How Long Is the Alcohol Detox Process?

Read on to learn more about the alcohol detox process, along with the symptoms and medications used during detox.

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox can be a challenging experience for people dependent on alcohol or individuals with alcohol-based substance use disorders. However, an alcohol detox, if done the right way, is a positive step in overcoming alcohol addiction, alcoholism, and other related substance use disorders.

The detoxification process can be defined as a medical treatment involving the removal of a substance from the body and how the body reacts to the subsequent abstinence from that substance. Alcohol detox involves the removal of alcohol and any other related metabolites from the system.

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What Is Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a substance use disorder characterized by the inability of an individual to control their level of alcohol consumption, usually leading to excessive alcohol intake. This often leads to substance dependence on alcohol. Excessive alcohol intake is harmful to any biological system. The DSM -5 classifies alcohol use disorder as a medical term for people diagnosed with this condition.1

How Common Is Alcoholism?

Even with all the detrimental effects, alcoholism is quite common, with studies showing that about 30% of adults in the US have experienced alcoholism at one point in their lives.2 Another study puts the figure of current alcoholics in the United States at around 12.7%. Men generally consume the most, closely followed by individuals living below the poverty threshold.3

Importance of Alcohol Detox

The importance of alcohol detox cannot be understated, and it is the first step in the alcoholism recovery process. Alcohol abuse plays a significant role in social and domestic problems, homicides, suicides, and traffic accidents nationwide.

Aside from these social issues, alcoholism is a chronic condition that has detrimental effects on the liver, brain, heart, and immune system. Excessive alcohol intake often increases the chances of developing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, liver disease, and cancer. As a result of this condition, about one-hundred thousand Americans die each year from alcohol abuse.4

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol detox helps rid the body of alcohol and treat various forms of alcohol-based substance abuse. Detox from alcohol involves alcohol withdrawal treatments. Alcohol detox, if appropriately done, reduces the risk of suffering from alcohol-induced conditions or withdrawal symptoms. Overall, this leads to a healthier lifestyle and better quality of life.

Process of Detoxification

Before undergoing alcohol detox, individuals usually receive a general assessment to determine the appropriate level of care that the patient would receive during the detoxification process. This assessment would help determine the extent of alcohol usage and the best possible ways to tackle any withdrawal symptoms that may occur. This offers better care and has an overall better success rate when compared to individuals trying to detoxify on their own. The alcohol detoxification process majorly involves three steps.

Intake: First Stage

In this stage, the medical professionals carry out a comprehensive assessment before beginning alcohol withdrawal syndrome treatments. The assessments generally include:

  • Figuring out the quantity of alcohol consumed daily
  • Psychiatric history 
  • Usage of other drugs
  • Previous attempts to detox alcohol and symptoms of detox encountered
This process helps establish the degree of care such an individual would need to receive.5

Medication: Second Stage

Following the assessment of the patient, medications for alcohol withdrawal syndrome treatments begin. Some medications administered would mimic the effects of alcohol to help with the withdrawal, while others would handle the detox itself and other discomforts encountered.

Stabilization: Third Stage

Here, the patient undergoes both medical and psychological therapies and is counseled on what to expect during this stage and other stages of the alcohol detox process.

Consequences of Alcohol Detox Process

The detoxing of alcohol from the body brings about a series of withdrawal symptoms that may vary from mild to severe depending on the individual. Withdrawal symptoms occur due to developed dependence on alcohol and biological changes in the body.

Symptoms that Ensue

Detox from alcohol symptoms include the following:
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches6
Because the effects of alcohol on the central nervous system, tremors, seizures, and extreme hallucinations might also occur. The symptoms of a detox vary from one individual to another. It is quite challenging to determine which symptoms an individual will experience and how it would affect them. It is advisable not to detox from alcohol at home, as immediate access to medical care might not be readily available.
However, it is important to remember that, while the symptoms of the detoxification process are often unpleasant, they are necessary to ensure a healthier well being.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

The alcohol detox timeline may range from as little as ten days to an extended period of more than a year. The detox process extends beyond merely quitting alcohol and also includes adopting active steps to stop drinking entirely. In general, the timeline would depend on the amount and duration of alcohol consumption, along with the use of other substances, the individual partook in.

First Six To 12 Hours

Alcohol detox starts about six to twelve hours following the last alcoholic drink, during which the liver begins clearing the system of alcohol. At this stage of the alcohol withdrawal timeline, detoxing symptoms start quickly, which could include anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia.

Day One

At this stage of the alcohol withdrawal timeline, insomnia is still very much present due to the effect of alcohol on deep sleep. Alongside the detox symptoms above, dehydration could also be prominent here due to the diuretic effects of alcohol.

Day Two

This stage of alcohol detox tends to be the most climatic, with experiences built around:
  • High blood pressure 
  • Increased body temperature
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Confusion 
  • Seizures
A group of alcohol symptoms called delirium tremens (DTs) occurs around this timeline of quitting drinking in around 3-5% of people who experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Delirium tremens consist of hallucinations, fever, agitation, seizures, and severe confusion.

Days Three to Seven

The third to seventh days along the quitting alcohol timeline depend on the level and duration of alcohol intake before the person decides to detox alcohol. Most people feel relief during this period, with regular sleeping patterns returning and general relief from most withdrawal symptoms.

After One Week

At this stage of the quitting alcohol timeline, the body gets used to the detox from alcohol. And as such, begins to adjust to a healthy life away from alcohol. At three weeks without alcohol, withdrawal symptoms tend to disperse with cravings still present but minimal.

After about a month of detox from alcohol, the liver returns to optimal function, with a reduction in belly fats and clearing of the eye in cases of jaundice. This is a crucial stage with individuals often looking for a replacement for alcohol consumption.

Medications Used During Alcohol Detox

The medications for alcohol withdrawal management work either by mimicking the effects of alcohol in the brain to prevent withdrawal symptoms and cravings, or to treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal directly.

Benzodiazepines

These are preferred as the first-line drugs for alcohol withdrawal treatment. They are psychoactive substances that reduce withdrawal symptoms and help to prevent symptom progression.

Naltrexone

These are primarily used in managing opioid dependence and the treatment of alcohol withdrawal. Naltrexone works within the central nervous system to reduce the cravings for alcohol.

Acamprosate

This works by producing a very unpleasant effect after alcohol consumption. This disrupts the conversion of acetaldehyde into acetic acid, which occurs following alcohol intake. The buildup of acetaldehyde in the body is harmful, so it’s advisable to avoid substances containing alcohol when using this drug.

Disulfiram

This medication works by restoring balance to the brain’s neurotransmitters previously disrupted by alcohol consumption. It also functions to ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.7

Get Help with Alcohol Addiction at Concise Recovery

Alcohol Detox

At Concise Recovery, we help break the endless cycle of alcoholism. Our team of professionals works to help patients with tips for quitting drinking, how to overcome alcohol addiction, and take complete control over their lives. At Concise Recovery, care is given in a supportive environment designed to ensure the patient’s maximum comfort.

Our treatment plans for alcohol detoxification follow three simple steps to stop drinking:

Step One: Professional Detoxification

We initiate the alcohol detoxification process with our team of experts. This is followed by around-the-clock monitoring to manage any withdrawal symptoms that might be developed using therapy or medication. This offers a better success rate when compared to detoxing from home.

Step Two: Rehabilitation

With rehabilitation, we offer counseling and therapy to help with alcohol withdrawal, aid every patient to quit alcohol use, and provide help in adapting to a new phase of life without alcohol. This might be provided based on inpatient or outpatient arrangements, depending on the level of care needed.

Step Three: Aftercare

Alcohol detoxification is just a step in the long journey of staying away from alcohol and living a healthy life. Aftercare is offered to prevent relapse incidences and ensure a better quality of life overall. This can be done through continued therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

For more information on alcohol detox and how to get expert care for yourself or a loved one, please reach out to us at Concise Recovery today.