Alcohol is among the most widely used drugs in the United States. An estimated 133.1 million people had a drink in the last month alone.¹ Thankfully, most people are responsible about their alcohol consumption. They have a drink while out on a date or at a gathering with friends and cut it after one or two.

Unfortunately, some have a harder time managing their drinking. In the U.S., 21.5% of the population ages 12 and older reports binge drinking in the past month, or having four or more drinks in the same occasion. And 5.8% report heavy drinking in the last month or binge drinking on five or more days in the last 30 days.

Some take their drinking even further and develop a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol or alcohol use disorder. These individuals require alcohol to function effectively and experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop drinking. This period after first quitting drinking is called detox. How long do the different alcohol detox stages take, and when is it time to find an alcohol detox program?

Alcohol Detox Stages

Someone with alcohol dependence must go through alcohol detox stages if they want to quit drinking for good. Alcohol withdrawals begin within a few hours after the last drink and last about a week, with milder symptoms that may persist for multiple weeks.2 Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to moderate to severe, depending on the amount of alcohol used.

Detox typically occurs in three stages. The alcohol detox stages include:

  • Stage 1: Stage 1 involves the first symptoms of alcohol detox, including nausea, abdominal pain, insomnia, and anxiety. These usually start by around 8 hours following the last drink.
  • Stage 2: Stage 2 includes symptoms such as high blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, increased body temperature, and confusion. These symptoms show between 24 and 72 hours after the last drink.
  • Stage 3: Stage 3 symptoms are the most severe of the alcohol detox stages, involving symptoms such as fever, agitation, hallucinations, and seizures. The symptoms during this stage usually begin 2 to 4 days following the last drink.

Withdrawal symptoms subside as alcohol exits the system and the body removes any remaining toxins. Most major symptoms clear up after the first 5 to 7 days, though some mild symptoms may persist during the ensuing weeks.

Alcohol Detox Program

So when is it time to seek an alcohol detox program? Trying to manage your alcohol detox stages alone can be a dangerous risk to take. Some withdrawal symptoms may cause long-term harm if left untreated or may even be fatal. Seeking help from a specialized addiction treatment program is the safest approach.

Programs like those at Steps to Recovery offer a dedicated and intentional approach to ending alcohol addiction and building a solid foundation for recovery. Through our individualized approach to care, you can find the hope you need to seek healing and freedom from alcohol.

If you want to learn more about the programs available at Steps to Recovery, please call us at 267-719-8528 or submit an online contact form. Our admissions specialists will help you understand your options and find the program that best fits you or your loved one’s needs.


1 Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration. (2022). National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

2 Medical News Today. (2020). How long does it take to detox from alcohol?.