How Long to Detox From Alcohol?
Detox is a process in which your body processes the remaining alcohol out of your system. It can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Seizures and delirium tremens are the major risks and can be fatal. Medically assisted detox is recommended for people who have been drinking for a long period of time.
What Is Detox?
Detoxification, or detox, is the first phase of substance abuse recovery. It involves a period of time after your last drink that you dedicate to ridding all of the alcohol or toxins in your body so that you can begin treatment with a clean slate.
"The primary goal of detox is to safely and comfortably embark upon a period of abstinence at the start of the recovery process. Once you are clean, recovery can begin."
Why Is It Necessary to Detox Properly from Alcohol?
Alcohol can be one of the most dangerous substances to detox from. As detox progresses, withdrawal symptoms may become life-threatening, so professional medical monitoring is often necessary in many cases of abuse and dependency.While the importance of physically ridding yourself of alcohol is stressed in detoxification, it is also important to evaluate for any of the psychological factors that often accompany severe alcohol dependence, since they are likely to complicate treatment and evaluation plans.
Some detox facilities — especially high-end luxury programs, that are designed to offer one-on-one care — may make assessments about individual psychopathology during detox so that any psychological issues may be managed properly.
It is important that you understand that the struggle doesn’t end with this decision; the treatment can be uncomfortable. Detox can be the most difficult part of the treatment process because the body struggles without the presence of alcohol that it has grown accustomed to, and this can lead to painful withdrawal symptoms.
We can help you pick a facility that suits your needs. Please call us to get connected with an experienced treatment support representative today.
How Long to Detox From Alcohol: Just the Facts
"The short (and frustrating) answer to this question is: it depends, but typically it takes between 3 - 10 days to detox from alcohol. Extreme cases can be as long as 14 days. "
Remember, this is strictly a physiological timeline for ridding the body of toxic alcohol substances, most often under medical supervision.
The safest medical detox treatment occurs under the supervision of trained medical personnel in appropriate facilities.
With medically-supervised alcohol detox, you can manage physical withdrawal symptoms, accelerate the detoxification process, and receive medical care from board-certified physicians and licensed medical staff.
This phase typically takes 3-10 days in an inpatient or an outpatient setting.
In the vast majority of cases, however, full recovery from alcohol abuse requires some additional programs, counseling, and therapies; more on that in a minute.
Alcohol Detox Timeline - Medically-Supervisied
Medically-supervised alcohol detox can be completed within 3-10 days, depending on the severity of the case and other factors. This can be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis.
The general steps and timeline include:
- Replenish depleted vitamins and nutrients in the brain.
- Control hydration.
- Introduce calming medications as needed to reduce anxiety.
- Monitor blood-alcohol levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and other vital signs.
These steps are repeated and monitored for about 3 days (sometimes more) in many top detox centers. Many times patients have the option to start Naltrexone therapy, which uses non-addictive, non-narcotic medicine to prevent cravings.
Alcohol Detox Side Effects
The severity of your side effects and withdrawal symptoms will depend on the extent of your drinking problem, but here are a few of the most common physical symptoms, listed in stages according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM):
Stage 1 Alcohol Detox Side Effects
- Shakes / tremors
- Abdominal Pain
Stage 2 Alcohol Detox Side Effects
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated body temperature
- Increased heart rate
Stage 3 Alcohol Withdrawal Side Effects
- Extreme agitation
- Delirium Tremens (DTs)
Alcohol Withdrawal: Physical Symptoms of Alcohol Detox
Everyone will experience alcohol detox differently. However, most people will experience at least some of the following withdrawal symptoms:
- Racing heart beat
- Increased blood pressure
- Mood swings
"Seizures are the most dangerous of the acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms. They occur because your brain and the cells within it actually begin to change as they grow accustomed to the persistent presence of alcohol and its sedating effects throughout your system."
When alcohol is abruptly removed from your system, your brain struggles to adjust to the rebounding level of stimulation. Sometimes the brain can’t keep up with all this new excitatory neuronal activity, and this can result in a seizure.
The risk of seizure remains high, in some cases, for several days after the last drink. Therefore, it is vital to your treatment course that you begin with detox and have all of the alcohol removed from your body first. Beginning treatment for alcohol abuse after safely completing detox is the best way to set yourself up to maintain sobriety — that way, the most physically uncomfortable part is over, and you can focus your efforts on recovery.
The Importance of Professional Help
If you or a loved one are experiencing alcohol detox symptoms, it’s important to reach out and get medical attention. If Delirium Tremens (DTs) is present in an alcohol withdrawal episode, death can become a very likely outcome and should not be taken lightly.
The safest way to address alcohol abuse, as well as detox, is to check into a drug rehab center and let them professionally help you. Please be advised that most alcohol treatment centers will require an appointment, which means that if you plan to stop drinking or go through detox, you may want to taper your drinking gradually until you can get into a facility.
Keep in mind that alcohol detox is not the same as a fully comprehensive rehab program, and if you are facing withdrawal symptoms, you should address the root of the problem by getting professional help or undergoing inpatient treatment.
Sobriety from alcohol can be a hard path to begin on, but by having the resources and education in place, you can find your way, and you can recover.
1. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2016). Drinking Levels Defined
2. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. (2016). Alcohol withdrawal