More than 15 million Americans struggle with alcohol addiction. Depending on a number of personal factors, it usually takes about a week for people to fully detox from this substance. For some people, it may take much longer.
Symptoms caused by alcohol detox can range from uncomfortable to dangerous. Some people may experience more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, including hallucinations or seizures. While the detox process is different for everyone, alcohol withdrawal symptoms often include rapid heartbeat, heavy sweating, and irritability.
If you or someone you love needs help to stop drinking, Vertava Health provide medical detox and customized treatment at our alcohol rehab centers around the U.S.
What Is Alcohol Detox?
When a person drinks heavily, toxins from alcohol build up in the body over time. Detox is the body’s way of clearing traces of the drug from its system.
Frequent alcohol use can have physical and mental impacts. If a person stops drinking suddenly, their body goes through a period of adjustment known as withdrawal. Being aware of the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can help people navigate through the detoxification process.
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When a person detoxes from alcohol, they may suffer from symptoms that include:
- feeling jumpy
- mood swings
- trouble sleeping
- change in appetite
- racing heartbeat
- body tremors or shakiness, especially in hands
- sweaty or clammy skin
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal have the potential to be life-threatening, especially if they are not treated properly. Detoxing from alcohol can also progress into a more severe form of alcohol withdrawal, known as delirium tremens (“DTs”).
Symptoms of severe alcohol withdrawal (DTs) include:
- disturbed mood
- hallucinations (seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there)
Up to 50 percent of people who stop drinking experience acute withdrawal symptoms. These affect the daily functions of the body. Once the initial withdrawal phase has passed, the symptoms people experience are typically more psychological.
Alcohol Detox Timeline
While people may experience alcohol detox differently, there is a general timeline that withdrawal symptoms follow.
Day 1 of alcohol withdrawal
The first few symptoms of alcohol withdrawal generally begin within several hours of the last drink. People who are dependent on alcohol may experience shaky hands and a restless or uneasy feeling.
Cravings for alcohol are also common. Many people experience this initial stage of alcohol withdrawal anytime they don’t drink for a few hours (often while asleep). This can cause a person to “need” a drink first thing in the morning.
Days 2-3 of alcohol detox
Withdrawal symptoms typically peak during this time period, and people often suffer from anxiety, nausea, fast heartbeat, and vomiting.
People in alcohol withdrawal may also experience agitated mood or hallucinations. An increase in blood pressure and seizure are also possible during this stage of detox.
If a person is severely dependent on alcohol (drank a large amount daily for months or years), they may experience delirium tremens and seizures during this time. DTs can begin out of nowhere, and require medical assistance. Vertava Health’ medical detox programs provide specialized care during this difficult phase of withdrawal.
Final stage of alcohol withdrawal
After about a week of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, many patients begin to stabilize. Some may suffer from continued symptoms such as alcohol cravings and low mood. These ongoing symptoms may linger, especially for those who were dependent on large amounts of alcohol.
Psychological symptoms may persist, including feeling anxious or depressed. This is normal, as the body begins to normalize itself after alcohol abuse and the detox process. During this final phase of the detox process, people often rely heavily on their support system. This may include family, friends, or a medical treatment team.
What Is Medical Detox?
Medical detox programs are an integral part of treating alcohol addiction. While medically supervised detox can be helpful for any type of drug withdrawal, these programs are especially vital for those withdrawing from alcohol.
In a medically assisted detox setting, doctors perform a physical exam to evaluate the patient’s medical needs. This exam may include checking a person’s temperature, heart rate, and breathing pattern. Toxicology screens may be performed, in order to gauge the level of alcohol or other drugs that remain in a person’s system.
The goal of medical detox is to reduce withdrawal symptoms, address any co-occurring medical conditions, and provide emotional and physical support. Detox has uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, and people often benefit from additional support therapies offered in detox programs.
While there is no right way to treat alcohol addiction, it can be difficult to endure the withdrawal and detox process alone. If you are concerned that someone close to you is stuck in the cycle of alcohol abuse and withdrawal, it may be time to consider professional help in the form of addiction treatment.
Finding The Right Detox Program For You
Although detox tends to last about a week, this process can feel like it goes on forever. Support is key during this transitional phase of alcohol addiction recovery.
Research shows that medical detox alone is not enough to help people fully recover from alcohol addiction. Inpatient treatment can be a helpful way to address the underlying causes of alcoholism. In an inpatient rehab center, patients are empowered with personalized coping methods that may work for them.
At Vertava Health’ rehab programs, compassionate staff help patients through detox and into the first stages of recovery. Patients may engage in therapeutic groups and recreational activities. These help to stimulate the mind, and introduce patients to more natural ways of relaxing and enjoying life.
The supportive atmosphere found in our treatment centers can be especially helpful for those who have tried to quit drinking before. Studies have found that treatment lasting at least 90 days is associated with better recovery outcomes.
You do not have to battle alcohol withdrawal alone. For more information on alcohol detox, or to find the right rehab program for you, contact one of our treatment specialists today.