Alcohol Detox: How Long Does it Take?

Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances a person can withdraw from. The withdrawal symptoms can prove life-threatening and requires professional medical attention in most cases. Detoxification is an important part of treating alcoholism to help rid the body of all the toxins and keep withdrawal symptoms under control. The detox process can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on how the person’s body reacts to alcohol abstinence.

Exactly how a person progresses from detox is influenced by several different factors, thus making it difficult to determine the length of the detoxification process. However, it is possible to obtain a reasonable timeframe by monitoring the symptoms and evaluating their progression. Here is how long alcohol detox can take.

Alcohol detox treatment

The vast majority of acute alcohol withdrawal will have largely faded after a week through the detox process. Medically assisted detoxification provides ongoing clinical and medical support to recovering patients. During this phase, the patient will be provided with medication and nutritional assistance to manage withdrawal symptoms. They may also be provided with benzodiazepines to slowly taper off their drug use and prevent relapse as much as possible.

The main goal of an alcohol detox treatment is to safely remove the harmful toxins from the patient’s body that have accumulated through alcohol abuse. The bigger picture involves nursing the patient back to good health by helping with their dietary needs and nutritional deficiencies.

Because the whole recovery process can be a very uncomfortable process, many rehabilitation centres offer luxury settings to create the perfect environment for patients to recover. At drug and alcohol rehab treatment centres in Bali such as Calm Rehab, along with medically assisted detox, the patient will receive psychological support and counselling for their mental health.

Some people choose to do alcohol detox at home, especially if they exhibit only mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms. During these instances, having professional supervision is very important to ensure the patient is recovering well and their health is carefully monitored throughout the detox process. However, it can be difficult to predict the development of withdrawal symptoms when at home so the general recommendation is to undergo a detox at a professional facility for more thorough supervision.

The first few hours of alcohol detox

Having intense cravings is one of the many signs of alcohol withdrawal and is a telltale sign that the body has begun the detoxification process. These cravings may be immediately apparent within hours of sipping the last bottle and will continue on as the detox goes. The first few hours of alcohol detox may also include symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Increased heart-rate/blood pressure
  • Insomnia and nightmares
  • Shakes and tremors

Patients with severe alcohol dependence may experience even worse symptoms and persist throughout the detox process.

Two days into alcohol detox

After the initial hours of the detoxification process have passed, more severe acute symptoms may appear. These symptoms can become life-threatening due to the brain being unable to compensate for the lack of chemical signals re-entering the body. At worst, the brain can lose the ability to control a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, and nervous system functions. Some of the acute symptoms that may surface during this stage are:

  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Rapid increase of heart rate and blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Delirium tremens, a dangerous psychotic condition that can prove fatal if no medical intervention is performed

The extended phase of the alcohol detox process

Alcohol detox can continue on for many days after the initial withdrawal symptoms have surfaced. Restlessness, anxiety, and cravings may intensify with long stretches of alcohol withdrawal. If not monitored closely, the patient may suffer from frequent and severe seizures. After the 48-hour mark has passed, the risk of seizure will start to drop. Continued medical observation is highly advised as the risk of confusion, heart attack, and stroke are still present. In worse cases, moderate withdrawal symptoms may last up to a month.

Over the course of the detox period, the patient will be monitored for delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal, with the patient experiencing the following:

  • Increased irritability or agitation
  • Body tremors
  • High fever and sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dehydration
  • Severe confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness

While not every recovering alcoholic will develop delirium tremens, it’s best to have the patient be assisted by an addiction treatment professional to assess their risk. Alcohol withdrawal can be both physically and mentally taxing, with serious health complications and cravings developing if no intervention is done.

To summarise, alcohol detox takes about a week to where the body completely flushes toxins out of its system. It only takes a few weeks for a person to become dependent on the alcohol, but the impacts can last for years. Once an alcoholic abstains from drinking, the first thing to do is to seek professional help. Alcohol detoxification is crucial to addressing alcoholism and is the first step towards the journey to a sober lifestyle.

If you or a friend is in need of help, don’t be afraid to reach out. Alcohol addiction is a serious disease that requires professional and medical attention. Speak to a qualified addiction specialist today to learn more about alcohol detox.

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