Alcoholism and the Detox Process
When persistent, excessive consumption of alcohol leads to alcohol addiction or dependency, it can have negatively impact on all aspects of a person’s life. Alcoholism can significantly damage major organs, including the liver, brain, and heart, and can lead to nutritional deficiencies in the B vitamin family, vitamin A, and calcium. In addition to the adverse health effects, alcohol abuse can damage significant relationships, have financial and employment repercussions, and lead to serious legal issues, such as being charged with a DUI.
When the negative consequences begin to pile up, the need for getting treatment for the alcohol use disorder comes into sharp focus. After hitting bottom after bottom, it is time to take the reins of one’s life and begin treatment to overcome the compulsive drinking that has caused so much destruction. The first step in the process is detoxification, or the purging of the alcohol toxins from the body. So, what is the alcohol detox timeline and what will detox and withdrawal look like?
Alcohol Detox Symptoms and Withdrawal
A careful assessment of the history and severity of an individual’s alcohol use is the first step of the detox process. A physician or addiction specialist will evaluate the likely withdrawal response based on this information, as well as the individual’s age, general health, and whether there is a co-occurring mental health disorder. It is imperative that during this initial evaluation the individual be completely truthful so the correct measures for a safe, monitored detox will be in place. This assessment will also guide the treatment plan that will follow after detox is completed.
The body will respond to the cessation of alcohol intake within 3-6 hours, at which point the withdrawal symptoms will begin. Alcohol withdrawal can become a medical emergency in a minority of cases, resulting in the delirium tremens (DTs), which is why a supervised detox is important. About 5% of those going through alcohol detox will develop the DTs.
Withdrawal symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the alcohol use disorder (AUD). These symptoms might include:
- Profuse sweating
- Hand tremors
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated body temperature
- Increased heart rate
- Hyperarousal to changes in environment
During the detox and withdrawal period the detox nurse overseeing the process will monitor vital signs and administer medications to help temper many of these withdrawal symptoms.
What is the Alcohol Detox Timeline
When mentally preparing for undergoing the detox process it is common to wonder what to expect. While there is no hard and fast timeline that will guarantee symptoms resolve on a particular schedule, there is some pattern to the detox process.
For milder AUD the minor withdrawal syndrome includes this timeline:
- Withdrawal symptoms begin about 6 hours after discontinuing alcohol use
- Symptoms likely to occur include sweating, upset stomach and possible vomiting, shakiness, increased heart rate, headache, and anxiety
- Symptoms will peak between 12-24 hours
- Withdrawal lasts 24-72 hours
- Minor withdrawal means there are no serious cognitive or psychotic symptoms, and no seizures
For moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal:
- Withdrawal symptoms begin 2-8 hours after discontinuing alcohol use
- Symptoms likely to occur include all the above plus increased blood pressure, elevated body temperature, confusion, irritability, disorientation, insomnia, anxiety, hallucinations, memory problems, tremors, paranoid thinking.
- The DTs may develop on days 2-4 and would constitute a medical emergency requiring hospitalization. The symptoms of the DTs include severe disorientation, agitation, hallucinations, and potentially seizures.
- Withdrawal will last about one week. If the DTs develop, symptoms can persist for two weeks
While alcohol detox and withdrawal is difficult, it generally lasts no longer than one week. It is recommended that individuals with a moderate to severe AUD only undergo the detox process under medically supervised conditions.
Guiding You to Medically Monitored Alcohol Detox
The Treatment Specialist will connect you to a treatment center who will help you get information on getting the help they need for an alcohol addiction or dependency. The Treatment Specialist consists of a team of highly experienced addiction and mental health specialists who will help you locate an inpatient or outpatient treatment program that is most appropriate for your AUD, and there is absolutely no charge for this service.
In addition, the specialists will conduct a free insurance benefit check to outline what your healthcare plan covers toward detox and treatment. For more information about locating a quality detox program, please contact a Treatment Specialist today to discuss what is the alcohol detox timeline and treatment options at (866) 644-7911.