When a person uses alcohol for an extended period, their body undergoes all sorts of psychological and physical changes. Continued drinking can lead to an alcohol use disorder (AUD), which makes it very difficult to stop drinking. Eventually, most people reach a point where they “bottom out” and are ready to get help with their AUD. Yet, one common question they often have is, “How long is alcohol detox?”
What Is Alcohol Detox?
AUD changes brain functioning and adversely affects the body’s physical well-being. The purpose of detox is to flush out all the alcohol from the body and allow it time to start healing and recover from alcohol use. However, once a person decides they no longer want to drink alcohol, their body will start to go through alcohol withdrawal. The longer they abstain from drinking, the more intense and severe the withdrawal symptoms can become.
How Long Is Alcohol Detox?
The duration of alcohol detox can range from two to four weeks on average. However, there are several factors that could affect how long detox lasts for an individual, such as:
- How often and how much they drank
- Whether they misused prescription medications or used illicit drugs when drinking
- The length of time they drank
- The intensity of the withdrawal symptoms
Someone starting alcohol detox can experience withdrawal symptoms as soon as six hours after the last drink. However, it can take between twelve and twenty-four hours for some people. The symptoms will continue to the intensity and usually peak between two and four days.
However, everyone is different, and some individuals will continue to notice an increase in withdrawal symptoms, sometimes up to a week before they start to taper off. Then, in about another week, the physical withdrawal symptoms usually subside and are gone.
In addition, some people will experience PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome), also called protracted withdrawal syndrome (PWS). This condition is where the psychological withdrawal symptoms can continue for several months or longer, such as:
- Intense Cravings
- Reduced Cognitive Functioning
Fortunately, with continued treatment for AUD, these symptoms gradually subside and eventually disappear. The only exception is cravings, which can go away initially, only to reappear a year or later into recovery. Cravings can also be triggered by various events, locations, and people.
Alcohol Detox Timeline
In general, most people will progress through alcohol detox based on the following timeline:
- Within six to 24 hours after the last drink, minor withdrawal symptoms begin, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, and reduced appetite.
- Between 12 hours and 48 hours, the minor withdrawal symptoms intensify and become more moderate. Some people can experience hallucinations, become anxious, and have panic attacks.
- Within one day and three days, some people can start to experience seizures. Seizures are common in individuals who drank excessively and heavily for long periods. Seizures can also be a precursor to DTs (delirium tremens).
- Between two and four days, alcohol withdrawal symptoms subside and lessen gradually. For those with a risk of DTs, they usually begin within this same period and can continue for up to a week. DTs can also cause disorientation, fever, confusion, and intense hallucinations.
Why Is It Dangerous to Detox from Alcohol at Home?
Detoxing at home from alcohol has additional risks that some people do not fully consider. For example, they could experience seizures and DTs, which can be life-threatening when there is no medical supervision. While rare, death from seizures and DTs is possible.
Therefore, undergoing alcohol detox unsupervised or quitting drinking “cold turkey” is highly discouraged. Rather, you should seek medically supervised detox at a qualified medical detox center.
What Is a Medically Supervised Alcohol Detox Program?
A medically supervised alcohol detox program provides medical supervision throughout the entire detox process. During detox, you have access to doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and addiction specialists, who all provide support and care to help you complete your detox program.
In addition, you could be prescribed medication treatment for AUD using various prescription medications that can help reduce the severity and intensity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Most importantly, your detox treatment can be adjusted and modified so that it progresses at a pace you are the most comfortable with.
What Happens After Alcohol Detox?
Completing alcohol detox is an essential and crucial first step in your recovery journey. AUD is a medical disease that requires ongoing care and treatment. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly assume because they were successful at detox, they can return home because they have overcome their addiction. Sadly, these people relapse and find themselves starting all over with detox.
Instead, your next steps should be to explore your options for transitioning to ongoing addiction treatment through referrals provided by the medical detox center. The addiction specialists at the detox center can help you determine which treatment method will benefit you the most.
Alcohol Medical Detox Center in Pompano Beach, FL
Take the first steps to your recovery at The Retreat of Broward in Pompano Beach, FL. We provide a caring, supportive, and safe environment for you to focus on your alcohol detox through customizable treatment programs. We can also assist you with planning the next steps in your recovery journey. To get started on your detox, contact us today.