If you are thinking about quitting drinking, then you may be wondering – how long does it take to detox from alcohol? However, due to our individual differences, the duration of alcohol withdrawal differs for everyone. The time it takes to detox from alcohol depends on personal factors such as how long you have been drinking alcohol and how much you typically consume. Read on to find out more about what alcohol withdrawal is and the typical timeline of symptoms.
If you have an alcohol addiction and make the decision to suddenly stop drinking, then it is very likely you will experience withdrawal symptoms. In fact, 80% of people who have an alcohol use disorder may go through withdrawal symptoms when they quit alcohol.
The detox process is the time it takes for the body to remove any toxins, such as alcohol. During this time, people will experience withdrawal symptoms that can range from mild to severe.
Causes of Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
More severe withdrawal symptoms are experienced by those who have been drinking excessively for a prolonged period of time. This is thought to be true as alcohol withdrawal syndrome is said to arise from the changes in brain activity that are caused by excessive alcohol consumption.
An alcohol dependence typically follows from an extended period of alcohol abuse. Over this time period, the body adjusts to having alcohol in the system and alters its functions in response. Prolonged alcohol abuse causes disruptions in neurotransmitter activity within the brain, and eventually, our bodies adjust to this disruption and learn to function in the presence of alcohol.
So the symptoms experienced if you stop or significantly reduce your intake of alcohol are due to interference with this newfound balance. These withdrawal symptoms can appear within hours after the last drink.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol affects our bodies by depressing the central nervous system. This causes the desired feelings of euphoria and relaxation. As we have discussed, the body likes to maintain a balance, so when someone has an alcohol addiction and is consuming alcohol on a daily basis, the brain makes more of these neurotransmitter receptors to adjust to the presence of alcohol.
When we stop drinking, our central nervous system is in overdrive and becomes overactive, causing alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Some mild alcohol withdrawal symptoms are:
- Mood swings
- Extreme fatigue
- Sleep disturbances
Physical withdrawal symptoms may also be experienced during the alcohol detox process. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- High body temperature
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms
In some cases, people may experience severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, also known as delirium tremens, which are potentially life-threatening. However, it is thought that only 2% of people who undergo an alcohol detox experience life-threatening symptoms.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as delirium tremens, it is best to seek immediate medical attention.
Timeline and Duration of Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal is said to begin as soon as the levels of alcohol in the blood drop below what is standard for the individual. This is why the experience differs for everyone. Mild symptoms are said to begin as early as six hours after the last drink. As we now know, the length of time varies for everyone and largely depends on the frequency and the intensity of alcohol use.
According to a medically reviewed study, a general alcohol withdrawal timeline is as follows:
Minor withdrawal symptoms begin around 6 hours after a person stops drinking. If a person has severe drinking habits, then delirium tremens may even start at this point.
12 to 24 Hours
Withdrawal begins to escalate within this time period. A small number of people will experience hallucinations. Although this can seem scary, it is not considered a serious health risk.
24 to 48 Hours
If a person only experiences mild symptoms, they will likely peak 18 to 24 hours and slowly decrease after four or five days.
48 to 72 Hours
If a person experiences the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, delirium tremens, they will peak at this time frame. They will experience increased heart rate and body temperature and potentially seizures.
Withdrawal effects will peak around 72 hours after a person has consumed their last drink and will slowly reduce around five to seven days later.
Factors That Influence The Duration of Withdrawal
The length of time that it takes for us to withdraw from alcohol differs for everyone. The two largest factors influencing how long it takes to detox from alcohol are the individual’s tolerance to alcohol and the intensity of their alcohol addiction. Other influential factors include:
- Biological sex
- Mental health
- The extent of alcohol use
- Amount of alcohol consumed
Although quitting alcohol cold turkey may seem like a good idea, this may only excaberate alcohol detox symptoms. It is recommended that you slowly reduce your alcohol intake over a period of time to allow the body time to get used to the changes.
Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment
Detox is the first step in alcohol addiction treatment. While it aids in ridding the body of toxins, it does not address the negative thought patterns that can contribute to an alcohol use disorder.
If you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms that are moderate to severe, then a doctor may recommend the use of medications, such as:
- Neuroleptic medications
All may help with the unwarranted side effects of withdrawal and can reduce alcohol cravings. You may take these medications while attending therapy or support groups to help maintain your sobriety.
Withdrawal symptoms can be seriously uncomfortable and, at times, difficult to manage. Medical detox may be the best option if you are experiencing severe symptoms. However, with the help or advice from a healthcare professional, you may be able to treat alcohol withdrawal in the comfort of your own home.
There are various options for substance abuse treatment that can help you maintain a happy and healthy future. Inpatient treatment involves living in a facility where you receive round-the-clock care, whereas with outpatient treatment you can live at home whilst attending therapy sessions and appointments with medical professionals. This also allows you to practice what you are learning in therapy in real-time.
Treatment at The Revoke Programme
The Revoke Programme offers outpatient substance abuse and mental health treatment. Our team of expert medical professionals can help you on your journey to wellness and recovery.
We believe everyone deserves to be in control of their lives and health but understand that not everyone can take time out to deal with their substance use disorders in residential treatment. We offer effective and advanced outpatient treatment to help you overcome addiction.
Our outpatient services allow you to recover in real time. We aim to help you get back to living your best life as quickly as possible. If you or a loved one has a substance abuse disorder, please contact us today to discuss potential treatment options. You are not alone.