giving up alcohol

Timeline of What Happens When You Give Up Alcohol

giving up alcoholWhat happens when you stop drinking alcohol – A day by day account of alcohol detox

If you are thinking of giving up alcohol for good, you may be interested to know what the timeline of alcohol withdrawal looks like. 

When stopping all alcohol use, it is useful to know what to expect in terms of how you will feel whilst your body goes through the process of readjustment.

Different people have different reasons when it comes to giving up alcohol. For most people, quitting alcohol is not a problem; they may choose to cut out alcohol altogether as part of a healthier or more virtuous lifestyle. For others, however, stopping alcohol proves to be particularly challenging and unpleasant. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms from alcohol dependence can be hazardous and even fatal if not appropriately medically treated. 

If you are worried that you may suffer during withdrawal from alcohol, you shouldn’t let that stop you from attempting to get sober. For those that suffer from an alcohol use disorder (AUD), there is very effective professional treatment available to ensure that you – a) withdraw from alcohol safely and successfully, and b) do not suffer during the process.

Getting sober may seem an impossible task, to live a sober life, alcohol-free. However, we assure you that it is possible with the right help and support.

Here, Detox Plus UK sets out the day by day timeline of alcohol withdrawal, so if you’re thinking of becoming alcohol-free, you know what to expect. We also detail the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, the various stages involved in alcohol detox and provide a guideline of when you will start to feel the benefits of giving up drinking. 

Alcohol withdrawal timeline – A day by day account

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are divided into 3 categories: mild, moderate and severe. If at any point whilst withdrawing from alcohol you or a loved one experience severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, medical help should be sought as a matter of urgency 1

Many different factors can affect how badly someone suffers during the alcohol withdrawal timeline. Ultimately, everyone is different, and there is no telling how a person will feel when quitting alcohol for good unless they have previously stopped a similar pattern of drinking. 

The main influential factor in the severity of alcohol withdrawal syndrome is how much the person drinks daily and the length of time they have been drinking consistently to excess. Other factors will have some bearing. Age, physical and mental health, gender, other medications, and the care provided can all impact the severity of alcohol withdrawal, and it’s the timeline. 

The first 24 hours after giving up alcohol 

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome can develop as soon as 6–24 hours after the last drink of alcohol. With heavy dependent drinking, they can start even sooner as blood alcohol levels begin to drop

Timeline of alcohol withdrawal:
Days 1 to 7 & possible symptoms to expect

Day 1 of no alcohol
Headache, sweating, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, restlessness, nausea, alcohol cravings, concentration problems, vomiting, muscle cramps, tremors, nervousness, increased heart rate. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are similar to that of a severe hangover after binge drinking on day 1.
Day 2 of no alcohol
Headache, sweating, depression, insomnia, agitation, anxiety, restlessness, nausea, alcohol cravings, poor concentration, vomiting, muscle cramps, tremors, nervousness, increased heart rate.
Day 3 of no alcohol
Symptoms will lessen slightly by day 3. However, insomnia, low mood, anxiety, restlessness, leg cramps, nausea and inability to concentrate can still be very much a problem. Alcohol cravings will feel very strong.
Day 4 of no alcohol
Symptoms will vastly improve by day 4 for most people. They may find that, at last, they can get more than a few hours of sleep at a time and may begin to get their appetite back. Difficulty concentrating, mood swings, nervousness and restlessness can continue to be a problem, as can strong alcohol cravings.
Day 5 of no alcohol
Day 5 for a person experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome will feel much improved. Physical symptoms will have mostly diminished to minimal levels of discomfort or cleared completely. Mentally, the person may feel that they have hope, but they should still be on guard due to still experiencing mood swings and alcohol cravings.
Day 6 of no alcohol
By day 6 a person with alcohol withdrawal will feel substantially better on the whole. Physical symptoms will have subsided. Mental symptoms can take longer to clear and are prone to linger for the first few weeks of early sobriety. The Person may have strong cravings for sugar as their body continues to adapt. Sugar cravings can be mistaken for alcohol cravings if a person is not mindful of symptoms.
Day 7 of no alcohol
A person with withdrawal syndrome will usually feel physically and mentally much, much better. They will be feeling the benefits of being alcohol-free! Emotionally they may still experience some mood swings and emotional sensitivity.

Sources1,2,3,4,5,6

When should I expect to feel better after giving up alcohol? 

A common timeline of alcohol withdrawal

When you start to feel the benefits of giving up alcohol completely depends on you as a person. Some people can start to feel the benefits by days 3 to 4. Some can take up to 2 or more weeks to feel physically better and mentally clearer. This is especially true of those with heavy and long-standing alcohol dependence.

Many people who have physical alcohol dependence also suffer from alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction is a complex disease of the brain and requires more intensive treatment than just a medical detox or stopping alcohol. A person suffering from alcohol addiction is unlikely to feel better mentally after going through alcohol detox. In fact, they may even feel worse and be very tempted to return to drinking. 

For a person afflicted with alcoholism, the chances of alcohol relapse are extremely high, even when the initial physical cravings for alcohol have stopped. Psychologically, without intensive rehabilitation for alcoholism, they will remain in the same mental state as they were drinking. They will suffer the same thought processes and behaviours. Counselling, behavioural therapies, a proven alcohol recovery programme and relapse prevention techniques are a must if an alcoholic stays sober in the long run. Until then, they will suffer from what is known as dry drunk syndrome.

Is it safe for me to quit drinking cold turkey? 

Going cold turkey and stopping all alcohol use abruptly is not safe for a proportion of alcohol-dependent drinkers. The fact that 82% of alcohol-dependent drinkers in England have not sought any treatment for their alcohol use strongly suggests that many people who suffer try to tackle the problem alone 7

Before you think of quitting alcohol using the cold turkey method, consider this – In 2018, the UK recorded a staggering 7,551 alcohol-specific deaths. Some of these deaths will have occurred due to severe untreated alcohol withdrawal symptoms

If you are alcohol dependent, you are not alone; currently, in England, there are an estimated 586,780 alcohol-dependent drinkers, 7  

Going cold turkey from alcohol is not a clinically endorsed withdrawal method, and for excellent reason. Still, a high number of people attempt to give up alcohol in this way every day. This is mostly due to a lack of knowledge and understanding or an inability to control alcohol through an alcohol reduction regime. Even stopping drinking by reducing, can still result in severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms for some heavily dependent drinkers.

The safest way to stop drinking when you suffer from alcohol dependence or addiction is to undergo full medical alcohol detox. This way, you can be constantly monitored and provided with approved pharmaceutical medication to control and diminish the severity of withdrawal.

If you’re considering stopping all alcohol abruptly and think you may have alcohol dependence, please call our experts here first. We can assess your individual drinking habits and advise if it would be safe for you to stop alcohol without professional help.

Alcohol withdrawal complications 

Acute alcohol withdrawal brought on by abrupt cessation of alcohol is far more likely to carry serious risks and complications.

Short term complications of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Alcoholic seizures
  • Delirium tremens – Hallucinations, mental confusion and disorientation
  • Psychosis
  • Severe depressive moods
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Death 9

Long term complications of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome – a chronic memory disorder
  • Ongoing seizures
  • Development of PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome)
  • Ongoing depression and anxiety
  • Significant illness and disability
  • Ongoing sleep problems
  • Cognitive impairment 9

Both short-term and long-term complications associated with alcohol withdrawal can be avoided with approved detox medications 9

Buying medications for alcohol detox?

If you are trying to source medication for alcohol detox, please go through the appropriate treatment channels and not buy so-called illicit medications from street dealers or the dark web.

Medical detox for alcohol carries severe health complications if not administered correctly. For this reason, a medical alcohol detox should only be sought through qualified healthcare professionals, such as ourselves or your local NHS alcohol services.

Free local help for an alcohol problem

Free help, support and treatment for alcohol is available locally in most areas for those that cannot afford private residential alcohol treatment. 

Free treatment options for alcohol include:

  • NHS treatment provided by your local drug and alcohol team
  • SMART Recovery (a science-based mutual aid support charity). It does not include alcohol detox
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (a mutual aid support group and recovery programme). It does not include alcohol detox

Need help to stop drinking? 

If you or a loved one need help to stop drinking, safe and effective treatment is widely available and quick to access. 

Detox Plus UK provide CQC registered private alcohol detox and rehabilitation treatment worldwide, applying approved evidence-based treatment methods and pharmacological advanced medications for alcohol addiction. 

We will not only help you to stop drinking safely, but we can also provide a bespoke alcohol rehabilitation programme that will help you to stay sober in the long term and create the life you never thought possible.

Call us now to find out more. We are here to listen and are here to help!

 

 

 

Approved Sources

 

  1. Identification and Management of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40265-015-0358-1 Drugs. 2015;75(4):353-365. doi:10.1007/s40265-015-0358-1 Mirijello A, D’Angelo C, Ferrulli A, et al.2
  2. How the Body Processes Alcohol. Galan, Nicole. (2017). Retrieved on April 30th 2019 from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319942.php3
  3.  Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: mechanisms, manifestations, and management.Jesse S, Bråthen G, Ferrara M, et al. Acta Neurol Scand. 2017;135(1):4-16.  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ane.126714
  4. How Long Does Alcohol Stay in Your Blood? National Health Service. (2018). Retrieved on April 30th 2019 from https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/how-long-does-alcohol-stay-in-your-blood5
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol use and your health https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm. Updated December 30, 2019.6
  6. What are Delirium Tremens? U.S. National Library of Medicine. – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000766.htm  Updated January 10, 2019.7
  7. Alcohol dependence prevalence in England https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alcohol-dependence-prevalence-in-england8
  8. PHE dashboard – Proportion of dependent drinkers not in treatment (%) (Current method) https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/public-health-dashboard-ft#page/11/gid/1938133154/pat/6/par/E12000006/ati/102/are/E10000015/iid/93011/age/168/sex/49
  9. Complications of alcohol withdrawal https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/61-66.pdf