What Is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox is when you completely stop drinking alcohol in order to remove it from the body’s system. Detox from alcohol is usually one of the first steps in a recovery program for those who struggle with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and other comorbidity associated with alcohol abuse.
Alcohol detoxification treatment is a necessary step in treating AUD. Alcohol detox symptoms occur during this time and can range from uncomfortable to severe. This form of treatment can help make the process of recovery as safe and comfortable as possible to get the best results.
How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol?
The length of detox varies based on the individual’s biological makeup and the severity of the drinking disorder. More severe drinking problems will likely result in alcohol detox symptoms that are more extreme and last longer. While alcohol detoxification symptoms aren’t always severe, proper alcohol withdrawal treatment is recommended to ensure safety and high success rates.
Alcohol withdrawal typically starts within a few hours to a few days after detoxing begins. Withdrawal symptoms usually last between three days up to a week. After alcohol detox treatment, a longer recovery program is recommended so treatment centers can provide therapy and other resources that help maintain sobriety long term.1
Why Is Alcohol Detoxification Important?
Alcohol detoxification is an important first step of the treatment process to get alcohol out of the body’s system. When someone struggles with a drinking problem for a long time, they start to build an alcohol dependency. Alcohol can create both a physical and psychological dependence that makes it hard for someone to stop drinking on their own.
Alcohol withdrawal detox help those with AUD go through withdrawal symptoms and work through their dependence on drinking. After completing a drug detox and alcohol detox, the rest of the treatment process can begin to help someone move forward from a drinking problem.
What Does Alcohol Detox Feel Like?
Alcohol detox can feel uncomfortable. Someone with AUD will experience withdrawal symptoms after they stop drinking. This can lead to symptoms like sweating, shaking, nausea, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, strong cravings for alcohol will likely occur, leading to a chance of relapse.
Therefore, going to an alcohol detox center can be very beneficial as it leads to higher success rates due to being in a stable environment without temptations. Around-the-clock medical support provides ongoing assistance, making the detox process as comfortable as possible.
Alcohol Addiction Symptoms
Alcohol addiction signs can manifest both in one’s physical appearance and their psychological reactions.
Some of the most common physical signs of alcohol addiction can include the following:2
- Slurred speech
- Red eyes
- Blurry vision
- Coordinator problems
Some common emotional or behavioral signs of alcohol addiction may include:2
- Impaired judgment
- Risk-taking behaviors
- Frequent mood changes
- Memory lapses
- Cognitive difficulties
Alcohol Detox Symptoms and Side Effects
Alcohol detox symptoms can be serious, but proper help and support from treatment professionals can help maintain safety and comfortability.
Alcohol detoxification symptoms can range from minor to severe. Minor symptoms are uncomfortable, while severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening. Proper treatment procedures can help manage severe withdrawal symptoms and prevent negative effects on someone’s health and well-being.
Minor Withdrawal Symptoms
Minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Dilated pupils
- Hand tremors
- Unclear thinking
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms
Severe withdrawal symptoms include:
- Alcohol withdrawal seizures
- Extreme agitation and confusion
- High blood pressure
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid heart rate
Many of these severe withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening if left untreated. Thus, proper treatment and support are vital during detox from alcohol.
Detoxification Side Effects
There are many common side effects that may occur during alcohol detox. Other more severe side effects can also occur that can be serious if left untreated.
Common Side Effects
Common side effects from an alcohol detox include:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
Delirium tremens are sudden severe changes in the mental or nervous system—one of the more serious side effects that can occur during the detox process. When someone experiences delirium tremens, their brain becomes overstimulated by the sudden changes that are occurring in their body after they stop drinking. This can lead to paranoia, hallucinations, shaking, fever, and seizures. All these symptoms of delirium tremens can be treated by a medical professional; however, if left untreated, they can have more severe and life-threatening effects.3
Alcohol Detox Stages and Timeline
The alcohol detox timeline can be broken down into mild, moderate, and severe stages. No client follows any exact alcohol detox timeline, but it is a good general guideline to follow when wondering what to expect from the detox process.
Alcohol Detox Stages
As mentioned above, there are three detox stages that range from mild to severe. Detox symptoms usually peak after a few days and begin to slow down or stop within a week of quitting drinking.
1st Stage (Mild)
The first stage of side effects usually occurs within eight to ten hours after stopping drinking. These are usually very mild symptoms that feel uncomfortable for most people. During this stage, the most common side effects are nausea, anxiety, insomnia, and mood swings.
2nd Stage (Moderate)
The second stage of side effects generally occurs within one to two days of stopping drinking. These side effects tend to be more severe than the first stage. Second stage side effects generally include increased blood pressure, faster heart rate, and faster breathing. Some of the first stage side effects, such as mood swings and anxiety, may also worsen during this time.
3rd Stage (Severe)
The third stage of detox is the most severe and contain symptoms that may require medical attention. Symptoms that may occur during this stage are hallucinations, shaking, severe confusion, seizures, and fever. If you think you or someone you know is experiencing third stage withdrawal symptoms, immediate medical attention is recommended to avoid any negative complications.
Alcohol Detox Timeline
The alcohol detox stages usually run along an estimated timeline that can be broken down over the first seventy-two hours after an individual stops drinking.
What Happens Immediately After Someone Stops Drinking?
Within a few hours after beginning alcohol detox, one could begin to experience some light withdrawal symptoms depending on the severity of the AUD. These withdrawal symptoms may include sweating, nausea, and irritability.
Six Hours After Last Drink
After six hours of having the last drink, signs of alcohol withdrawal will occur, such as anxiety, nausea, and mood swings. Usually, these symptoms are still manageable, but someone with a more severe drinking problem may experience more severe side effects.
12-24 Hours After Last Drink
Within twelve to twenty-four hours after having the last drink, more moderate withdrawal symptoms can arise. Hallucinations can also occur at this time for someone with a more severe drinking problem.
Forty-Eight to Seventy-Two Hours After Last Drink
After forty-eight to seventy-two hours of having the last drink, acute and severe withdrawal symptoms begin. Delirium tremens are more likely to occur during this timeframe, which is why it is important to watch for serious symptoms as medical attention may be needed.4
Alcohol Detox at Home
While it is possible to detox from alcohol at home, it isn’t always the safest option. Proper precautions and planning must be taken to ensure successful alcohol detoxification.
How to Detox from Alcohol at Home
Experts generally do not recommend an alcohol detox at home since the withdrawal side effects can be very severe. If someone wants to detox from alcohol at home, the best option would be an outpatient alcohol detox or medically supervised in-home detox.5
An outpatient detox provides care through a treatment center at certain times during the week, while the individual can live at home. A medically supervised detox involves hiring a medical professional to stay at the client’s home to provide care, help, and safety during the detox process.
At-Home Alcohol Detox Risk Factors
There are many risk factors that can come with an at-home detox. Detoxing at home can lead to a higher chance of relapse since there is less accountability and support compared to an inpatient alcohol detox. It also runs the risk of having health complications due to withdrawal side effects and not having medical support available to help. Some withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening, so it’s important to be prepared to ensure safety.
Treatment centers offer a variety of treatment options such as inpatient and outpatient treatment, different forms of therapy, support groups, and medication-assisted treatment.
Inpatient or Residential Treatment
For most people, inpatient or residential treatment is the best option when treating AUD. Inpatient treatment allows individuals to stay at a treatment center for a duration of time while detoxing, receiving therapy, and working on a plan for long-term sobriety. Alcohol detox medications may also be used at a treatment center to help ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse from occurring.
Outpatient treatment is another option for those with a less severe drinking problem who want to continue living at home while receiving treatment. Outpatient treatment requires going to a treatment center at dedicated times during the week to receive treatment, attend therapy sessions, and work on a plan for continued success.
Recovery from Alcohol Addiction at Great Oaks Recovery Center
Great Oaks Recovery Center offers medically supervised alcohol detoxification. Great Oaks uses evidence-based treatment options that can be adapted to fit anyone’s needs. With a knowledgeable support staff and proven treatment methods, Great Oaks Recovery Center provides the best results for alcohol detox and continued long-term sobriety.
Our team at Great Oaks understands that a solid and supportive family foundation is crucial to recovery. Our family program is dedicated to teaching techniques to handle conflict, incorporating beneficial practices into one’s life, and creating an honest and loving bond between clients and their loved ones.
Continuing Care Program
Great Oaks is dedicated to life-long recovery, and our continuing care program will help you achieve just that. This program will meet a client wherever they are in the healing process, whether that is planning arrangements in a sober living home, incorporating someone into our outpatient services, or providing access to mentorship and further guidance.