How long does it take to detox from alcohol
How long does it take to detox from alcohol

Choosing to quit drinking alcohol is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health. While it can be challenging, it also reduces your risk of developing several diseases including cancer, depression, and liver disease, just to name a few. Not to mention, it’ll do wonders for your relationships and work performance.

When your brain and body become chemically dependent on alcohol, it can be extremely challenging to quit. Because your central nervous system (CNS) has been working overtime to fight the depressant effects of alcohol, quitting causes CNS unrest, leading to alcohol withdrawal symptoms. And those can be far from pleasant. They can even be dangerous and life-threatening. 

That’s why you shouldn’t attempt to detox from alcohol without help. Trying to muscle through alcohol detox on your own is dangerous and can lead to relapse.

But recovering from alcohol use disorder is 100% possible. Especially when you’re prepared and have the appropriate support system and professional guidance. 

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Alcohol Withdrawal: What to Expect

Answering the question, “How long does it take to detox from alcohol?” can be a bit tricky. Generally speaking, it takes roughly seven days for alcohol to leave your system altogether. But the alcohol detox timeline can vary from one person to another based on:

  • age
  • gender
  • health
  • genetic makeup
  • history of alcohol use

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically begin within eight hours after your last drink. But again, this depends on several factors, including how long you’ve been drinking heavily and the amount you regularly drink. 

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The severity and length of your alcohol withdrawal symptoms also depend on the above factors. Physical symptoms typically peak between 48 to 72 hours after the last drink and last up to 10 days.

After that, the withdrawal symptoms you experience will likely be more psychological and can last for several months after your alcohol detox. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be unpredictable and erratic. This is another reason it’s crucial to have a quality support system and guidance from an alcohol detox expert.

Some of the most common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

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  • irritability
  • depression 
  • anxiety
  • sweating 
  • hot flashes
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • rapid heart rate
  • mood swings
  • dehydration

When you’ve been addicted to alcohol for a long time, you may experience some of the more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These can be either Seizures or Delirium Tremens (DTs), also called “alcohol withdrawal delirium.” DTs refer to an altered state of consciousness while going through alcohol detox.

While it’s crucial to have support and professional guidance during any alcohol detox, if you’re at risk for any of the following, being under professional care is critical since DTs can actually be fatal.

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Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • hallucinations
  • dangerously high body temperature
  • illusions
  • paranoia
  • seizures

There are additional risk factors associated with experienced DTs or seizures while going through alcohol detox.

  • history of DTs
  • history of seizures with alcohol withdrawals
  • low potassium levels
  • low platelet counts
  • low sodium levels
  • older age during alcohol withdrawal
  • preexisting dehydration
  • brain lesions
  • use of other drugs

If you are at risk for DTs or seizures, being under the care of a professional is extremely important.

Substance-abuse specialists are equipped to handle your detox symptoms, but they also know what to look for when symptoms turn more severe.

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An Alcohol Detox Timeline

Everyone’s alcohol detox timeline is unique. You’ll experience varying alcohol withdrawal symptoms for about a week, depending on several factors. After that, you may experience cravings and other side effects for months after. But in our outpatient detox program or IOP for addiction, you’ll get the tools, strategies, and support you need to avoid relapse.

The typical alcohol withdrawal timeline includes four stages. 

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Stage One: 6-12 hours after the last drink

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first stage typically begin around six hours after the last drink. This may explain why some people with alcohol use disorder (AUD) begin drinking as soon as they wake up. 

While the first stage on the alcohol detox timeline often feels brutal, many assume it is the most dangerous phase. It may be highly unpleasant, but it’s not the most dangerous. (That’s phase three.)

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Stage one alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Headaches – These are typically caused by dehydration.
  • Cravings – They are especially bad during this phase since you know drinking would alleviate unpleasant symptoms.
  • Sweating – When there is no longer any alcohol in your system, your body begins to overheat and sweat in an attempt to cool you down and protect your organs. While in an alcohol detox program, your assigned medical professional will ensure you are adequately hydrated.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, & vomiting – When you drink heavily, you alter the walls of your intestines and the amount of stomach acid you produce. When you stop drinking, nausea is almost inevitable. 
  • Shaking – Because your central nervous system is off-balance to adjust to the lack of alcohol, there may be some malfunctions in your nerves, causing uncontrollable shaking. 
alcohol detox

Stage Two: 12-24 hours after the last drink

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms tend to get slightly more severe in stage two. The symptoms you experienced during stage one typically continue into stage two, with the addition of the following, lasting one to three days.

  • Dehydration – Because of the excessive sweating and necessity to hydrate as best you can with fluids, causing frequent bathroom drops, you’ll likely experience dehydration during phase two. 
  • Insomnia – Difficulty falling and staying asleep often happens within the first 24hrs of stopping drinking, and can continue for several weeks or
  • even months as your body gets used to sleeping without alcohol. Even though it’s not life threatening, it can be very uncomfortable. Thankfully, it gets better with time and the right treatment.
  • Seizures – If you are at risk, you may experience seizures during this phase (see below). 
  • High Blood Pressure – As your body adjusts to the absence of alcohol, you may experience rapid breathing and heart rate, and high blood pressure. 

If you experience hallucinations or a seizure, it’s crucial that you call 911 or go to the nearest ER, as these can be life-threatening.

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Stage Three: 24-48 hours after the last drink

As we said earlier, stage three is the peak of your alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It’s also the most dangerous. At this point in your detox, your body is in panic mode. Because of that, you may experience severe reactions to not having alcohol in your system. 

  • Low blood sugar – When you’re addicted to alcohol, you are more likely to develop liver problems. And when this organ doesn’t function properly, it won’t release necessary glucose into your bloodstream, causing hypoglycemia and low blood sugar. 
  • Irritability – This is when you’ll feel most angry and irritable. It’s very common to have mood swings during phase three of alcohol detox. You’ll feel uncomfortable and anxious, and that can make anyone irritable. 
  • Grand Mal seizures – About four out of every one hundred patients experience grand mal seizures 24-48 hours into their alcohol detox. Nutrient, water, and sleep deprivation can contribute to these, but the only treatment and prevention is to be under the care of a medical provider during withdrawal.

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Stage Four: 48-168 hours after the last drink

  • Hallucinations and Delirium Tremens (DTs) – This is the stage when DTs are most likely can happen. Along with shivering, sweating, seizures, hallucinations, and overheating, DTs can be fatal, so getting help immediately is vital if any of these signs occur. 

If you experience hallucinations or a seizure, it’s crucial that you call 911 or go to the nearest ER, as these can be life-threatening.

When you make out of stage four, you’ve made it through the most challenging part of your alcohol detox. Most physical symptoms are gone. However, your recovery journey is just beginning since feelings of anxiety, and depression often set in. 

When you are enrolled in a high-quality detox program like ours here at BOLD Health in San Diego, you’re cared for every step of the way. At this stage is when we put together a comprehensive customized treatment program to help you recover and avoid relapse. 

BOLDly Recover from Alcohol Addiction at BOLD Health

When considering “how long does it take to detox from alcohol,” it’s essential to understand your unique journey. That’s why choosing BOLD Health in San Diego is your best choice for supporting you during your alcohol detox. 

Unlike other outpatient programs, we tailor your treatment program to meet your individual needs. We look at your genetic, psychological, and biological underpinnings when developing the right treatment program for you. 

We offer two outpatient programs to treat addiction:

  • Outpatient Detox Program – If, after your initial consultation, we determine you need support during the day while you detox, we may recommend our outpatient detox program before entering therapy treatment such as the IOP. Outpatient detox gives you the guidance, support, and strategies you need to get through your alcohol withdrawal symptoms safely, so you can then engage in the therapy work that will lead to long-term recovery. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – Our IOP has been proven to be highly effective in helping people just like you get through their alcohol detox. Much like our outpatient detox program, you’ll get to come to our beautiful, inviting facility in Encinitas to get the support you need during the day and then go home at night. 

Unlike our detox program, our IOP is more intensive in the number of times you’re required to attend. It includes individual therapy sessions, group sessions, and prescription management if needed. 

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This journey isn’t easy.  But it’s worth it. And with the right support and team of professionals by your side, you’ll be able to successfully detox from alcohol to live a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. 

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