When some struggling with addiction stops their addictive behaviors, they can anticipate an array of physical, psychological, and emotional changes. The days and weeks after stopping an addictive behavior are referred to as a detox period. Alcohol addiction, specifically, carries with it the potential for severe detox symptoms. This is because long-term heavy alcohol use can lead to physical dependence on the substance. An individual who is physically dependent on alcohol had adapted to their alcohol consumption in the way of physical changes in the brain. Consequently, the removal of the substance that warranted the physical change causes further disruption in the brain.
Timeline Range for Alcohol Detox
How long it takes to detox from alcohol in terms of overcoming withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on a number of factors. Some people only develop minor withdrawal symptoms that resolve within a few days. The most severe cases can cause symptoms that take longer for the body to resolve. Still, alcohol withdrawal does tend to follow a certain timeline and if certain symptoms are going to present, it is known by when they should present and by when they should subside by. In general, if the most severe symptoms are going to develop they do so within 2-3 days following the last drink. Additionally, even the works symptoms will subside almost completely within 5-7 days.
Factors Affecting How Long it Takes to Detox From Alcohol
- Length of use: How long has the patient been drinking.
- Amount used: How much alcohol is typically consumed in a single sitting or single day.
- Frequency of use: How many days per week does the patient typically drink?
- Physiology: What is the patient’s sex, weight, height, age, etc.
- Detox Assistance Available: Will the patient have access to medication assistance, dietary assistance, or alternative therapies?
How long it takes to detox from alcohol doesn’t just have to do with the tremors and fever. The physical withdrawal symptoms will likely disappear after a week or two, but it can take a lifetime to overcome the emotional and mental aspects of drinking. Detoxing from alcohol doesn’t mean that the desire to drink goes away. Triggers, cravings, and intrusive thoughts are also factors to consider when overcoming alcohol addiction. The first days are usually the most difficult to overcome the desire to drink, which is why a detox program is beneficial. Still, PHP, IOP, and OP treatment provide the opportunity to identify triggers, treat any underlying mental health or social issues, and develop tools for relapse prevention. How long it can take to work on these items varies case by case, but honesty with care providers can help them determine the best time to move to a lower level of care.
Lingering Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS)
In some cases, certain withdrawal symptoms can linger for months or even years following detox. This is referred to as post-acute withdrawal syndrome and symptoms may include anxiety, depression, and insomnia. When it takes longer to detox from alcohol, this condition is more likely to become an issue. However, caregivers can provide treatments to help manage these symptoms until they disappear.
It is always important is to speak openly and honestly with your care team about what you feel, think, and experience. This allows them to help treat the necessary symptoms, provide the appropriate therapies, and create the most opportunity for recovery.