How long does it take to detox from alcohol?
Well, this will vary from person to person, but most people find it takes around five days to purge the body of alcohol.
During detox, you are liable to experience intense and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. The acuteness of these symptoms depends on the level of dependence and addiction involved.
Encountering withdrawal symptoms is one of the eleven diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, per APA’s DSM-5.
How Long to Detox from Alcohol
If you have been wondering how long does it take to fully detox from alcohol, the following variables influence the timeline for alcohol withdrawal:
- How much you have been drinking
- How long you have been drinking for
- Any co-occurring mental health disorders
- Any physical comorbidities
- Mild withdrawal: Insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, headaches, GI issues
- Moderate withdrawal: As above plus mild hyperthermia, raised heart rate, increased blood pressure, confusion, abnormal breathing
- Severe withdrawal: As above plus disorientation, hallucinations, seizures
Not everyone experiences all stages of withdrawal.
Those with more severe alcohol use disorder can quickly progress to severe alcohol withdrawal if not supervised by a qualified medical professional.
In most cases, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal occur within a few hours of the last drink, persisting for up to five days. Rarely, symptoms last for longer.
How does the process of alcohol withdrawal unfold, then?
Alcohol Detox Timeline
While all cases of alcohol withdrawal are unique, here’s what to expect from a standard detox timeline:
6 hours sober
The first minor symptoms associated with alcohol detox kick in after around six hours of the last drink.
Anyone who has been drinking heavily and long-term is most at risk of a seizure at this stage of withdrawal.
All those with severe alcohol use disorder would benefit from withdrawing from alcohol in a medical detox center to mitigate the risk and streamline an otherwise uncomfortable process.
12 to 24 hours sober
Those who experience hallucinations as a symptom of alcohol withdrawal tend to encounter these at the very beginning of the detox process.
Hallucinations can be distressing, but they are not considered a medical emergency.
24 to 48 hours sober
Over the first two days of sobriety, minor withdrawal symptoms persist in the form of tremors, headaches, and gastrointestinal issues.
For those experiencing only minor withdrawal, symptoms will typically peak after 24 hours and diminish after four or five days.
48 to 72 hours sober
DTs (delirium tremens) is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, affecting around 5% of those who detox from alcohol.
Characterized by high body temperature, raised heart rate, and potentially deadly seizures, anyone presenting with the symptoms of DTs needs immediate medical supervision.
72 hours sober
After 72 hours of sobriety, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are at their most acute.
In rare cases of PAWS (post-acute withdrawal symptoms), symptoms may linger for a month or more.
The following symptoms present in the case of mild or moderate alcohol withdrawal:
- Mood swings
- Raised blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Heart palpitations
- Gastrointestinal disturbances
- Rapid abnormal breathing
The following symptoms present in the case of delirium tremens:
- High body temperature
Unsupervised detox from alcohol at home can be effective in some cases of mild alcohol use disorder.
If you are not aware of the alcohol withdrawal timeline, though, and you are not apprised of the risks of delirium tremens and other acute symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, detoxing at home can be challenging, and possibly even dangerous.
The withdrawal process will be further complicated if you are using other substances as well as alcohol. Illicit drugs and prescription medications like benzos or opioids can make alcohol withdrawal even more intense. The other drawback of polysubstance abuse is that it makes the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal more unpredictable, and the timeline more variable.
Co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or anxiety will make alcohol withdrawal even more demanding, particularly if you have been self-medicating symptoms of mental health issues with alcohol.
Whether you choose to detox from alcohol at home or in a medical detox center, getting through that week completes the first phase of an ongoing recovery process, and it’s the point at which you can start engaging with addiction treatment services now your body is purged of toxins.
We are here to help you create a firm foundation for ongoing sobriety here at TDRC, but what does that involve?
Finding Alcohol Detox with The District
With detox complete, you’ll be ready to engage with outpatient treatment. If you feel you need more time commitment and support than a regular outpatient treatment provides, we offer both IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) here at The District Recovery Community.
Our evidence-based treatment programs deliver a combination of medication-assisted treatment, counseling (individual and group), psychotherapy, sober living programs, and holistic therapies. All of our programs for alcohol use disorder will equip you with the skills you need for sustained sobriety. We also ensure you have the right aftercare in place, stepping down the continuum of care if applicable.
If you have been asking yourself how long it takes to detox from alcohol and you have established you would benefit from medical supervision, we can help connect you with medical detox centers near you.
To stop drinking and kickstart your recovery today, reach out to the friendly TDRC team at 844.287.8506