How Long to Fully Detox from Alcohol

When facing the prospect of getting treatment for an alcohol use disorder, the thought of going through the detox stage can be somewhat daunting.  Obviously, no one looks forward to experiencing discomfort.  Fortunately, this initial hurdle, one that is essential to getting the help needed, need not be dreaded as medical professionals can assist with alleviating the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.  With a shift in thinking towards gritting one’s teeth and just getting ‘er done, alcohol detox can be viewed as a positive step toward changing life for the better.

Alcohol detox is tricky, however.  Although withdrawal symptoms can vary significantly from one individual to another, because of the unpredictable nature of these symptoms it is always advisable to enter a dedicated detox facility or inpatient treatment program for a medical detox.  Once the detox process begins, how long to fully detox from alcohol will depend on several factors.

How Long to Fully Detox from Alcohol

Individuals entering a treatment program usually want a general timeline that tells them how long to fully detox from alcohol.  This common query helps the person entering addiction treatment mentally gear up for the upcoming detox process.  Answering that question, however, is impossible, as many factors will determine each individual’s alcohol detox timeline.  These factors include how long the alcohol use disorder has been ongoing, how heavy the alcohol consumption was, the age of the client, the general health of the client, whether there are additional drugs of abuse, or if there is a co-occurring mental health condition present.

Alcohol detox typically occurs in three stages.  The first stage begins about 8 hours after the last alcoholic drink was consumed and lasts two days.  During this stage, withdrawal symptoms include sweating, nausea, vomiting, hand tremors, irritability, and sleep difficulties.  The second stage occurs on days 2-4 and involves intensified symptoms, such as increased heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and body temperature, as well as mental confusion, cravings, mood swings, anxiety, and depression.  The final stage, starting at day 4 and lasting 3-5 days, is the phase when certain symptoms begin to subside while other dangerous withdrawal symptoms can be experienced, including hallucinations, severe confusion, extreme agitation, fever, and seizures caused by the delirium tremens.

Managing Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

A medical detox is recommended for managing potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms that may require emergency medical intervention.  Trained detox professionals can administer both over-the-counter and prescription medications that can dramatically ease many of the unpleasant symptoms while remaining vigilant in monitoring vital signs and sudden changes.

Naltrexone is a synthetic opioid medication that has been helping many individuals in early recovery from alcoholism after detox is complete.  Naltrexone works by blocking the effects of alcohol if drinking is attempted.  After experiencing the lack of a buzz upon repeated attempts to drink, eventually the individual’s cravings for alcohol are extinguished.  Naltrexone is only one component of continuing care following addiction treatment, and is prescribed along with ongoing outpatient therapy.

Treatment Following Alcohol Detox

Some mistakenly believe that detox alone will solve their problems with alcohol.  This is patently untrue, as the only way to overcome an alcohol addiction or dependence is to proceed with intensive cognitive behavioral therapy following detox and withdrawal.  The degree of the alcohol use disorder helps determine the level of treatment needed, i.e., inpatient or outpatient treatment programs.

Once in treatment, the individual will participate in various types of psychotherapy and adjunct therapies that will help teach them new coping skills, how to modify thought-behavior patterns, and to examine the emotional issues that may be fueling the addictive behaviors.  Therapy will be provided in both individual sessions and group sessions.  In addition, most treatment programs also require involvement in a 12-step or non 12-step style recovery community to bolster peer support and accountability.

The Treatment Specialist Provides Assistance in Locating Alcohol Detox Programs

The Treatment Specialist is an expert resource when seeking detox and addiction treatment for oneself or a loved one.  The Treatment Specialist provides free guidance toward selecting an appropriate detox program from a wide network of high quality treatment centers, based on the specific needs of the individual.  For questions regarding detox and withdrawal and how long to fully detox from alcohol, please contact The Treatment Specialist today at (866) 644-7911.

About the Author

Marissa Katrin Maldonado

Marissa Katrin Maldonado has been working in the field of addiction and behavioral health since 2006. She has been dedicated to helping individuals and families find treatment for addiction, dual diagnosis, mental health, and eating disorder conditions. Marissa received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from San Francisco State University and her Masters Degree in Business Administration with a focus in Management at the University of Redlands, School of Business.

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