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How Long Does Detoxing From Alcohol Take?

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Image showing the patients in a drug testing center for alcohol detox.

Do you know how many individuals suffer from alcohol use disorder or alcoholism? About 14 million adults alone suffer from alcohol use disorder in the United States. 

If you want to quit alcohol and suddenly stop drinking alcohol, you will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol addiction is a potential risk to your life. 

So, without any further ado, let’s get dive in to learn more:

Alcohol Detox

Most of the time, withdrawal symptoms are experienced by people after they suddenly stop drinking alcohol. How much you drink, how long you’ve been drinking, and whether you’ve previously gone through alcohol withdrawal, all affect how long it takes to detox. 

Most people stop experiencing withdrawal symptoms four to five days after their last drink. 

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome

When a person physiologically dependent on alcohol abruptly quits drinking or substantially reduces their alcohol intake, they may experience a constellation of symptoms known as alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcohol is a CNS depressant, as it depresses the activity of the Central Nervous System. This induces feelings of euphoria and relaxation in an individual. 

The body usually works to maintain balance, so a signal is sent to the brain for the production of more neurotransmitter receptors which stimulate or excite the activity of the central nervous system.

When you stop drinking, you remove alcohol from both the receptors you already had and the extra ones your body produced. 

Your nervous system is overactive as a result. 

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Irritability
  • Tremors
  • Sweating

In severe circumstances, you will also experience alcohol withdrawal delirium or delirium tremens (DTs). 

Some of the symptoms which are associated with DTs include:

  • Illusions
  • High Body Temperature
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures

The above-listed symptoms are the most severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatments

For evaluating the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol in a person and recommending treatments for it, healthcare providers frequently use a scale called the Clinical Institute for Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol. 

The worse the withdrawal symptoms, the higher the number will be on the scale. 

For an extremely high number, they may need even more treatments. Medications are not required for alcohol withdrawal. When you are going through alcohol withdrawal, you can pursue your therapies and support groups too.

Medications can be prescribed if your alcohol withdrawal symptoms range from moderate to severe. 

Some of these examples are listed below:

Benzodiazepines

 Doctors recommend these medications to lessen the possibility of seizures during alcohol withdrawal. 

Examples include lorazepam, diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax) (Ativan). These medicines are frequently used by doctors to treat alcohol withdrawal.

Nutritional assistance

To lessen withdrawal symptoms and remedy nutrient deficiencies brought on by alcohol use, doctors may prescribe nutrients, including folic acid, thiamine, and magnesium.

Propranolol

Propranolol, a beta-blocker, is consumed by an individual to decrease high blood pressure. You may be prescribed this medication if you experience high blood pressure during withdrawal.

Medications for Alcohol Abuse Treatments

When the immediate withdrawal symptoms have passed, you may have to take some medicines that your healthcare provider prescribes to reduce the chances that you will like to start drinking again.

These are some examples that have FDA approval:

Naltrexone

By blocking opioid (feel-good) receptors in the body, naltrexone can lessen alcohol cravings and aid a person in staying sober.

Disulfiram

Alcohol use while taking this medicine might make a person feel extremely unwell and can lessen alcohol cravings.

You can talk to a doctor about these medications and others. 

You can choose to use these in addition to counseling and support groups to assist you in keeping your sobriety.

Stages of Alcohol Withdrawal

Depending on a number of factors, what happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol may vary. 

The severity of acute alcohol withdrawal will vary for different people depending on their amount of physiological alcohol dependence:

The American Academy of Family Physicians lists three probable stages a person going through withdrawal may experience. 

Stage 1

The symptoms of the mild stage include the mild symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Hand Tremor
  • Headache
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Gastrointestinal Disturbances

Stage 2

The symptoms of the moderate stage include the symptoms of stage 1, and some others are listed below:

  • Increased Blood Pressure or Heart rate
  • Mild Hyperthermia
  • Confusion
  • Rapid Abnormal Breathing

Stage 3

The stage 3 symptoms also include the stage 2 symptoms, and some others are listed below:

  • Visual or Auditory Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Impaired Attention
  • Disorientation

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

The following basic advice about when to anticipate alcohol withdrawal symptoms are:

6 hours

Around six hours after your last drink, you often start to experience mild withdrawal symptoms. Six hours after quitting drinking, someone who has a lengthy history of heavy drinking may experience a seizure.

24 to 12 hours

At this stage, a small proportion of people going through alcohol withdrawal have hallucinations. They could perceive or hear unreal things.

48 and 72 hours

Some people go through DTs, a severe form of alcohol withdrawal. This disorder can cause a person to have seizures, an extremely fast heart rate, or a very high body temperature.

Over 72 hours

The harshest alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically occur during this period. Moderate withdrawal symptoms may occasionally last a month. Rapid heartbeat and hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there) are a couple of them.

Factors Affecting Alcohol Withdrawal

Multiple factors affect alcohol withdrawal from your body. 

Your medical professional will take all these factors into account while estimating how long it will take to detox from alcohol and how bad the symptoms will be.

  • Low Platelet Count
  • Older age at the time of withdrawal
  • Low Sodium levels
  • Low Potassium Levels
  • History of DTs
  • Abnormal liver function
  • History of seizures with alcohol withdrawal
  • Preexisting Dehydration
  • Usage of any other drugs
  • Presence of brain lesions
  • Comorbid Illnesses
  • Heavy Alcohol Use

If any of the above risk factors are present, then it is important to seek guidance from a medical professional or visit a treatment facility so that you can prevent and treat alcohol-related complications.

You can use the Alcohol Treatment Navigator tool provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to identify the best local therapies for you.

Additional internet sources that provide comprehensive data and assistance are:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • The National Council on Drug and Alcohol Dependence
  • Alcoholism Research Center at the National Institutes of Health

Your primary care physician can provide you with guidance on where to go for treatment for the physical and psychological signs of alcohol withdrawal. 

It’s crucial to get assistance if you suffer from a substance use disorder. With improved therapy and a healthier lifestyle, it is possible to have a more positive relationship with alcohol.

In fact, it’s believed that one-third of those who have received alcoholism treatment are sober, while two-thirds of the individuals are drinking less alcohol after one year.

Alcohol Abuse and Misuse

Alcohol abuse, often called misuse of alcohol or excessive consumption of alcohol, can increase the risk of experiencing mental health disorders, physical issues, and social problems. 

If you consume more than one drink daily as a woman or more than two drinks daily as a man, then it is alcohol misuse or binge drinking.

The risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), more commonly known as alcoholism, increases when someone is binge drinking. 

AUD is a person’s inability to stop drinking while knowing the harmful consequences of alcohol drinking. 

Some of the signs that someone may have AUD include:

  • Craving alcohol.
  • Developing a tolerance to its effects.
  • Going through withdrawal when they try to quit drinking.

When a person is physiologically dependent on alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms that are felt when they drastically cut back on or cease drinking can be very stressful and uncomfortable. 

Alcohol Withdrawal Causes:

There are various functional changes in the activity of the brain which cause alcohol withdrawal due to the excessive use of alcohol.

There are complex effects of alcohol withdrawal on the body, but there are two specific neurochemicals that contribute to the development of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and the short-term effects of alcohol drinking when someone stops drinking alcohol. 

These two chemicals are gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is the main inhibitory chemical in the brain, and glutamate, which is the main excitatory chemical in the brain.

It has been estimated that more than 80% of people with an alcohol use disorder may experience withdrawal symptoms. 

When you stop drinking alcohol or significantly reduce your consumption, it disrupts your brain’s activity, creating a hyper-aroused state that can cause a variety of withdrawal symptoms to manifest as soon as hours after your last drink. 

Detox Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal

The very first stage of treatment for alcohol withdrawal is alcohol detox. It will help start the complicated alcohol withdrawal process, but it doesn’t address any patterns related to behavior and thought contributing to alcohol usage. 

After your complete detox, various treatment modalities and environments can provide the continuing support required to maintain long-term sobriety.

Inpatient or Residential Treatment

Living at a facility for the duration of treatment while receiving round-the-clock assistance and rigorous therapy in group and individual sessions are known as inpatient or residential treatment.

Outpatient Treatment

Living at home while receiving outpatient treatment entails scheduling regular appointments to attend group and individual therapy sessions. 

This enables you to put what you learn in therapy into practice when handling pressures in the real world.

Alcohol withdrawal generally has a very unpredictable and variable course. Physicians cannot confidently predict who will or will not have life-threatening symptoms using screening and diagnostic techniques. 

The guidance of a doctor or clinician qualified to evaluate and treat patients with alcohol withdrawal will be helpful for those who are already experiencing moderate alcohol withdrawal symptoms or are worried about beginning to experience withdrawal symptoms.

People who are experiencing moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms or who are at risk of going through moderate to severe symptoms usually need to be monitored and treated for withdrawal symptoms at an acute care hospital or detox facility. 

If alcohol withdrawal symptoms are low to moderate, outpatient treatment may be an option. Medical attention will take care of you during the whole detox process and ease the alcohol detox symptoms. 

Some other post-detox resources include:

  • Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and family therapy.
  • 12-step meetings such as AA
  • AAC’s free online virtual support meetings
  • Participation with other mutual support groups, such as Smart Recovery

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to quit drinking?

How long it takes to quit drinking depends on your treatment plan. The initial stop may be immediate, but the recovery process may be lifelong.Some side effects, such as altered sleep patterns, exhaustion, and mood swings, might last for weeks or even months after your last drink. 
However, you’ll probably start to feel better five to seven days after you quit drinking.

What happens to the body when you stop drinking?

Some severe withdrawal symptoms include sweating, tremors, sleep issues, rapid heartbeat, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, anxiety, restlessness, and potentially even seizures. If you plan on quitting alcohol, seek help from a qualified team of medical professionals.

Seek Help With The Recovery Team

Withdrawal syndrome can be dangerous to experience alone. 

The Recovery Team’s knowledgeable and experienced specialists devote their time and energy to assisting each patient in leading a sustainable life. 

Our patients can get therapy in various settings, from inpatient to outpatient rehab. If you or a family member is struggling with alcohol use disorder, we can help.

To get in touch with us and utilize our sustainable living services, dial (800) 817-1247