How to Detox from Alcohol

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

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Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Learning how to detox from alcohol is straightforward. Discovering the best way to detox from alcohol, on the other hand, can be more challenging.

The principle of alcohol detox is simple, too. You are purging your body of all traces of alcohol during a process that’s characterized by often distressing withdrawal symptoms. The scope and severity of withdrawal symptoms hinges on the extent of dependence and addiction.

According to the definition of alcohol use disorder in the APA’s DSM-5, experiencing withdrawal symptoms is classified as one of the symptoms.

Why does alcohol withdrawal occur, then?

Well, the sustained abuse of alcohol triggers changes in your brain activity. Both inhibitory neurotransmitter activity and excitatory neurotransmitter activity are disrupted as a result of alcohol abuse. When this imbalance is corrected, withdrawal symptoms present.

Discovering how to safely detox from alcohol involves striking a delicate balance, and the more you know about the withdrawal process, the more confidently you can navigate this.

How many days to detox from alcohol fully, then? 

How Long Does it Take to Detox From Alcohol

All cases of alcohol detox are different, but withdrawal symptoms typically manifest within a few hours of your last drink.

While alcohol withdrawal usually lasts up to 5 days, symptoms can persist for longer.

American Family Physician categorizes alcohol withdrawal symptoms as follows:

●  Mild withdrawal: The most common symptoms of mild alcohol withdrawal include insomnia, anxiety, headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, and heart palpitations.

●  Moderate withdrawal: In addition to the above symptoms, moderate alcohol withdrawal can cause confusion, elevated heart rate, raised blood pressure, and breathing abnormalities. Sometimes mild hyperthermia occurs.

●  Severe withdrawal: Severe alcohol withdrawal is characterized by all the above symptoms, as well as impaired attention, hallucinations, disorientation, and seizures.

Not everyone experiences all stages of withdrawal.

If you attempt to detox from alcohol alone, you might find you suddenly move from moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal, and this is where the danger lies, especially if you develop delirium tremens, the most severe form of withdrawal that can be fatal.

Many factors influence the alcohol withdrawal timeline, including:

  • Alcohol intake
  • Length of alcohol abuse
  • Any co-occurring mental health conditions
  • Any co-occurring physical health conditions

While this timeline is fluid, here is a general blueprint:

6 hours sober

Some people encounter the first minor withdrawal symptoms within 6 hours of the last drink.

Anyone who has been drinking heavily and long-term runs the risk of seizure at this stage of detox. This is one of the main reasons why medical detox is vital for severe cases of alcohol use disorder.

12 hours to 24 hours sober

Hallucinations tend to appear during this period of sobriety. While they might be distressing, hallucinations are not considered medically dangerous.

24 hours to 48 hours sober

The first 2 days of sobriety often see minor withdrawal symptoms continuing to unfold, including:

  • Stomach upsets
  • Headaches
  • Tremors

For those who are only experiencing minor symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, these symptoms typically peak after 24 hours, before disappearing over the following few days.

48 hours to 72 hours sober

Delirium tremens (DTs) is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. DTs can trigger high internal body temperatures, raised heart rate, and seizures.

72 hours sober

After 72 hours of sobriety, most symptoms of more severe alcohol withdrawal will be peaking.

In the event of acute alcohol withdrawal, symptoms may persist for a month or more.

How Many Days Does it Take to Fully Detox from Alcohol?

While everyone is different, to fully detox from alcohol it normally takes up to two weeks, while the bulk of symptoms will subside after 3-5 days, symptoms will not fully disappear for another week or so.

Best Way to Detox From Alcohol

Many people choose to detox from alcohol at home, and they do so for many different reasons.

Regrettably, home detox can be challenging, and possibly even dangerous. Learning as much as you can about the typical alcohol withdrawal timeline and the expected risks can help you better navigate the process.

If you are using prescription medications or illicit drugs at the same time as alcohol, this is liable to make withdrawal symptoms even more intense, as well as more unpredictable.

The same applies to anyone struggling with dual diagnosis – alcoholism and a co-occurring mental health disorder. Withdrawal can be even more demanding if you have been using alcohol to self-medicate symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Aside from the potential health risks of home detox for those with severe alcohol use disorder, there is one other serious drawback to home detox. If you have access to alcohol while detoxing, you have more chance of relapsing, if only to stop the acutely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

For most people, the optimum method of detoxing from alcohol involves some form of professional treatment service.

Recovery is a process rather than an event, but detox is the pivotal event that gets the process started.

So, while medical detox and ongoing therapy is the ideal route to recovery, how about if you’re determined to detox from alcohol at home?

How to Detox from Alcohol at Home

Detox should never be attempted at home on your own.

This is a dangerous, potentially life-threatening problem. If you are struggling with alcohol, it is best to seek out the help of an addiction professional.

Detox From Alcohol with Renaissance Recovery

Is your internet search history full of entries like “How do I detox from alcohol?

If so, you may benefit from our comprehensive range of outpatient treatment programs for alcohol use disorder.

Not everyone needs a medical detox, but for anyone with more severe alcoholism, this is both recommended and invaluable. Here at Renaissance, we can connect you with an alcohol detox center near you, allowing you to streamline withdrawal while creating a solid launchpad for ongoing recovery.

For those unwilling or unable to consider residential rehab, and for those who do not require inpatient treatment, we offer IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) to bridge the gap between inpatient and outpatient therapy.

If you’re ready to put down the bottle and engage with our evidence-based treatment programs for alcohol use disorder, that all starts with detox. Make it happen by calling 866.330.9449 right now.

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Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country