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Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline for Teenagers

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline for Teenagers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains “ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, is an intoxicating ingredient found in beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol is produced by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches.” Alcohol is widely available, and though it is legal for consumption by adults over the age of twenty-one, it is present in many American households and easily accessible to young people. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. After a teen consumes alcohol, it is absorbed from the small intestine and stomach into his or her bloodstream and is then metabolized in the liver. The liver, however, is only able to metabolize a small amount of alcohol at a time, which leaves excess alcohol to circulate throughout one’s body via the bloodstream. When a young person habitually abuses alcohol, he or she will likely build a tolerance to the substance, which requires him or her to increase alcohol consumption to achieve the same effects. It has been noted that alcohol is the most frequently used drug by teens in America.

Timeline and Withdrawal Symptoms

Every young person is different and will have a somewhat unique set of withdrawal symptoms and varied timeline when it comes to detoxing from alcohol. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) alcohol withdrawal is highly variable. The National Liberty of Medicine provides the following a general timeline regarding teenage alcohol withdrawal, that is divided into four stages. 

  • Stage one: withdrawal symptoms begin to manifest around six to eight hours after drinking one’s last alcoholic beverage
  • Stage two: withdrawal symptoms peak between twenty-four to seventy-two hours after drinking one’s last alcoholic beverage
  • Stage three: withdrawal symptoms begin to taper off between five to seven days after one’s last drink of alcohol 
  • Stage four: lingering withdrawal symptoms that continue beyond one week of a teen’s last drink of alcohol

There are a variety of withdrawal symptoms that can manifest during the detox process, and some may linger beyond the acute detox phase. An article published in American Family Physician groups the severity of withdrawal symptoms into three categories:

  • Mild symptoms: stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, anxiety, decreased appetite, tremors, depression, fatigue, mood swings, heart palpitations, mental confusion, and/ or foggy thinking
  • Moderate symptoms: elevated blood pressure, increased respiration, irregular heart rate, sweating, irritability mental confusions, mood disturbances, increased body temperature
  • Severe symptoms: extreme agitation, fever, seizures, severe confusion, hallucinations, delirium tremens

Factors that will contribute to a young person’s detox process include a young person’s age, the amount of alcohol consumed, how quickly the alcohol is consumed, whether the teen mixes alcohol with other substances, and one’s overall heath will all inform one’s detox experience. The higher the tolerance and more dependent upon alcohol a teenager is, the greater the teen’s risk is of suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms during detox.  

For Information and Support

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Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.

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