Among people who are seeking treatment for alcohol addiction, one common question is, “How long does it take to detox from alcohol abuse?”
The answer to this question can be influenced by several personal factors. Some people complete detox in three to five days. Others may remain in detox for up to two weeks. As is the case with all aspects of treatment for alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction, the length of a person’s time in detox depends on a thorough assessment and close observation.
Completing detox can be an important step toward recovery. However, people who try to stop abusing alcohol without entering a detox program may find it extremely difficult to quit drinking.
What is Alcohol Withdrawal?
When a person becomes addicted to alcohol, their body adapts to the presence of the substance. When that person stops drinking, their body can react with a series of painful symptoms. These symptoms are known as alcohol withdrawal.
Alcohol withdrawal is an unpleasant experience. Depending on how much a person has been drinking, it can also be dangerous. When a person tries to stop drinking on their own, the distress of withdrawal can push them back into a harmful pattern of alcohol abuse.
A professional detoxification program, or detox, can help a person get through withdrawal safely and with minimal pain.
Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal affects different people in different ways. The following are among the most common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:
- Intense cravings for alcohol
- Tics or tremors
- Racing heart rate
- Excessive sweating
- Auditory and visual hallucinations
Some people may only experience a few of the symptoms listed above, while others may have all of them. Anyone who has any of these alcohol withdrawal symptoms may be at risk of harm.
The best way to get through alcohol withdrawal is to get professional help from an inpatient alcohol detox program.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)
Completing detox can be a vital achievement. But this success doesn’t remove every roadblock on the path to recovery. Among the challenges a person can face after detox is a condition known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. PAWS is a set of symptoms that can occur after a person completes the initial phase of withdrawal.
People who develop PAWS may struggle with challenges such as the following:
- Anxiety, panic, and depression
- Impaired memory
- Lowered ability to learn or solve problems
- Behaviors that are similar to symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Difficulty coping with stress
- Disrupted sleep patterns
The effects of PAWS can last for weeks, months, or even years after a person has completed detox.
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
The alcohol withdrawal timeline can vary depending on how long a person has been drinking and how much they typically consume. This is why it can be difficult to determine exactly how long it takes to detox from alcohol abuse.
Alcohol Withdrawal Stages
Depending on a variety of individual factors, a person may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the following order:
- The first eight hours: Initial alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically begin to occur within six to eight hours of a person’s last drink. The first symptoms can include both physical and emotional distress. During the first eight hours, a person may struggle with nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, shaking, heavy perspiration, and anxiety.
- Hours 12-24: During the second 12 hours of alcohol withdrawal, common symptoms can include elevated heart rate, breathing problems, continued heavy sweating, and irritability.
- The first three days: If a person has hallucinations and delusions as a result of alcohol withdrawal, they are most likely to occur during the first three or four days after their last drink. Additional withdrawal symptoms during this period can include tics, tremors, and seizures.
For some people, symptoms begin to subside after the first 72 hours. Others may develop new symptoms, or experience an increase in symptom severity, over the following few days.
It’s important to remember that the onset, severity, and duration of alcohol withdrawal symptoms can vary from person to person. The potential unpredictability of withdrawal is one of the many reasons why entering a detox program is the best option.
Can You Die from Alcohol Withdrawal?
One of the many common misunderstandings people have about alcohol is that it isn’t a dangerous drug. Just because alcohol is legal for many people doesn’t mean it is safe. The dangers of alcohol aren’t limited to its consumption. Alcohol withdrawal also can put a person’s health at risk. In certain circumstances, a person can even die during alcohol withdrawal.
According to a Nov. 27, 2018, USA Today article, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified 831 deaths in 2016 alone that may be related to alcohol withdrawal.
Treatment for Alcohol Withdrawal
When a person gets help at an alcohol addiction treatment center, their care may involve both medication and therapy to ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.
Several prescription medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in alcohol detoxification programs. Also, a variety of therapeutic interventions have proved to be effective at helping people manage any distress they have during detox.
Start Alcohol Detox in South Florida
Ambrosia Treatment Center is a trusted source of alcohol detox in South Florida. When you complete detox with us, you take an important step toward successful recovery. Our team is here for you when you’re ready to stop abusing alcohol. Visit our admissions page today to learn how we can help.