Detoxing from alcohol can be a long process that is different for everyone. A number of factors impact the length of detox and the severity of withdrawal symptoms, such as how long the person has been drinking and if they combined alcohol with other substances. The most important element is that a person detoxing from alcohol does so in a safe, medically supervised environment. This can make all the difference in the recovery process.
In this article, we will cover what a typical detox process entails and the factors that influence it. We will finish the post with options for treatment. Let’s begin!
What Happens During Alcohol Detox
Detox from alcohol can begin within hours of taking that last drink. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are most intense for heavy drinkers, though you don’t need to be an alcoholic to experience them. Withdrawal syndromes can be life-threatening, which is why detoxing in a 24-hour medically supervised facility is ideal.
The reason why withdrawal symptoms start is that the body is no longer receiving the chemicals that it is so dependent on. When a person drinks on a regular basis, chemical addiction is formed. If the person stops giving the chemicals to their body, the neurotransmitters are sent into shock. In other words, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are a result of suppressed levels of neurotransmitters.
The most common alcohol detox symptoms include:
Rapid heart rate
How Long Does it Take to Detox From Alcohol?
As mentioned previously, the duration of alcohol detox varies for each person. Alcohol withdrawal typically begins within 8 hours from the last drink, but it can occur days later. Symptoms peak around 24-72 hours and then subside. Acute withdrawal symptoms are the worst, with the risk of seizures being the biggest concern.
Here is what you can expect from a typical alcohol detox process.
First hours. Cravings are usually the first sign that people notice when they haven’t had their next drink. They are the body’s way of “looking” for the drug. This is the beginning of the detox process. Additional symptoms on the first day of detox include anxiety, depression, irritability, physical sickness, insomnia, and tremors.
24-48 Hours. If withdrawal symptoms are not treated, more severe symptoms can continue such as hallucinations and seizures. A rapid heart rate and chest pain may also arise, as well as delirium tremens.
Some alcoholics see a sharp decline in withdrawal symptoms after 48 hours. Some do not. Recovering alcoholics need close monitoring in the early days of withdrawal. It’s common for cravings and physical symptoms to worsen, and seizures and tremors can be life-threatening. Even after 48 hours, the risk for confusion and cardiovascular complications is elevated.
There are additional symptoms that can have a delayed onset. While these symptoms are most likely to occur within 48-96 hours from the last drink, they can show up as many as 10 days later.
Fever and sweating
Rapid mood changes
The only way to detox safely is to receive supportive care from a treatment facility. Mortality rates from delirium tremens are high, which is why alcohol detox should never be done at home. This is extremely dangerous for the recovering addict, and it puts unnecessary stress on anyone taking care of the person.
Factors That Can Influence Alcohol Detox
When thinking about how long does an alcohol detox take, multiple factors are considered. Some recovering alcoholics see a decline in withdrawal symptoms after a few days and are able to move onto treatment. In other cases, recovering addicts will continue to suffer from seizures and tremors in the weeks following detox.
Let’s look closer at the factors that may influence the alcohol detox timeline.
Alcohol consumption. Has the person recovered from alcohol use been drinking for several months? Several years? This makes a difference. The longer a person has been abusing alcohol, the longer it takes for the body and brain to recover.
Amount of alcohol. How much alcohol has the person been drinking? Some alcoholics binge drink and may consume 10 or more drinks in a single night. Others don’t reach this point but will drink every day in moderate amounts. The more a person drinks, the longer the detox process usually is.
Nutritional considerations. When a person drinks over an extended period of time, their body starts to change. Some heavy drinkers lose weight, while others gain weight. Also, alcohol impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells in the lining of the stomach. The more rundown the body is, the longer it usually takes to recover.
Poly-drug use. If the person often combined alcohol with other substances such as marijuana, cocaine, or prescription drugs, this can also complicate the detox process. People with poly-drug addictions may experience withdrawal symptoms from both alcohol and the other drug.
Co-occurring conditions. Having an underlying condition such as anxiety, bipolar or PTSD can change the detox and recovery process. The person must have this disorder treated to reduce the risk of relapse. It takes time to get the symptoms under control, but they can be treated during detox.
Is a Detox Alcohol Program Enough?
In order to get sober, you must go through the withdrawal and detox process. However, detox alone is not enough. Imagine being released back into the world with the same temptations and stressors as before. You would lack the skills and ability to know how to handle these stressful situations without falling back on alcohol. This is why treatment immediately the following detox is necessary.
At a program like The River Source, patients receive a full continuum of treatment. They start with detox, move onto treatment, and are sent home with an aftercare plan. Let’s go over the stages of the detox and treatment process for alcoholism at our naturopathic treatment facility.
Detox. During detox, patients’ symptoms are successfully managed using a combination of holistic therapy and medication. Each patient receives a unique detox regimen based on their individual factors. Some of the therapies used include oral vitamin therapy, nutritional IV therapy, massage therapy, physical manipulation, and dry sauna therapy. This process usually lasts 5-10 days.
Treatment. When the detox process is complete, a full recovery can begin. During treatment, patients participate in individual, family, and group counseling. Counseling sessions are designed to help patients better understand themselves, their personal risk factors for addiction, and how to manage stress. Counseling also helps patients work through family problems and form healthy connections with others.
Continuing Care. When treatment is complete, there is still work to be done. Each patient receives a personalized continuing care plan that outlines healthy practices to follow such as attending 12-step groups, seeking counseling, and taking care of their nutritional needs with diet, exercise, and sleep.
Benefits of Choosing a Naturopathic Detox Program
Naturopathic medicine focuses on the prevention and treatment of chronic conditions through therapeutic methods that rely on the body’s natural healing processes. A naturopathic treatment program is ideal for treating alcoholism because addiction is a lifelong disease. Recovering addicts are always in recovery, which means they must take optimal care of themselves and learn when to say no.
The River Source is a naturopathic healing program that focuses on the mind, body, and spirit. Through the years, we’ve learned that addiction cannot be treated using a single approach. Instead, addiction is best addressed when all parts of the human spirit are addressed and addicts are taught how to successfully manage stressful situations using self-taught techniques such as meditation.
Here are the benefits of choosing a naturopathic detox program like The River Source.
Healthy meals. In a naturopathic detox facility, balanced, well-rounded meals are provided. Because addicts are often malnourished, eating healthy foods with essential vitamins and minerals is necessary for replenishing the body.
Physical activity. Addicts rarely participate in healthy activities like hiking, swimming, or running. In naturopathic treatment, addicts can enjoy light exercise. Physical activity releases natural feel-good chemicals in the brain that can combat stress and anxiety.
Meditation sessions. When addicts return to their normal lives, they must have outlets to release stress. During treatment, meditation and mindfulness are practiced. Many people find that they enjoy these sessions and can use them effectively by the time they return home.
Complementary therapy. Additional therapies are offered such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and art/music therapy. At The River Source, we offer a wide range of therapies so that patients can explore what works for them.
Scenic locations. The River Source is located in sunny Arizona. It’s helpful for people to get away from the distractions of modern life. The desert and rolling hilltops also help recovering addicts connect with nature and practice spirituality.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse, call The River Source. We have convenient detox and treatment programs that have high success rates. We believe that our holistic focus and naturopathic therapies are responsible for much of this success, as well as our rigorous continuum of care.