When you start alcohol withdrawal, you will start to experience the symptoms of alcohol detox. This is especially true if you are a heavy consumer of alcohol and reduce or stop your intake level abruptly. Detox is the first stage of alcohol addiction recovery. More so, it is a critical stage. If it is not managed effectively, it can lead to severe problems.

In this article, you will learn more about the symptoms of alcohol detox. You will know what to expect during the detox process and how to manage your symptoms effectively. It is an informative article that will benefit you or a loved one worried about alcohol detox and its symptoms.

What is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is the first step towards recovering from alcohol addiction. During an alcohol detox program, your body gradually rids itself of the traces of alcohol within your system. With that, you are in an excellent condition to continue with addiction recovery and therapy.

Since is the first stage in alcohol addiction recovery, alcohol detox is important in more ways than one. During detox, the alcohol you last consumed is flushed out of your body. It is at this point that you start to experience one or more symptoms of alcohol detox.

This is especially the case if you are a long-term user of alcohol. If you are the kind of person who drinks once in a while, you may not experience these withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms of alcohol detox come about because your body is already used to having alcohol in its system. Hence, when you suddenly stop alcohol intake, you will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can be mental or physical. They also range from mild to severe.

Alcohol detox symptoms begin to subside within a week or two after you begin to detox. However, they can last longer depending on how severe your alcohol use disorder is. After these symptoms subside, you can focus on the other facets of your addiction recovery process.

The Importance of Alcohol Detox

When you take alcohol too much, your body becomes reliant on it. This dependency eventually causes your brain to stop producing certain chemicals, relying only on alcohol to trigger the production.

Hence, when you stop consuming alcohol, your body takes time to get used to it. This, in turn, causes alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which are part of the signs of alcohol detox.

These withdrawal symptoms, which you will find out about as you go on, make many people apprehensive. For most, they experience nervousness or fear of the symptoms they will experience when they quit drinking.

The symptoms of alcohol detox will defer for each person. Some people experience mild symptoms while others may have it worse.

These withdrawal symptoms are also likely to change suddenly and become aggressive. Hence, the need for alcohol detox to be supervised by medical professionals. When you undergo detox under medical professionals’ supervision at rehab facilities, your symptoms will be adequately managed.

Help from alcohol addiction

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Detox?

During alcohol detox, you will experience mild to severe withdrawal symptoms. The severity and longevity of these symptoms depend on your alcohol use disorder. It also depends on the amount of the last alcohol you consumed. Other factors include how long you have been drinking and if you have co-occurring health issues.

If you have been drinking heavily for many years, you are likely to struggle with severe symptoms of alcohol detox. However, if you are not a constant consumer of alcohol, your symptoms are likely to be mild.

Mild Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

You may begin to experience your first withdrawal symptoms about six hours from your last drink. These first set of symptoms include anxiety, nausea, headache, sweating, insomnia, and restlessness.

If your alcohol dependence is mild, these symptoms may be the only ones you will have. The symptoms may not require medical supervision and may subside after a few days. However, if your alcohol dependence is high, you are bound to experience more severe symptoms.

Severe Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

On estimate, more severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal will occur. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tremors
  • Severe hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs).

Of all these symptoms, seizures and DTs cause more concern. Heavy consumers of alcohol may experience seizures within 48 hours of consuming their last drink. If this happens, you may have muscle contractions and convulsions.

These seizures may become more severe if you have been a heavy drinker for many years. It is also more intense if you have undergone alcohol withdrawal multiple times.

Meanwhile, Delirium Tremens is a serious complication that arises within 1-4 days after your withdrawal symptoms begin. It may occur if you have been a heavy consumer of alcohol for many years. DTs symptoms include mental confusion, disorientation, and hallucinations m.

An alcohol addict who stops drinking abruptly while waiting for surgery or medical treatment is likely to experience DTs. This is because of the sudden cut-off of alcohol. Hence, such persons must be surrounded by medical personnel at all times.

Psychological Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

Besides the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, you may experience psychological detox symptoms. These include depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation — all of which can cause altered perception. If you experience anxiety symptoms, it can lead to other side-effects like extreme fear. You may likely experience heavy palpitations and hyperventilation.

When you take alcohol in small quantities, it can reduce your feeling of anxiety. This is why many people looking to self-medicate use it. However, the substance produces an opposite effect when used over an extended period of use.

When you use it constantly over a long time, alcohol allows anxiety symptoms to become even more pronounced. Besides that, these symptoms become more difficult to manage.

Alcohol is a depressant. Most people who are drunk or undergoing alcohol detox are likely to be depressed. There are multiple stories of alcoholics taking their own lives. This shows that the substance is one factor that elevates a person’s likelihood of being successful in committing suicide.

Related Article: What is the Pricing for Alcohol Detox in Ontario?

Sleep Disturbances during alcohol detox

One of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal is sleep disturbance. During alcohol detox, you may experience symptoms like insomnia, restless sleep, frequent waking up at night, and night terrors. These symptoms prevent you from getting a night of good sleep.

When you don’t sleep well at night, you become drowsy during the daytime. As long as your sleep disturbances persist, you will continue to feel their effects during the day. This makes you unable to concentrate and process information, causing reduced productivity.

What Happens During Alcohol Detox?

Many people are unaware of how detox works neither do they know the importance of alcohol detox services in addiction recovery. It is of utmost importance to detox in a treatment facility, especially if you are a heavy drinker and a long-term alcohol addict.

Detoxification goes way beyond getting alcohol out of your system. It involves many other vital aspects that play a role in your successful treatment and recovery from alcohol addiction.

Professional alcohol detox programs aim to provide alcohol addicts with safe guidance while experiencing the side effects of alcohol detox. If you sign up for alcohol detox, you will undergo the following stages:


In this stage, the detox center will assess your physical, social, and psychological state. You will undergo a blood test to determine your intoxication level. You may also undergo screening to check for any co-occurring disorders you may have, like depression or mental issues.

With the information from this stage, the detox center is better informed about the factors causing your addiction. Hence, your detox specialist can determine the addiction treatment to place you on after detox and how to address your addiction factors during treatment.


In this detox phase, medical staff will guide you through withdrawal and manage your alcohol withdrawal symptoms until you become stable and alcohol-free. Stabilization is achieved with a combination of psychosocial and medical intervention.

It is during this time that you are given alcohol detox medications for easing withdrawal symptoms. You will also have the support and education you need during the process.

Preparation for Addiction Treatment

If you are struggling with alcohol addiction, addiction treatment is just one of the many things needed to get you sober. If you don’t undergo further treatment after detoxification, you will likely go back to your old habits.

During alcohol detox, your treatment provider will set you up for future treatment and recovery from addiction. They do this by providing information and encouragement necessary for you to go through the latter stages of your treatment.

Time to detox

Timeline of Alcohol Detox

You begin to experience symptoms of alcohol detox within two hours of your last drink. Within a week, the painful symptoms should subside. However, some mild symptoms may linger for many weeks and even up to one year. The detox timeline usually looks like this:

Initial 6-12 hours

The symptoms you will experience here are mild. However, they get worse with time. They include headache, shaking, anxiety, irritability, and nausea.

First Day

Towards the end of day one of detox, your symptoms are likely to become severe. You may experience disorientation, tremors in your hands, and seizures. These symptoms are common for heavy and long-term alcohol addicts.

Second Day

The symptoms you experience on day two are similar to the first. You may also experience panic attacks and hallucinations.

Three days to One Week

Between 3-7 days of your detox process, your symptoms may appear and disappear. It is at this stage that you may experience life-threatening symptoms like delirium tremens.

After a week

A week after you start to detox, your withdrawal symptoms will begin to wear off. However, some other symptoms may remain for a few more weeks. Many of the symptoms that linger are usually treatable with medication.

Some persons may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) after severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have tapered off. PAWS are the prolonged alcohol detox symptoms. The symptoms include sleep problems, delayed reflexes, reduced energy, and anxiety. These symptoms can last for many months and in some cases, up to a year.

Medications for Symptoms of Alcohol Detox

If you undergo detox in a detox facility, you may be given some medications to manage your withdrawal symptoms. These medications help to maintain your body’s natural chemical balance and reduce your risks of severe complications. However, the medications’ effects are monitored at detox centers to see if they have adverse side effects or interfere with your detox process.

Common medications administered during alcohol detox include:


These drugs help in calming your central nervous system. They are also helpful in treating muscle spasms, anxiety, and insomnia.


It helps in reducing your cravings for alcohol during detox. If you experience a relapse, the medication inhibits the feeling of highness alcohol causes. However, it can also stimulate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Hence, you are recommended to wait 7-10 days before you take it.


It is a medication that helps your brain to start functioning normally again when you stop drinking after prolonged use. It also helps in reducing alcohol cravings.


It is a medication that works differently from other alcohol detox medications. It produces severe reactions when you consume alcohol. If you consume alcohol while you are on disulfiram, you will experience unpleasant symptoms like nausea, facial flushing, weakness, low blood pressure, and headache. These adverse effects serve to stop you from continuing with drinking.

Related Article: What to Expect During In-Patient Detox

Get Help Today

With all you have read in this article, you now know about the symptoms of alcohol detox. Depending on your level of alcohol abuse, these symptoms may range from mild to severe as described above. This disparity is why it’s important to undergo detox under the supervision of an expert.

Take the first step in your recovery today and sign up for a comprehensive detox program. Here at Medical Detox Toronto, we have a team of specially trained medical personnel who are always available to care for you and attend to your needs.

With us, you are assured of a wholesome detox and successful recovery in the long run. Book an appointment with us today!

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