A person who has been using alcohol for an extended period of time or someone who is dependent on alcohol, may experience withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop using alcohol. The process of eliminating alcohol from a person’s system is called detoxification or detox. Detox is the first stage of therapy for alcohol use disorders. How long it takes to detox from alcohol will vary from person-to-person.
Average Alcohol Detox Timeline
There are a number of factors that determine how long it will take to detox from alcohol. The average alcohol detox timeline lasts between two and six days. Immediate effects can be felt within 6 hours of stopping drinking. Acute symptoms of withdrawal will occur within 4–48 hours of the onset of withdrawal. There are other symptoms that can last up to a week or more.
The severity of symptoms depends on how long a person has been using alcohol and how much alcohol they use or the severity of their alcohol use disorder. The immediate and acute withdrawal symptoms usually involve sweating, tremors, feeling restless or anxious, being unable to sleep and headaches. In more severe cases, it can also involve hallucinations or seizures.
Factors Affecting Detox from Alcohol
A large factor in how long it takes to detox from alcohol is the amount of alcohol use by the person undergoing detox. The factors that affect how long it takes to detox from alcohol include:
- Amount of alcohol consumed
- How often alcohol is consumed (i.e. constant or binge drinking)
- How long the person has been drinking
- Body fat content
- Overall health
- If a person is taking medications
How Long does it take to Detox from Alcohol at Home?
Alcohol detox at home usually involves quitting cold turkey, or stopping alcohol use suddenly, without the assistance of other medications. This can be dangerous since the person’s body is used to having alcohol in their system. They will likely go through withdrawal symptoms when alcohol starts to leave their system and will follow a process similar to the timeline described earlier.
The withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe, based on how dependent on alcohol a person has become. Withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from two days to several weeks. Detoxing from alcohol at home can be dangerous if the withdrawal symptoms are severe.
Risks and Benefits
The benefit of detoxing at home is that the person can do it on their own time, in a place where they feel comfortable. However, this comes with its own risks. A person detoxing at home may be more likely to use alcohol to suppress the withdrawal symptoms. They may also go through severe withdrawal symptoms that can be life-threatening.
One very serious alcohol withdrawal symptom is delirium tremens. A person experiencing delirium tremens may become agitated or extremely confused, have hallucinations, or experience a fast heart rate, high blood pressure, fever or sweating. These effects usually occur within 24–72 hours after stopping alcohol use. Delirium tremens can be deadly, with a mortality rate of 37% when it is not treated.
How Long Does Professional Alcohol Detox Take?
There are many options for professional alcohol detox that a person can choose from. Most professional alcohol detox programs will involve medication assisted detox, where medical professionals monitor the individual while they are going through withdrawal from alcohol and give them medications to ease the alcohol detox symptoms. This process can also involve slowly weaning off alcohol to avoid severe withdrawal.
Risks and Benefits
The benefit of doing professional alcohol detox is that a person will have someone supporting them along the way. This not only includes during the actual detox process but also in rehabilitation after they are no longer drinking. The continued support will make it more likely that the person will be able to abstain from alcohol use and maintain a lasting recovery.
A professional medical detox program will most likely take longer than detoxing at home, but will the person will have the resources to make the detox process more comfortable and have fewer risks of relapsing into alcohol use. The extra time is well worth the lasting results.
Finding Professional Help
To find professional help for alcohol detox or treatment of an alcohol use disorder, you can use the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s substance abuse hotline (1-800-662-HELP) or treatment services locator.
If you are looking for an alcohol detox center in Florida that has medication assisted treatment for alcohol, the Recovery Village has several locations in Florida that offer alcohol detox. If you or a loved one have an alcohol use disorder, The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health is here to help. Please contact The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health today and start on the road to recovery.
Jesse, S.; Brathen, G.; Ferrara, M.; Keindl, M.; Ben-Menachem, E.; Tanasescu, R.; et al. “Alcohol withdrawal syndrome: mechanisms, manifestations, and management.” Acta Neurologica Scandonavica, January 2017. Accessed August 30, 2019
Rahman, Abdul; Paul, Manju. “Delirium Tremens (DT).” StatPearls Publishing, November 18, 2018. Accessed August 30, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.