In 2015, 15.1 million adults had alcohol use disorder with only 1.3 million receiving treatment. When alcoholics finally seek the help they need, they expect quick results and a fast recovery. Some alcoholics don’t realize that their recovery and detox from alcohol can take longer than others. Many people with alcohol use disorder don’t even know what to expect when they seek treatment for their problem. While everyone experiences recovery and detox from alcohol differently there is some general information on what to expect.
What is alcohol detox?
Detox, short for detoxification, is the first phase of recovery from alcohol abuse. This detox period is a time after the last alcoholic drink where the body gets rid of all the alcohol and toxins. People go through the detox period in order to start recovery with a clean slate. The main goal of detox is to safely enter a period of abstinence from alcohol. The recovery process truly begins once the detox is complete.
How long does it take to detox from alcohol?
The detox process is an extremely uncomfortable one. So, it’s not surprising that people entering detox want to know how long it’s going to last. However, the length of time the detox takes is different for everyone. An article from the National Library of Medicine states that alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically occur within 8 hours of abstaining from alcohol, but sometimes these symptoms occur days later. These symptoms peak by 24 to 72 hours, but can go on for weeks for some people.
What happens during detox?
A person drinking a significant amount of alcohol or drinking it on a regular basis creates a chemical addiction to alcohol within their body. The alcohol tricks the body into thinking it needs it in order to survive. So, when there is no more alcohol the body goes into shock. Alcohol consumption also heavily suppresses the brain’s neurotransmitters. Once alcohol is gone, everything that was suppressed comes back in full force causing the brain and body to experience adverse effects.
Withdrawal symptoms are a big part of the detox process. The withdrawal symptoms that occur during detox are dependent on the severity of the alcohol addiction. Symptoms can be as mild as nausea and headaches to more severe symptoms of seizures and hallucinations. Delirium tremens causes the most severe withdrawal symptoms and longest lasting detox. Not all recovering alcoholics experience these extreme symptoms. However, when someone experiences delirium tremens they need immediate medical attention.
Phases of Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal tends to follow a course of three distinct phases:
- Acute Withdrawal: This stage includes the worst of the withdrawal symptoms, dominated by tremors, hyperactivity of the autonomic nervous system, and a risk of delirium tremens. Tremors and seizures usually occur within the first 48 hours of alcohol abstinence and peak after 24 hours. People experiencing the more extreme symptoms of delirium tremens usually peak 72 hours after symptoms begin. Common symptoms of acute withdrawal include increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and gastrointestinal problems.
- Early Abstinence: This second stage sees anxiety, depressed moods, and disturbed sleep patterns without the symptoms of acute withdrawal. Anxiety is elevated for about three to six weeks after abstaining from alcohol. Woman tend to take longer to get through this stage than men.
- Protracted Abstinence: This final phase in detox from alcohol is a time when many people relapse. Anxiety is still present along with a state of unease and negativity. Small challenges may provoke a higher emotional response than normal leading to alcohol craving and relapse.
Why is professional help important during detox?
Detoxing from alcohol without professional help is extremely dangerous and is not recommended. Professional help is especially important for someone experiencing delirium tremens which can cause death if not treated correctly. The safest way to detox is to enter a rehabilitation facility where professionals are on hand to help with any problems. At Meridian Treatment we have a detox program that is tailored to the individual. A professional detox program makes the journey to sobriety much easier.