzanne w.
    2/13/2020

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