Alcohol Detox: How Long Does It Take and What Happens?
An estimated 16 million Americans1 have alcohol use disorder (AUD). Most people with AUD benefit from some type of treatment. For those with severe alcohol addiction, it’s especially important, and it starts with detoxing from alcohol.
How Long Does Alcohol Detox Last?
Detox is just the initial step on a road of recovery, but it’s an important one. It’s when your body cleanses itself of all traces of the poison that’s been inside it, and it allows you to get a fresh start.
The detox process usually takes 7 to 10 days. Rehab programs usually last a minimum of 30 to 45 days. Many patients benefit from 60- or 90-day stays at residential or inpatient treatment centers.
How long you stay is based on the following:
- Your addiction experience
- Your addiction history
- The severity of your addiction
- Any other mental, behavioral health, or medical conditions you have (dual diagnosis)
- Your physical, mental, emotional, and social needs
What Alcohol Detoxification Is Like
You can experience a range of symptoms during detox from alcohol. They may be as mild as headaches or nausea. They may be as severe as delirium tremens (DTs), which are marked by seizures and/or hallucinations.
If you have no other co-occurring mental health or substance abuse issues, alcohol withdrawal follows a standard course. It consists of three distinct phases:2
1. Acute Withdrawal
This phase can include:
Seizures and tremors occur within the first 48 hours after the last drink. They peak around 24 hours.
DTs typically peak around 72 hours.
Physiological symptoms commonly experienced during this phase include:
- Body temperature dysregulation
- Elevated blood pressure
- Profuse sweating (diaphoresis)
- Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting)
- Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
2. Early Abstinence
You’ll probably continue to have anxiety, low mood, and disturbed sleep during this phase, but you won’t have acute physical symptoms.
Elevated anxiety usually goes away within three to six weeks after you stop using alcohol. Women take slightly longer than men to move through this phase of detox.
3. Protracted Abstinence
Two major characteristics of this phase are:
- Increased anxiety
- Dissatisfaction or unease
When you’re faced with small challenges, you might experience negativity, alcohol cravings, and relapse.
How Do You Know If You Need Supervised Detox?
You likely need detox if any of these apply to you:
- You drink alcohol in larger amounts over time.
- You have cravings for alcohol or strong urges to drink.
- You feel the need to start your day with a drink or to drink throughout the day.
- You prioritize alcohol over other areas of your life, like family, hobbies, work, or school.
These behavioral signs could mean you meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Detoxing at home isn’t a good idea. It’s always best to detox from alcohol under medical supervision because detoxing can be fatal if your addiction is severe and you attempt to quit on your own. Co-occurring physical and mental health conditions make supervision even more important.
There are many benefits of detoxing under the supervision of medical professionals, like:
- Medication to help ease your withdrawal symptoms
- Individualized care to ensure your other physical or mental health needs are met
- Knowledgeable doctors and nurses to recognize and treat any complications that arise
- Help finding and getting into an alcohol rehab center following detox3
What Next Steps Should You Take After Detox?
After detoxing from alcohol, you should continue your recovery in an addiction treatment program. This can help you avoid future relapses. You’ll learn about underlying reasons for your drinking, like mental health issues or childhood trauma. And you’ll learn how to cope with them. Without treating underlying reasons for your drinking, you’ll be at high risk for relapse.
You have many options for alcohol addiction treatment. If you’re not sure which program is best for you, seek help from a doctor or counselor. After medically supervised detox, you may have a program picked out. Types of alcohol addiction treatment programs include:
· Residential treatment: You will live in a treatment center for a specified length of time. You’ll learn to manage your addiction in a structured, controlled environment.
· Partial hospitalization: You’ll spend several days per week in treatment but go home at the end of the day. It’s a good option if you’ve already been through residential treatment or don’t need a high level of care.
· Intensive outpatient services (IOP): You’ll spend several hours per week learning to manage your addiction. Group and individual therapy sessions are usually part of this. It focuses on helping you practice your new skills for preventing relapse, within your community.3
At Promises Treatment Centers, we can help you properly detox, and you’ll be able to seamlessly follow your detox up with professional addiction treatment. We’ll teach you about addictions and triggers and work with you on replacing your destructive behaviors. Finally, we’ll help you transition to substance abuse disorder treatment in your community.
If you or somebody you love is struggling with alcohol abuse, we are here to help. Contact us today at 888-883-9469 to learn more about the alcohol addiction programs we offer.
2. Heilig M, Egli M, Crabbe JC, Becker HC. Acute withdrawal, protracted abstinence and negative affect in alcoholism: Are they linked? Addict Biol. 2010 Apr; 15(2): 169–184. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2009.00194.x.
3. Alcohol Detox and Rehab Programs: What to Know. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-detox-programs#2 Accessed January 25, 2019.