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How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol

By Tim Woodley

If you’re wondering, "how long does it take to detox from alcohol?", it’s important to begin with education. Quitting alcohol is commendable, but as a substance, it can have dangerous side effects if not managed properly. Before you have your last drink there are some things to consider. Alcohol detox can be fatal in significant cases, with the safest method of withdrawal involving professional support and the slow weaning off from the substance.

That said, not all alcohol withdrawal has such significant risk, with fatalities occurring in the heaviest users who have consumed alcohol daily in large quantities. Safer is better than sorry, though, and with this in mind we’ve put together a set of details on how the withdrawal process tends to work and how long it takes.

The timeline of detox from alcohol

Let’s look at withdrawal from alcohol consumption as a timeline. Although your symptoms and the extent of each will vary, it’s generally the case that alcohol detox and withdrawal follows the same pattern. Please be aware that your symptoms will vary depending on a variety of factors unique to you including your age, body weight, rate and quantity of consumption and any pre-existing or underlying medical conditions you may have.

The first six hours: For most people detoxing from alcohol, symptoms will begin at around six hours after the last drink – particularly in heavy users. For a heavy drinker, seizures can begin at approximately six hours. In extreme cases, these can be fatal. In these cases, the bodies chemistry has come to rely on alcohol. That means when it is suddenly removed the very chemical balance of the body is affected.

Twelve to twenty-four hours: It’s possible for a person going through alcohol detox to experience hallucinations during this period. Although it can be disconcerting and scary, these by themselves don’t tend to have serious effects on health and often do not last long.

Twenty-four to forty-eight hours: Most people going through alcohol detox or withdrawing from alcohol consumption will continue to experience minor symptoms at this time. These can include headaches, stomach difficulties and physical tremors or convulsions. For most people going through withdrawal, these symptoms will peak approximately halfway through the second day of abstinence.

Forty-eight to seventy-two hours: It’s during this period or before it that heavy users will experience severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms called delirium tremens. This can again lead to extreme seizures, changes in body temperature and heart rate. Delirium tremens can be fatal, making it imperative to contact a medical professional if you are concerned about your symptoms during detox or withdrawal. The changes in heart rate can also affect blood pressure which may cause other related alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Seventy-two hours and beyond: It’s at the seventy two hour mark that many alcohol withdrawal symptoms peak. For a majority of users in detox, symptoms will vary and continue to be present for approximately a month. In some cases, those detoxing from alcohol can experience symptoms for a longer period. This extended alcohol withdrawal is caused by the body struggling to rebalance its brain chemistry. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are not limited to the above-mentioned signs. Detoxing from alcohol can also induce feelings of anxiety, anger, mood swings and irritability – often spontaneously at random times. You may also experience sudden spikes in your heart rate. withdrawal symptoms may also be unique to you. The symptoms we listed are only the most common experiences when someone decides to stop drinking.

Delirium tremens are usually experienced by heavy alcohol drinkers and consistent alcoholics who are withdrawing from alcohol consumption. The combination of body seizures, tremors and spikes in heart rate can stress the heart to the point of heart attack, making alcohol withdrawal in extreme cases sometimes fatal.

We can help

We hope you’ve found this information useful. Alcohol withdrawal and detox is a serious process and not to be taken lightly. Due to the risk of death during withdrawal, it is recommended you speak to a medical professional before considering detox or withdrawal from your own alcohol consumption.

Please get in touch with the team at Help Me Stop if you would like advice on alcohol withdrawal or more information on our intensive non-residential and online rehab programmes. Our treatment can help you break your addiction and get your life back. You can use our contact form to get in touch or you can call us on 0208 191 8920. Take care.

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