How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol? And Treatment

How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol


How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol? Many people stop experiencing withdrawal symptoms four or five days after their last drink. Symptoms usually become noticeable around the third day.

If you decide to stop drinking every day and in large quantities, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms. How long it takes to detox depends on a number of factors, including how much you drink, how long you’ve been drinking, and whether you’ve withdrawn from alcohol before.

For most people, withdrawal symptoms go away four to five days after the last drink.

Read on to learn more about how long does it take to detox from alcohol.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms


Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. It gives a feeling of relaxation and excitement. As the body normally works to maintain balance, it signals the brain to produce more neurotransmitter receptors that activate or stimulate the central nervous system.

When you stop drinking, you remove alcohol not only from your original receptors, but also from the extra receptors your body has created. As a result, your nervous system is highly active. It causes symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Rapid Heart Rate
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

In severe cases, you may experience delirium tremens (DT) or alcohol withdrawal delirium. Symptoms that doctors associate with TD include:

  • Hallucinations
  • High Body Temperature
  • Illusions
  • Paranoia
  • Seizures

These are the worst symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment


To assess withdrawal symptoms and recommend treatment, doctors often use a scale called the Clinical Institute for Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome diagnosis. The higher the number, the worse a person’s symptoms and the more treatment they will need.

You may not need medication for alcohol withdrawal. You can also find therapy and support groups when going through withdrawal.

If you have moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms, you may need medication. Examples include:

  • Benzodiazepines: Doctors prescribe these drugs to reduce the chances of seizures during alcohol consumption. Examples include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and lorazepam (Ativan). Doctors often choose this drug to treat alcohol withdrawal.
  • Neuroleptic Drugs: These drugs can help suppress nervous system activity and prevent seizures and agitation associated with alcohol withdrawal.
  • Nutritional Support: Doctors can prescribe nutrients such as folic acid, thiamine, and magnesium to ease withdrawal symptoms and treat nutritional deficiencies caused by alcohol consumption.

Doctors may prescribe other medications to treat withdrawal symptoms. An example is a beta blocker (such as propranolol) to lower high blood pressure.

After immediate withdrawal symptoms have passed, the doctor may prescribe medication to make the person less likely to drink again. FDA-approved examples include:

  • Naltrexone (ReVia): Naltrexone can reduce alcohol cravings and help maintain alcohol withdrawal by blocking opioid (feel-good) receptors in the body.
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse): This medicine can reduce the desire for alcohol and can make a person feel very sick if they drink while taking it.

Your doctor can discuss these and other medications with you. You can use it with therapy and support groups to help you stay sober.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline


According to one study, here are general guidelines for when you can expect alcohol withdrawal symptoms to appear:

6 Hours

Mild withdrawal symptoms usually begin about six hours after the last drink. A person who has been drinking alcohol for a long time may have a seizure six hours after stopping drinking.

From 12 To 24 Hours

A small number of people who experience alcohol withdrawal experience hallucinations during it. They may hear or see things that are not there.

From 24 To 48 Hours

Mild withdrawal symptoms usually persist during this time. These symptoms may include headache, tremors and abdominal pain. If a person has short-term withdrawal symptoms, their symptoms usually peak between 6 and 24 hours and begin to subside after four or five days.

From 48 Hours To 72 Hours

Some people experience a severe form of alcohol withdrawal called DT. A person suffering from this condition may have a high heart rate, seizures or high body temperature.

72 Hours

This is when alcohol withdrawal symptoms are usually most noticeable. In rare cases, mild withdrawal symptoms may last up to a month. These include palpitations and hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there).

Other Factors


According to a 2015 article, about 50 percent of people with alcohol use disorder experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. Doctors estimate that 3 to 5 percent of people will experience severe symptoms.

Several factors can affect how long you need to stop drinking. Your doctor will take all these factors into account when assessing the duration and severity of your symptoms.

Risk factors for TD include:

  • Abnormal liver function
  • History of DTs
  • History of seizures with alcohol withdrawals
  • Low platelet counts
  • Low potassium levels
  • Low sodium levels
  • Older age at the time of withdrawal
  • Preexisting dehydration
  • Presence of brain lesions
  • Use of other drugs

If you have any of these risk factors, it’s important to stop drinking with a health facility to prevent and treat alcohol-related complications.

How to get help?


If alcoholism makes you feel out of control and ready to get help, there are many organizations that can help you.

Where to start:

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP

  • This hotline provides 24/7 support for individuals and families struggling with substance abuse.
  • Helpline operators can help you find treatment centers, therapists, support groups or other resources to help you stop drinking.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also offers an Alcoholism Treatment Navigator that can help you find the right treatment for you near your home.

Other online resources that offer well-researched information and support include:

Your health care provider can advise you on where to seek medical treatment for the physical and mental symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. If you have an alcohol use disorder, it’s important to get help. You can get treatment for a better relationship with alcohol and live a healthier life.

In fact, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about one-third of people who seek alcohol addiction treatment become sober after a year.

In addition to relaxing, most of the remaining two-thirds also drank less and experienced alcohol-related health problems after a year.


The Bottom Line

Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about possible alcohol withdrawal symptoms (How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol). Your doctor may evaluate your general health and history of alcohol use to determine whether you may be experiencing symptoms.

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