How long it takes to detox from alcohol depends on multiple factors. These include how long you have been drinking, how much you drink, what you drink, and if you also abuse other drugs.
If you drink alcohol every day or binge drink, you will likely experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms within a few hours if you suddenly stop. Due to the dangers associated with alcohol withdrawal, it is important to seek medical care when you detox from alcohol.
Alcohol Detox Timeline
Most people with an alcohol addiction who are detoxing from alcohol will experience withdrawal symptoms. The severity and length of these symptoms will depend on a number of factors, including how much and how often you’ve been drinking.
The timeline for alcohol withdrawal can be broken down into three phases:
- The onset of withdrawal symptoms
- The peak of withdrawal symptoms
- The resolution of withdrawal symptoms
It’s important to note that the timeline for alcohol withdrawal is different for everyone. Some people may experience symptoms for a shorter period of time, while others may have symptoms that last longer. If you begin to detox from alcohol, it’s important to be under the care of a medical professional so they can monitor your symptoms and make sure you’re safe.
The Onset of Withdrawal Symptoms
The first phase of alcohol withdrawal typically begins within 6 hours of your last drink. During this phase, you may experience symptoms such as:
Depending on your drinking habits, these symptoms can be mild and last for around 24 hours.
That said, if you have a long history of alcoholism, you can experience more intense withdrawal symptoms in a faster timeframe. In fact, you can even have a seizure or begin hallucinating at the six-hour mark if your body is dependent on alcohol. The dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with detox from alcohol are why it is vital to seek treatment in a quality treatment program.
The Peak of Withdrawal Symptoms
The second phase of alcohol withdrawal is when symptoms peak or reach their highest point in severity. Minor withdrawal symptoms from alcohol usually begin 18-24 hours after your last drink. Symptoms from alcohol withdrawal can last for up to several days. During this time, you may experience symptoms such as:
However, if you are undergoing a moderate to severe case of alcohol withdrawal, you may experience a peak in your symptoms at the 72-hour mark. People with a long history of alcohol abuse are more likely to experience more severe, potentially life-threatening symptoms such as:
- Delirium tremens (DTs)
While detoxing from chronic alcohol abuse, it is essential to undergo treatment in a medical detox facility to ensure your safety and reduce the risk of life-threatening side effects associated with detox from alcohol.
The Resolution of Withdrawal Symptoms
The final phase of withdrawal during detox from alcohol is when symptoms start to get better. For mild cases, withdrawal symptoms typically begin to lessen 72 hours after your last drink and can last for a week or more. During this time, you may still experience some milder symptoms such as:
- Trouble sleeping
However, most people will typically start to feel better during this phase.
Alternatively, if you experience severe withdrawal symptoms, the side effects can continue for much longer. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can linger for many months, depending on the quantity and frequency of alcohol abuse. In these cases, you may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) for one to two years after you detox from alcohol. Post-acute withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Fogginess or confusion
- Low motivation and energy
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Mood swings
With that said, the severity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms lessens with time once you journey further along your path to recovery without the use of alcohol or other addictive substances.
What Are The Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal?
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be deadly if you regularly drink large amounts of alcohol and abruptly stop drinking. When you stop drinking with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), you’re likely to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. In fact, research shows that alcohol withdrawal is responsible for 850 deaths and 260,000 emergency room visits every year.
When you detox from alcohol outside of an AUD detox program it can be dangerous because the process negatively impacts the sympathetic nervous system, overworking the heart, lungs, and core body temperature.
According to the DSM-5, symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:
- Rapid pulse
- High blood pressure
- Delirium tremens
While the DSM-5 outlines the diagnostic criteria for alcohol withdrawal, there is a multitude of other symptoms people experience during detox from alcohol. For instance, it’s not uncommon to feel like your heart is beating out of your chest, sick to your stomach, and even see things that aren’t real during alcohol detox.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Delirium tremens
- Drinking to stop withdrawal symptoms
The physiological—physical and mental—withdrawal symptoms during detox from alcohol can make you incredibly ill. More importantly, if you have struggled with a history of alcohol addiction or binge drinking, you are at risk of the dangerous side effects of alcohol withdrawal.
If you experience any of the alcohol withdrawal symptoms outlined by the DSM-5, you will likely require medical attention and monitoring in a medical detox program. During treatment in a medical detox program, alcohol addiction treatment specialists assist you in managing the potentially life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal during detox from alcohol.
Reach Out To Detox From Alcohol
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, please seek help. We provide medical detox services to help you detox from alcohol in a safe and comfortable environment.
If you are interested in entering treatment, please reach out to us at 877-RECOVERY. Our addiction specialists are available 24/7 to assist you through this time and help you find hope in recovery.
*Disclaimer: the information on this web page does not replace or supplement information provided by a licensed medical professional or doctor. If you are seeking medical advice for this condition, please contact a licensed medical professional or follow up with your primary care physician.