Understanding the Different Alcohol Detox Symptoms

May 23, 2022

Alcohol can be described as a many-headed beast with multiple personalities. It can add a bubbly toast to a special celebration or be the conduit to a dark and lonely existential existence. If alcohol has become a problem for you or a loved one, it is time to seek professional treatment, beginning with the understanding and treatment of alcohol detox symptoms.

Alcohol Detox Symptoms

If you’ve ever partied a little too hard or had one too many glasses of wine at a family dinner, you have probably suffered some mild hangover symptoms like headache and fatigue the next day. These are probably more associated with dehydration than alcohol withdrawal.

This level of drinking causes changes in the level of GABA and glutamate neurotransmitters produced, which changes how your brain works. Symptoms become more severe and thus more potentially damaging or deadly as frequency and volume of intake increase. At this point, they are considered alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Detox Symptoms Timeline

6-8 Hours After Last Drink

Mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin and may include:

  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Headache
  • Mild sweating
  • Change in blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue

Old man with eye fatigue

These symptoms usually last about 24-72 hours, depending on how elevated your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) was and for how long.

24-72 Hours After Last Drink

Moderate to severe alcohol detox symptoms can occur, such as:

  • Mood swings
  • Unclear thinking
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Change in appetite
  • Pallor to skin


Moderate symptoms usually dissipate within a few days up to a week.

48-72 Hours After Last Drink

It takes approximately two days before symptoms of DTs, or delirium tremens, set in. Unfortunately, too much emphasis is put on tremens and not enough on delirium when identifying someone suffering from DTs. Symptoms of delirium tremens, in addition to tremors, can include:

  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and touch
  • Extreme irritability
  • Exaggerated startle
  • Confusion
  • Sleep that lasts for days or, conversely, insomnia
  • Profuse sweating (Diaphoresis)
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Nightmares
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Hyperactivity


At this level of withdrawal, symptoms can take days or weeks to resolve. In some cases, Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms can occur and take weeks or months of treatment.

Sick woman feeling cold covered with blanket at home

Assessment of Symptoms

Suppose you have a hangover or are suffering mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms after a party weekend. In that case, you can typically recover at home with rest and rehydrating with electrolytes and lots of water. However, if you experience more serious symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

Many recovery specialists use the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment of Alcohol Scale, Revised (CIWA-Ar), to determine the severity of symptoms and thus the development of a treatment program.

With the cooperation of the patient, the assessor ranks on a scale of 1-7, the severity of:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tremor
  • Paroxysmal sweats
  • Anxiety
  • Tactile disturbances
  • Auditory disturbances
  • Visual disturbances
  • Headache/fullness in the head
  • Agitation
  • Orientation and clouding of sensorium


Symptom Treatment

The safest way to get through alcohol detox symptoms is by committing to a medically monitored alcohol detox program. Combining a professional detox program with rehabilitative services is the most effective and successful source of full recovery and sobriety.

The physical aspects of recovery can be tough, and the psychological and emotional aspects can be even more challenging. As you physically recover, you can begin to treat underlying and contribution issues such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Other co-occurring disorders


Treatment can take many forms. At Buena Vista Recovery Center, you and your recovery specialist will work together to determine the best course of action for you, like:

Happy young doctor discussing treatment with patient.

Don’t Go It Alone

Sometimes solitude is exactly the right medicine during your substance use disorder recovery. Buena Vista Recovery can provide that and so much more in a welcome family atmosphere in a beautiful, serene setting.

You can learn more about our alcohol detox program, facilities, and therapies, or contact us with your questions and concerns. Your recovery is our mission.