Alcohol Addiction Treatment: How Long Does Detox Take?

Detoxification is the first step in substance abuse recovery. So, if you have decided to kick your bad drinking habits, you must go through alcohol detox. Sadly, this also means that you will likely experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The intensity of these symptoms significantly impacts how smoothly your detox will run.

Understandably, you’re probably already wondering, ‘how long does alcohol detox take?’ First off, you must know that alcohol detox and its associated withdrawal symptoms can be quite intense. Therefore, it may be dangerous to try and go it on your own. 

Instead, we recommend seeking professional help. Professional addiction treatment centres can help you go through your detox as smoothly and safely as possible.

That said, alcohol addiction treatment and detox usually take a unique path for each person. In fact, the entire treatment and recovery process is never the same for two people. However, there is a path that the treatment for alcohol abusers typically follows. Using this, we can give you some insight into the timeline for alcohol detox.

In this blog post, you will discover the answer to your question on the length of time for alcohol detox. Furthermore, we’ll also explain to you how the entire alcohol detox process works. This way, you can know what to expect when you come in for your alcohol addiction treatment. 

Otherwise, the information may come in handy if you have to explain the process to a loved one. But first, let us help you understand precisely what alcohol detox is and how it works.

What Happens During The Alcohol Detox Process?

Alcohol Detox Process

Alcohol detox is the process of allowing your body to get rid of every trace of alcohol in your system. While this happens, your body will metabolize the remaining alcohol in your blood and organs. 

Indeed, detox aims to safely start your abstinence period from alcohol at the beginning of your recovery. Unfortunately, the detox process comes with a few obstacles in the form of withdrawal symptoms.

Essentially, detox refers to a specific period, after your last drink, during which you rid your body of all the alcohol you’ve taken. You may choose to do this by yourself at home or check into an alcohol addiction treatment center. But, it is usually best to undergo detox at a professional facility. The reason is simple – alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances from which to withdraw.

You will have access to on-site medical and even psychological experts at an addiction center to guide you through detox as safely and comfortably as possible.

During the alcohol detoxification process, you will likely have to deal with withdrawal symptoms. Now, the best-case scenario is you will be uncomfortable until the symptoms are under control. However, for prolonged heavy drinkers, the withdrawal symptoms are usually more intense and dangerous. In extreme cases, fatalities may even occur.

This is because their body has developed physical dependence on alcohol and now relies on it for some regulatory functions. Withdrawing from alcohol prevents the body from engaging these functions on its own.

While patients experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms differently, most will go through one of the following:

  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Confusion
  • Seizures are also a possibility during acute alcohol withdrawal

Related article: Alcohol Addiction Treatment, Is There a Way to Change?

How Long Does Alcohol Detox Take?

It may be impossible to accurately estimate the amount of time alcohol detox will take for a person. This is because each patient has their own unique experience with alcohol. It is their experience that impacts how the alcohol detox process will run.

However, most people will usually undergo alcohol detox for at least a week. This is particularly true for mild to medium drinkers. For heavy drinkers who have been at it for years, it their timeline for detox extends beyond the mark.

Notwithstanding, here is a typical timeline for alcohol detox and its accompanying withdrawal symptoms. Note that these are general guidelines on what to expect after your last drink. That is when your alcohol detox starts.

After 6 hours

After 6 hours

Within the first six to eight hours after your last drink, you will likely notice the onset of minor withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms may include headaches, insomnia, anxiety and loss of appetite. However, with a long-time heavy drinker, seizures are a possibility with the first eight hours.

12 to 24 hours

According to a 2013 study, a small percentage of people undergoing alcohol detox have hallucinations at this point. They may hear things, see things or even speak with people that are not there. While this may seem like a reason to panic, medical experts do not consider this a huge worry.

24 to 48 hours

24 to 48 hours

With the first and second day of detox, most patients will still experience minor withdrawal symptoms. Headaches, tremors, and stomach upset are some common complaints. 

For people experiencing only minor withdrawals, their symptoms will peak during this time. However, over the next few days, the symptoms will start to subside.

48 to 72 hours

Sometimes heavy drinkers experience a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that experts call the Delirium Tremens (DTs). Some doctors also call it the alcohol withdrawal delirium. People with this symptom can have burning temperatures, racing heart rates and seizures. Delusions, hallucinations and confusion are all possibilities here too.

alcohol withdrawal delirium

72 hours

The third-day mark is often when alcohol withdrawal symptoms are at their worst. However, for most people, this peak is the light at the end of the tunnel as symptoms decrease soon after.

For most people, alcohol detox lasts about a week – withdrawal symptoms peak at about three days, subsides in about four. However, it is not always the case for everybody. For instance, moderate withdrawal symptoms may last for as long as a month in some people. Protracted alcohol withdrawal can even last for as long as a year! 

Moreover, several factors are responsible for how long alcohol detox takes. Read further to find out more.

Factors That Determine the Timeline for Alcohol Detox

The time it takes to get through detox depends on a few factors. Here are some of them.

How much you used to drink

Whether you are a mild, medium, or heavy drinker can significantly impact your alcohol detox. As a rule of thumb, most mild drinkers detox faster than most heavy drinkers. This is because heavy drinking usually means more intense and more prolonged withdrawal symptoms.

How long you’ve been drinking

Depending on the length of your relationship with the bottle, your detox may take more or less time. Short-term drinkers usually go through the alcohol detox process faster. On the other hand, people that have been drinking for many years will likely have to take longer in detox.

Whether you’ve undergone detox before

Relapse is a common occurrence in addiction treatment. However, it also means that such people can get back on their feet faster. So whether or not you’ve gone through detox can impact the timeline for alcohol detox. Essentially, a second-timer will likely go through it more quickly than a first-timer.

Final Take

Understandably, going in for alcohol addiction treatment takes some level of planning and preparation. Therefore, we hope that we’ve answered your question of ‘how long does alcohol detox take?’ Remember, alcohol detox is a vital part of your addiction treatment and recovery journey. Without detox, you can never become free from your habits.

Do you need help breaking your alcohol addiction? Call Inspire Change Addiction Rehab in Vancouver for addiction treatment programs. We offer alcohol addiction recovery services. Please call 888-5089-802 to speak with one of our experts today. Let’s come up with a custom treatment plan to help get you back to sobriety.

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