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Updated on June 16, 2023
5 min read

How Long Does Anxiety Last During Alcohol Withdrawal?

Mara Sugue
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
8 Sources Cited
Mara Sugue
Written by 
8 Sources Cited

Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. After you stop drinking alcohol, you may experience anxiety between a few hours to a few days.

How to Manage Anxiety During Alcohol Withdrawal

Here are some ways to manage anxiety during alcohol withdrawal:

  • Reduce alcohol consumption: The best way to manage anxiety is to reduce your alcohol consumption. If possible, cut out alcohol entirely from your life.
  • Medication: Antidepressants and benzodiazepines help manage anxiety from alcohol withdrawal.
  • Lifestyle changes: Getting enough sleep and limiting caffeine intake reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Breathing exercises: Proper breathing exercises may ease symptoms like high blood pressure and rapid heartbeat.
  • Professional help: Professionals offer various treatments if you struggle with anxiety alone.  

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What Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person stops drinking alcohol after prolonged and heavy use. Long-term alcohol users expose their brains to alcohol so often that the brain has to adjust to compensate for the sedating effect of the substance.

An alcoholic’s brain produces serotonin and norepinephrine in higher quantities than a non-alcoholic’s brain. If that person stops drinking suddenly, their brain becomes overstimulated with too much of these naturally occurring chemicals.

Symptoms & Dangers of Alcohol Withdrawal 

Sudden stoppage of alcohol after long-term, heavy intake causes changes within the body that trigger various alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Alcohol hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Shock

What Is Delirium Tremens (DTs)?

About one in every 20 alcoholics experience delirium tremens (DTs), the most dangerous withdrawal syndrome risk. It is a severe medical emergency and can occur during withdrawal in 3 to 5% of people with extreme alcohol dependency.

Untreated DTs can lead to death. The condition includes:

  • Hallucinations,
  • Tremors
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Disorientation
  • Severe physical and physiological disorders (e.g., seizures, blood pressure, and cardiac problems)

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last? 

Alcohol withdrawal can last anywhere between 8 hours to 5 days after your last drink. It occurs in stages, and each one has risks of varying severity.

The risks increase based on how long a person has been drinking and how much they drank. It also depends on their biological predisposition and whether or not there are any co-occurring disorders. For instance, some people have genes that make alcohol withdrawal treatment more difficult.8

Acute withdrawal is the first stage of alcohol withdrawal. It occurs within two weeks after you stop using alcohol. The health conditions you experience during this time tend to change frequently and are unpredictable. 

The stages of alcohol withdrawal are as follows:

Stage 1

  • Begins about eight hours after a person’s last drink
  • Usually mild
  • Includes nausea and/or vomiting, abdominal discomfort, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and depression

Stage 2

  • Begins about 24 to 72 hours after a person’s last drink
  • Usually moderate
  • Includes mental cloudiness, elevated blood pressure, irregular heart rate, irritability and mood swings, excessive sweating

Stage 3

  • Peaks approximately five days after a person’s last drink
  • Most severe stage
  • Includes delirium tremens, hallucinations, seizures, fever, extreme agitation, and confusion

Not everyone experiences all these symptoms. However, most heavy drinkers experience a combination of many of them. Seek professional medical attention when detoxing from alcohol after heavy long-term use.

Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Here’s the timeline of symptoms after alcohol withdrawal:

Time After DrinkingSymptoms
6 to 12 hoursVomiting, abdominal discomfort, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and depression
12 hours to 1 daySweating, sleeping problems, headache, nausea, mild anxiety
1 to 2 daysHallucinating, memory loss, racing pulse, irregular heartbeat, and possible seizures
2 to 3 daysDelirium tremens (DTs), hallucinations, seizures, fever, extreme agitation, confusion
3+ daysDelirium tremens (DTs), severe blood pressure spikes, intense cravings, heavy sweating, fever

If you’re a heavy drinker who regularly consumes alcohol and you stop, you’ll feel much better after two weeks.


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Can I detox from alcohol at home?

It is not safe to detox from long-term, heavy alcohol use at home. Your brain and body are highly vulnerable to various risks when you stop alcohol consumption and begin detox. 

Medical supervision ensures that they can address any emergencies appropriately and as quickly as possible. Once you’ve completed the initial detox and critical withdrawal phase, you can begin treatment and seek help from support groups.


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How to Safely Detox From Alcohol

The only safe way to detox from heavy, long-term alcohol use is addiction treatment at a center with professional medical supervision. Detoxing from alcohol is a complicated process and makes your body extremely vulnerable. 

Changes occur in the brain during the hours and days that follow heavy alcohol use that must be monitored by a medical professional. Successful, medically supervised detox increases the odds of successful long-term recovery.

What Happens to Your Body After You Quit Drinking?

Heavy drinking to the point of alcohol dependence affects your body, from the brain to the central nervous system to individual organs. In many cases, this damage is not repairable.

Stopping heavy alcohol use might reverse some memory loss, but there are no guarantees an alcoholic’s brain will ever fully recover.

One thing is sure: your body functions will deteriorate if you continue to drink—the longer and more intense your alcohol abuse, the lower your odds of complete repair.


Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person stops drinking after prolonged or heavy alcohol use. It can cause unpleasant physical symptoms and mental disturbances. Alcohol withdrawal timelines vary depending on various factors.

If you experience severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, seek medical help immediately.  Detoxing at a professional treatment center can help reduce the risk of serious medical issues.

Updated on June 16, 2023
8 sources cited
Updated on June 16, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. “Delirium Tremens: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” Medlineplus.Gov, 2016.
  2.  “Liver Disease, Head to Foot.” Stanford Medicine 25.
  3. Sullivan et al. “Assessment of Alcohol Withdrawal: the Revised Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol Scale (CIWA-Ar).” British Journal of Addiction, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  4. Bayard et al. "Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome," East Tennessee State University, James H. Quillen College of Medicine, 2004.
  5. Kosten TR., O’Connor PG. “Management of Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2003. 
  6. Bayard et al. "Alcohol withdrawal syndrome." Am Fam Physician, 2004.
  7. Minozzi et al. “Anticonvulsants for Alcohol Withdrawal - Minozzi, S - 2010: Cochrane Library.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2010.
  8. Smith et al. “Risk Locus Identification Ties Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms to SORCS2. Wiley Online Library, 2018.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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