How Long Does it Take to Detox from Alcohol?

Last Updated: Feb 24th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Alcohol addiction and the length of detox is dependent upon a variety of factors due to the severity of the addiction. Alcohol is a powerful substance that can cause extreme physical and mental effects. Long-term abuse can result in damage to many vital organs, including the kidneys, liver, and heart.

In addition to possible health risks, alcohol abuse can also lead to bad choices. Some of these choices could result in severe harm or death to one’s self or others. Driving while intoxicated or having unprotected sex are two potentially dangerous risks of binge drinking or abusing alcohol.

Many people who struggle with an addiction to alcohol eventually reach a point where they realize they have a problem. At this point, they may wish to get help. For various reasons, some of these people try to get clean on their own by attempting self-detox. 

Though these attempts are grounded in good intentions, they’re commonly unsuccessful and can lead to the user giving in to the temptation for another drink; thus, the cycle of addiction picks up right where it left off.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction 

Alcoholism is a serious illness that not only hurts the user but those around them as well. Alcohol addiction can take over your life if not treated sooner rather than later. But no matter what stage you’re in, recovery is possible.

Recognizing the signs of alcohol addiction allows you to put a stop to overdrinking. The sooner you’re aware, the sooner you can take action. While there is no exact formula for determining whether or not someone is an alcoholic, symptoms often co-occur. 

Many alcoholics experience similar symptoms. Although every patient’s challenge is unique, there are similarities within all kinds of addictions.

Some of the more common symptoms of alcohol abuse are:

  • Experiencing temporary blackouts or short-term memory loss
  • Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
  • Making excuses for drinking such as to unwind, deal with stress or feel normal
  • Choosing to drink over more important obligations
  • Becoming isolated and distant from those close to you
  • Drinking alone or in isolation
  • Feeling hungover when not drinking
  • Changing appearance and group of friends you hang out with

No matter how minor a drinking problem may appear, alcohol abuse symptoms should not be ignored. Choosing to detox from alcohol is a choice that can turn your entire life around. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time for you to enroll in treatment and begin the detox process.

Recognizing Alcohol Addiction

Determining alcoholism starts with understanding what kinds of questions to ask. There are multiple screening tools we use to assess our patients. One tool is known by the acronym CAGE – a questionnaire that measures the severity of an alcohol problem. If you answer “yes” to two or more CAGE questions, we strongly recommend that you call us today. We’re here to help. 

The four CAGE screening questions are:

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get over a hangover?

Whether it’s you or a loved one struggling with alcohol addiction, it’s sometimes hard to see the situation from a non-biased perspective. We urge you to look at things from an honest angle. Ask yourself these questions and answer them truthfully.

There is no shame in going through obstacles. You have the power to change your life and use your pain to catapult you forward. To begin the recovery process, medical detox is necessary. Keep reading to learn more about how a detox from alcohol could help. 

So, How Long Does it Take to Detox from Alcohol?

For anyone serious about getting sober, medical detox is a necessary and crucial first step of the recovery process. Self-detox is not only dangerous but can also have fatal consequences. With professional assistance, it’s considered a safe and effective method of treatment.

The amount of time it will take to complete medical detox from alcohol will vary from person to person. Generally, this process takes about 7-10 days. However, several factors will help determine the exact time frame, as well as the severity of the withdrawal symptoms each faces. 

Some of these include:

  • How long the individual been drinking
  • Whether alcohol consumption is used in conjunction with any other addictive substances
  • How much alcohol the individual consume daily
  • Whether the individual has co-occurring mental health symptoms that could have resulted from the long-term abuse or a co-occurring mental disorder

Medically-assisted detox for alcohol addiction is the first step in ridding your body of toxins and starting fresh. Thinking about how long it will take to detox from alcohol may be intimidating. However, we assure you that the long-term reward of sticking it through is beyond worth it. The recovery journey has its ups and downs. But you’re strong enough to get through it.

The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as two hours after your last drink. Within 24 to 48 hours upon cessation, symptoms generally start to appear. This is when you may experience the most uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as insomnia, rapid heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, sweating, tremors, and fever.

The severity of side effects will be dependent upon each person’s unique addiction. How long detox takes will also be dependent upon the severity of withdrawal symptoms. For instance, delirium tremens is one of the most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Delirium tremens can become prevalent within the first 48 hours after your last drink. It involves confusion, severe shaking, hallucinations, and high blood pressure. Although delirium tremens is rare, it can be life-threatening. 

Heavy drinkers who suddenly stop drinking may experience any range of dangerous symptoms. This is why it’s crucial to undergo medically-assisted detox in a monitored and safe setting.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally follow this timeline:

Six to 12 hours post-ingestion

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Shaking
  • Nausea and vomiting

12 to 24 hours post-ingestion

  • Disorientation
  • Hand tremors
  • Seizures

48 hours post-ingestion

  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations
  • High fever and excessive sweating
  • Delirium tremens

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

As mentioned above, detox is necessary. The type of detox program or level of intensity needed for effective alcohol withdrawal management will depend on the severity of the addiction. The magnitude of alcohol dependence and the risk of experiencing a complicated withdrawal. 

Our dedicated medical staff will evaluate you before any kind of treatment. We’ll make sure your current state is accounted for, and each step forward is as comfortable as possible. The specific detox method will vary based on the patient. However, you generally have the option of detoxing in an inpatient or outpatient setting.

Medically-Assisted Detox

Benzodiazepines or other sedative medications may help to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Medication is not a cure for alcoholism. However, several medications have been proven to aid in recovery when used as part of an overall plan involving counseling, group therapy, and social support.

Outpatient Detox for Alcohol

Outpatient detox for alcohol withdrawal may be the right level of care for people at low risk for severe withdrawal. Withdrawal progress is monitored through frequent check-up appointments within our facility. If additional care is needed, we can modify the treatment accordingly.

Inpatient Detox

Undergoing the detox process while residing at our facility is generally the best option. This is ideal for those struggling with a severe addiction to alcohol. Inpatient detoxification also provides individuals with a trigger-free setting. In other words, stimuli that might increase the risk of relapse is removed from their environment.

Help is Available for You or a Loved One

Now that we’ve answered the question, “how long does it take to detox from alcohol,” it’s time to explore your options. For successful and long-lasting results, detox should be immediately followed by extensive addiction treatment at a reputable rehab facility, such as 1st Step Behavioral Health.

Treatment is about using a wealth of resources to treat alcohol addiction. We tailor our treatment programs to meet each patient’s needs. From therapy to medical care to massage services, your comfort and security are our priority.

We’ll give you the tools to continue long-lasting sobriety after your treatment with us. We’re not just a treatment facility; we’re a family that’s in this together.

Our treatment programs include:

  • Personally assigned medical physician and therapist
  • Individual, group, and family therapies
  • Long-term care lasting up to one year
  • Recovery coaches on staff to assist patients with job/recovery skills
  • 2-bedroom, fully furnished apartments that offer the convenience and comforts of home
  • Holistic and recreational therapies such as yoga, art, music, wellness, massage, and acupuncture therapies

Beat Alcohol Addiction with Detox

There is no reason to let alcohol addiction control your life any longer. At 1st Step Behavioral in Pompano Beach, Florida, you can overcome your active addiction and learn how to successfully maintain your sobriety for many years to come. 

Our team of expert physicians, psychologists, and other medical professionals are eager to help you make this life change. Call 1st Step Behavioral Health at (866) 319-6126 or contact us here for more information about available programs.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.