Alcohol is far and away one of the most commonly abused substances, and there are plenty of statistics to back this up. Current estimates suggest that well over 17 million Americans have an alcohol dependency, and for these individuals, getting sober can be that much more difficult as the first step towards recovery usually involves going through an detox process that unpleasant, upsetting and oftentimes even physically painful. The fact that detoxing from alcohol can be such a difficult experience is precisely why most alcoholics eventually choose to enter a detox center to get help and support in this most trying time. With this in mind, here is everything you need to know about entering an alcohol detox center and how long the process usually takes.
How Much Time Does Alcohol Detox Normally Take?
Every person’s body is different, which means that there is no way to know for sure how long the detox process will take and how long the physical and mental symptoms of alcohol withdrawal will last. Further complicating the matter is the fact that it all depends on a combination of different factors, including the person’s age, weight, overall level of health and, most importantly, the extent and severity of their alcohol dependence or addiction. As well, the person’s history of addiction, their current mental and emotional state and the presence of other mental, behavioral or physical health conditions can also have a major impact on the length of the detox process.
Nonetheless, most individuals tend to go through at least the first part of the detox process in around seven to 10 days as this is typically the amount of time that it takes for the body to fully rid itself of every trace of alcohol. This first phase of the alcohol detox process is when the addict will experience the worst physical effects of alcohol withdrawal, but in many cases, the individual may still suffer lingering mental effects for a period of weeks or even months after they’ve had their last drink. Even though the total length of alcohol detox is usually around 10 days, many people choose to enter a recovery facility for anywhere from 30 to 90 days in order to fully overcome all of the mental and emotional effects that go along with getting sober.
Understanding the Effects of Alcohol Withdrawal and Detox
Although it can take up to 10 days to fully get over the physical effects of alcohol withdrawal, most individuals will experience the worst effects over the first 24 to 72 hours after they stop drinking. For some people, the physical effects of alcohol detox can be as minor as a mild headache or nausea. Nonetheless, severely dependent people usually tend to have it much worse.
In this case, the individual usually goes through symptoms of acute withdrawal, which can include seizures, extreme nausea and vomiting and even delirium tremens marked by vivid hallucinations. Typically, the tremors and seizures will peak somewhere around 24 hours after the individual stops drinking and can last as long as 48 hours. Severely addicted individuals will usually then go through a period of continued seizures along with tremors and hallucinations that normally peaks after about 72 hours.
In addition, most people will also experience at least some of the following physiological symptoms, which can range from minor to severe.
- Tachycardia or elevated heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Inability to internally regulate their body temperature resulting in extreme sweating and chills
- Hyperactive nervous system resulting in uncontrollable shaking, muscle spasms, tremors, etc.
The Three Stages of Detox and Why It’s Important to Not Go It Alone
The fact that alcohol withdrawal can be such an unpleasant and potentially dangerous process is one of the biggest reasons why most doctors and addiction experts always recommend entering an alcohol detox center or addiction recovery facility. Nonetheless, things don’t miraculously become easier once a person is over the worst of the withdrawal symptoms. If anything, they only become harder as the recovering alcoholic then begins to deal with the huge emotional and mental effects alcohol withdrawal inevitably brings.
Most experts tend to classify alcohol detox and recovery into three specific steps. The first and shortest of these steps is acute withdrawal, which is classified by the physical effects just discussed. Following this initial stage, the individual then moves on to a slightly longer period of early abstinence where they will generally still suffer from numerous mental and emotional effects albeit without any manifest physical symptoms.
During this period of early abstinence, it is common for the recovering individual to experience increased feelings of anxiety, anger and general low mood. As well, many people suffer from insomnia and have problems either falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Nonetheless, these symptoms will usually begin to dissipate after a period of one to two months—although some women tend to take much longer than men to fully move through this stage.
Unfortunately, this still doesn’t mean that the recovery process is completely over. Even after the obvious feelings of anxiety and the sleeping difficulties have mostly receded, the individual may still experience various symptoms of protracted abstinence for months or potentially even years to come. Anxiety and general feelings of unhappiness or dissatisfaction are both common.
The problem is that, in this later stage, these feelings are often not completely obvious to the recovering individual. Instead, they often manifest themselves in overly negative reactions to insignificant events and minor challenges. Unfortunately, this increased negativity and decreased ability to properly deal with things is often what leads recovering individuals to again have strong cravings for alcohol and potentially to a total relapse.
Recovering from alcohol abuse or addiction is truly a lifelong process. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to suffer a relapse years after they thought they’d finally beat their addiction. This is precisely why it is so vital that anyone who is serious about overcoming their alcohol issues gets the help, support and tools they need to be successful. Unfortunately, this typically just isn’t possible without the type of professional assistance offered by an alcohol detox center, and this is where we are here to help. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day, so don’t hesitate to call us at 866-802-6848 if you’re ready to get started.