How Long Does it Take to Detox From Alcohol?
People who suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD) can develop a chemical dependence on alcohol.1 As a result, they may have to go through a detoxification period when they decide to stop drinking.
Alcohol detoxification takes place when someone struggling with AUD eliminates alcohol consumption suddenly. It can induce distressing withdrawal symptoms, which can range from mildly uncomfortable to potentially life-threatening. For this reason, it’s recommended that alcohol detox is supervised by medical professionals. Safety is of the utmost concern when navigating how to detox from alcohol abuse correctly.
So, how long does it take to detox from alcohol? Below, we’ll discuss the alcohol detox timeline and some common alcohol withdrawal symptoms. We’ll also explain why medical supervision is so important.
Alcohol Detox Timeline
If you or a loved one suffers from AUD, you may be wondering, how many days does it take to detox from alcohol? The alcohol detox process can take anywhere from a few days to a week. Your detox timeline will depend on:
- Your age
- The severity of your alcohol abuse
- The length of time that you’ve been suffering from AUD
- Whether or not you’ve experienced alcohol withdrawal syndrome in the past
Here’s an average timeline for alcohol detox:2
- 6 to 12 hours – Initial withdrawal symptoms may set in as early as six hours after your last drink.
- 12 to 24 hours – The initial withdrawal symptoms may worsen during this time period, and the urge to drink can start to cause confusion. When detoxing alone, this period of time can lead individuals to believe that drinking is perfectly rational, resetting their dependence.
- 1 to 2 days – After a full day of detox, you may start experiencing more significant withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms typically peak around 72 hours.
- 3+ days – Some people experience delirium tremens (DTs) during this stage, which can be fatal without medical or alcohol addiction treatment.
Once the first week of detox is coming to a close, your withdrawal symptoms will likely start to decrease. However, you may continue to experience mild symptoms for the next few months as your body adjusts to the absence of alcohol, especially if you were considered a functioning alcoholic. Due to the length and severity of the symptoms, having mental health professionals walk you through the stages of alcohol withdrawal is key.
Symptoms of Withdrawal During Detox
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant.3 Chronic consumption of alcohol forces your CNS to restore its balance by producing more activating neurotransmitters. Once you eliminate alcohol consumption, your CNS may operate on overdrive until your body adjusts.
Roughly 50% of people suffering from AUD experience at least one alcohol withdrawal symptom when they stop drinking.4 The most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal affect one’s mental health, including:5
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Rapid heartbeat
- Alcohol shakes
Around 3% to 5% of people with AUD may develop DT (also known as alcohol withdrawal delirium).4 DT can cause more severe withdrawal symptoms, such as:4
- Increased body temperature
When answering the question—how long does it take to detox from alcohol—it’s important to note that the extent of alcohol use will dictate the symptoms and their severity.
How to Treat Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
As you can imagine, any untreated alcohol withdrawal symptom can be quite distressing. Some may even be fatal. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to complete detox under the supervision of medical professionals.
During medical detox, you may be given medications to ease your symptoms and ensure your safety. Some common treatments used in medical detox for alcohol include:
- Benzodiazepines – Benzodiazepines are medications that can mitigate your chances of having seizures during detox.6 Some common benzodiazepines include Valium, Xanax, and Ativan.
- Neuroleptic medications – Like alcohol, neuroleptic medications can depress the CNS.7 In turn, they can prevent some more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
- Beta-blockers – If you develop high blood pressure during detox, you may be prescribed beta-blockers temporarily to bring it back down to a normal level.8
- Vitamins – Some vitamins can assist with severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including magnesium, folic acid (vitamin B-9), and thiamine (vitamin B-1).9 If your AUD has caused you to develop nutrient deficiencies, you may also be given supplements to bring them back up to sufficient levels.
Potential Risk Factors For DTs
If you want to recover from AUD, you may be wondering if medically-supervised detox is necessary. It ultimately depends on the severity of your chemical dependency.
If you have any of the following risk factors for DTs, medical detox is likely the safest option for you:4
- History of DTs
- History of alcohol-withdrawal-induced seizures
- Liver function abnormalities
- Other drug use
Even without these risk factors, medical detox can make the first step of AUD recovery much easier.
Elevate Rehab: Start Your Recovery Journey Today
If you’ve decided to seek help for AUD, you may be anxious about facing alcohol withdrawal and detox. Fortunately, you don’t have to face it alone. The supportive team at Elevate Rehab can help you get through the detoxification and alcohol rehab process comfortably and safely.
During our medical detox program, you’ll be supervised by our compassionate specialists from our alcohol detox center every step of the way. Once you’ve completed detox at our alcohol rehab in California, you can continue your recovery in one of our inpatient or outpatient alcohol addiction treatment programs.
Are you ready to break free of your alcohol dependence and substance abuse? Knowing how many days does it take to detox from alcohol is the first step.
Learn more about our holistic rehab programs today.
- NIH. Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder
- NIH. Alcohol Withdrawal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441882/
- NIH. Alcoholism and its effects on the central nervous system. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23713737/
- NIH. Delirium Tremens. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482134/
- Medline Plus. Alcohol withdrawal. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm
- NIH. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: Benzodiazepines and Beyond. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4606320/
- NIH. What are prescription CNS depressants? https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-cns-depressants
- American Family Physician. Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2004/0315/p1443.html
- NIH. Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/38-43.pdf
This page does not provide medical advice
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