If you are thinking about alcohol detox, you may be searching for answers to the question, “how long does it take to detox from alcohol?” Although you may think there is a simple answer, the answer is – it depends. The duration of alcohol withdrawal and detox depends on many factors, such as your weight, age, and severity of your alcohol abuse.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
If you drink excessively or abuse alcohol over some time, you may develop alcohol dependence. Alcohol dependence transpires when your body adjusts to the presence of alcohol in your system and alters its functions in response. For example, your brain changes the function of certain neurotransmitters so they can continue to perform normally.
If you suddenly stop drinking, your brain continues to function in this new way without the presence of alcohol. This results in chemical and neurotransmitter imbalances that manifest as withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe, but they can be life-threatening in some cases.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox is the process of removing alcohol and all its toxins from your body. Although alcohol is ubiquitous in our society, alcohol withdrawal is among the most dangerous of any drug. Severe symptoms include delirium tremens (DTs), which can be lethal without immediate medical attention.
Professional medics advise that you should never detox from alcohol alone. The guidance of a medical professional is essential to ensure your safety at all times. Medical guidance also guarantees that a professional can intervene in the event of any complications. While some people may detox at home with regular visits from a doctor, people with more severe alcohol dependence usually require inpatient medical detox. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends inpatient treatment for alcohol withdrawal.
Quitting alcohol cold turkey is extremely dangerous and exacerbates withdrawal symptoms, so safely detoxing from alcohol involves gradually tapering off your alcohol consumption. During medical detox, your doctor will design an appropriate detox plan to ensure you withdraw from alcohol carefully. They will continually monitor and evaluate your symptoms, adjusting your plan and treatment if necessary.
What Is the Timeline of Alcohol Withdrawal?
Everyone’s experience of addiction is different, as is their experience of withdrawal. The timeline of alcohol withdrawal depends on factors like:
- Your weight
- Your age
- Your history of alcohol abuse
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin just two to six hours after your last drink. Withdrawal symptoms usually peak one to three days later for people with mild symptoms. On the other hand, severe alcohol withdrawal can last for weeks.
A few people experience withdrawal symptoms that persist beyond the acute withdrawal phase. Protracted alcohol withdrawal symptoms (known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS) can last up to a year. PAWS tend to be mild and only occur in a minority of people.
What Are Acute Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?
Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms occur within the first few weeks of stopping drinking. Psychological withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person but may include:
- Anxiety, nervousness, or irritability
- Feelings of depression
- Mood swings
- Cognitive difficulties
- Sleep disturbances
- Cravings for alcohol
Upon withdrawing from alcohol, certain physical withdrawal symptoms may arise during the detox process. These may include:
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Hand tremors
- High body temperature
- Rapid breathing
Some people will experience more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs in around 2% of people withdrawing from alcohol. Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Extreme agitation and confusion
If you think someone may be experiencing delirium tremens, you must seek immediate medical support. Likewise, if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is in your best interest to contact a rehab center, such as our own, today.
Hospitals, detox centers, and rehabs have the expertise, staff, and medical equipment required to manage severe withdrawal symptoms like delirium tremens safely.
What Are Alcohol Cravings?
Many people experience intense cravings for alcohol during the withdrawal period. Excessively drinking alcohol over time induces changes in your brain’s reward pathway, causing you to experience strong urges to drink alcohol, especially in response to certain environmental cues.
You may experience cravings for alcohol within hours of your last drink. However, alcohol cravings can persist long after the acute withdrawal period, with some people experiencing cravings even after years of abstinence.
The good news is that addiction treatment can help you avoid triggers, cope with cravings in healthy ways, and even go some way to reversing brain changes. With the right support, anyone can live a fulfilling life free from alcohol abuse.
Treating Alcohol Withdrawal
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable, if not dangerous. Luckily, professional medics can treat alcohol withdrawal syndrome to alleviate symptoms and make the process more manageable.
Research shows that medication-assisted treatment is an effective treatment method for alcohol addiction that can complement other approaches like psychotherapy to help promote long-term sobriety. Some medications that can treat alcohol detox symptoms include:
Disulfiram acts as a deterrent for drinking by inducing an unpleasant physical reaction when you consume alcohol. It can cause you to experience many of the symptoms of a hangover immediately after you drink, helping you to stay away from drinking.
Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that binds to opioid receptors in the brain. In animal models, naltrexone has been shown to reduce the amount of dopamine available in the brain and reduce alcohol consumption. Opioid antagonists also mitigate the effect of environmental cues and triggers for drinking.
Acamprosate may help treat alcohol withdrawal by stabilizing chemical messaging in the brain that is usually disrupted by withdrawal.
What Comes After Alcohol Detox?
Detox alone is rarely sufficient to maintain long-term sobriety. Effective addiction treatment involves identifying the underlying causes of addiction and taking steps to overcome them.
Detox is often a crucial first step in addiction treatment. It’s difficult to practice the introspection, reflection, and skill development needed to overcome addiction if you’re dependent on alcohol or struggling through withdrawal symptoms. Detox gets your mind and body ready to engage in long-term recovery programs.
Substance abuse treatment for alcohol use disorder may involve a variety of treatment approaches. Research has shown that behavioral therapies, medication, and group programming can help you overcome addiction. Addiction treatment may be inpatient or outpatient and is usually followed by aftercare.
Addiction Treatment at Cirque Lodge
Cirque Lodge is a private and luxurious treatment center in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. We offer expert-led and evidence-based programs for addiction recovery tailored to your individual needs. Our modern facilities are perfectly placed to provide a holistic and transformative recovery experience where you can rediscover yourself and the world around you.
We know that alcohol withdrawal isn’t easy, but we’re here to make the process as comfortable as possible. Our expert team of medics will stay by your side from the beginning to the end of the detox process, however long it takes. We offer specialized detox facilities with 24-hour medical support to ensure your safety at all times.
Our treatment programs include:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Experiential therapy, such as equine therapy and a high ropes course
- Family therapy
- Continuous care
- 12-step programs
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism or alcohol dependence, it can be hard to reach out. However, seeking alcohol addiction treatment is the first step on the road to recovery.
Contact us today to begin your journey to lifelong sobriety. All calls are entirely confidential.