Alcohol Detoxification

Learn more about alcohol detox, detox stages and side effects, and available treatment options here.

What is Alcohol Detox?

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol use and abuse are responsible for over three million deaths worldwide every year. This statistic perfectly highlights how much of a devastating impact alcohol abuse has had and still currently has on health and wellness worldwide.1

Even though alcoholism is extremely dangerous, alcohol addiction is very treatable, and many treatment centers offer effective alcohol detoxification treatment programs. Read on to discover what alcohol detoxification is and how long alcohol withdrawal takes.

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol Detoxification

Alcohol detoxification refers to the gradual reduction or abrupt elimination of alcohol intake. Alcohol withdrawal refers to a process of reducing the body’s alcohol content level till there is no longer any alcohol left in the body. Ideally, alcohol detoxification should be carried out in a “systematic reduction” fashion to ensure patient safety and positive overall wellness.2

Detox from alcohol is usually accompanied by the manifestation of several symptoms of withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms vary in severity, and while some are relatively mild (like headaches), others are significantly more life-threatening. Although withdrawal symptoms will always accompany detox from alcohol, it has been established that abrupt cessation of alcohol consumption will, more often than not, trigger severe acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol?

Alcohol is one of the “easiest” substances of abuse to detox from. Typically, alcohol detox treatment lasts for three days, a period during which most withdrawal effects will have subsided in intensity. While most of the adverse physical symptoms that follow alcohol detox treatment subside in about seventy-two hours, there are emotional withdrawal symptoms that can last even longer. These emotional and mental symptoms are often present for days or weeks and are usually responsible for cases of relapse after alcohol withdrawal treatment.

Why Is Alcohol Detoxification Important?

Alcohol abuse negatively impacts the health and wellness of the individual struggling with addiction. Alcohol abuse also has a far-reaching impact on the global “community” as a whole. Alcohol detoxification offers a way for people struggling with alcohol addiction to safely overcome it and manage any mild or severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms that may accompany cessation of alcohol consumption.

What Does Alcohol Detox Feel Like?

During the detoxification process, you can expect to feel some withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild, like headaches, to much more severe, like alcohol withdrawal seizures. The severity of symptoms experienced during the detox process depends on several factors, such as underlying conditions and the duration of alcohol abuse. Generally, you should begin to experience significant relief from these withdrawal effects in about three to seven days.3

Note that therapy may be necessary after detox to learn effective coping skills for dealing with addiction triggers.

Alcohol Detox Symptoms and Side Effects

Alcohol detox is usually accompanied by several withdrawal symptoms and side effects. These side effects can range from mild to severe in intensity, some of which may prove life-threatening if not properly treated by medical professionals.

Minor Withdrawal Symptoms

Minor alcohol withdrawal symptoms often occur shortly after ceasing alcohol consumption. Although these symptoms are not life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable to deal with. Nevertheless, they are often easy to take care of using prescribed medications. Some of these symptoms include feelings of anxiety, mood swings, sweating, headaches, insomnia, appetite changes, and increased heart rate.4

Severe Withdrawal Symptoms

More severe withdrawal effects that may occur during the detox process are seizures, high blood pressure, and delirium tremens. Delirium tremens is one of the most severe side effects of alcohol withdrawal, and it can be fatal if affected persons are not promptly treated. Delirium tremens is characterized by symptoms such as seizures, visual and auditory hallucinations, elevated blood pressure, fever, and increased agitation.

Alcohol Detox Stages and Timeline

Alcohol detoxification occurs in stages, and each stage is usually characterized by specific symptoms and signs. These stages are as follows:

  • Stage 1 (mild): The first stage of alcohol withdrawal is characterized by mild symptoms such as nausea, anxiety, and abdominal pain. These symptoms are usually among the first set of alcohol withdrawal symptoms to occur during detoxification.
  • Stage 2 (moderate): The next stage of alcohol withdrawal usually features the manifestation of symptoms such as confusion and elevated blood pressure. Although these symptoms are not as severe, they can be potentially life-threatening if not managed properly with medications.
  • Stage 3 (severe): The third and final stage of alcohol detoxification is usually marked by the occurrence of severe, potentially life-threatening symptoms like seizures, hallucinations, or even delirium tremens. This stage of alcohol detox usually requires inpatient treatment at a detox center to ensure patient safety.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

Alcohol detoxification follows a particular timeline, and an individual who wants to detox from alcohol will usually experience withdrawal symptoms according to this timeline. The timeline of alcohol detox is as follows:

  • 6 hours after the last drink: By six hours post-consumption, one can expect to experience withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, hypertension, nausea and vomiting, and headaches.
  • 12-24 hours after the last drink: Symptoms like visual and auditory hallucinations and seizures usually occur during this timeframe, particularly in people with severe alcohol addiction.
  • 48-72 hours after the last drink: By this stage of the timeline, the withdrawal effects of alcohol detox should be lowering in intensity. However, some individuals with extreme cases of alcohol addiction may experience delirium tremens during this timeframe.
Alcohol Detox

Alcohol Detox At Home

Although inpatient alcohol detox is the recommended option for people dealing with alcohol addiction, at-home detox is possible in some cases. However, it carries serious risks because alcohol detoxification is often accompanied by severe side effects, some potentially life-threatening, which require proper medical intervention for safe management.

People who have been dealing with alcohol addiction for an extended period should also not opt for at-home alcohol detox because there is an increased chance that they’ll experience severe withdrawal effects and they won’t be able to manage themselves during the detoxification process.

How To Detox From Alcohol At Home?

While it is not recommended, there are steps that one can follow to attempt detoxification at home. These steps include:

  • Getting rid of temptation: If you decide to opt for at-home alcohol detox, the first thing you want to do is get rid of all alcohol in your home. Doing so will effectively reduce the risk or possibility of relapse.
  • Creating enough time: Clear your schedule to ensure you have enough time to focus on recovery. Alcohol detox takes time, and it is recommended that you stay in a place free from distractions and temptations during this recovery period.
  • Reaching out: Alcohol detoxification can be challenging, so creating a support group to help you through the detoxification process can prove beneficial. Make sure to reach out to family and friends during detoxification so they can monitor your progress and well-being. Alcohol addiction recovery is a journey, but it’s not one you have to take alone.

Alcohol Detox Treatment

If you decide to enroll in an alcohol detox program, there are a couple of treatment options that are available for you to choose from. They include:

  • Inpatient or residential treatment: Inpatient treatment is recommended for people with moderate to severe alcohol addiction since these individuals may experience severe withdrawal effects that could prove fatal without appropriate treatment and monitoring by licensed medical professionals. Inpatient treatment requires that patients register and remain on the premises of a treatment center for the duration of their treatment to ensure they remain under constant medical supervision.5
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient alcohol detox is recommended for people with mild or moderate alcohol use disorder. Outpatient treatment usually involves the use of medications to treat accompanying withdrawal effects, and it is more “flexible” than inpatient treatment. People undergoing outpatient alcohol detox are not required to remain on the premises of the treatment center.

Medically-Supervised Alcohol Detoxification At Essence Healthcare

If you or someone you know is currently searching for an alcohol detoxification treatment center that can offer safe and effective care, Essence Healthcare is the place to be. At Essence Healthcare, you’ll have access to an individualized alcohol detox program managed by experienced and licensed medical professionals. Reach out today to begin your journey to sobriety.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.