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When most people think of addictions that are hard to overcome, they typically think of illegal drugs that are hard for individuals to get their hands on. However, some drugs that you can buy at your local store are very addictive and can cause harsh withdrawal symptoms. An example of just such a drug is alcohol.
The alcohol withdrawal timeline differs from one individual to the next. That’s because there are several factors to take into account when determining how long it takes to detox. Age, gender, and the length of alcohol abuse are all factors that have an effect. That said, it’s possible to estimate how long the withdrawal period will last based on what the average person experiences.
If you or someone you know could use some help overcoming alcoholism, it may be helpful to learn more about alcohol detox symptoms. Knowing more about these symptoms, the alcohol withdrawal timeline, and what you can expect on this journey may prove to be necessary.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that alcohol abuse in America is a real problem. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, nearly 70% of people reported drinking alcohol within the past year. Of these individuals, nearly 65 million were binge drinkers, and around 14.5 million suffered from alcohol use disorder.
The development of alcohol withdrawal symptoms is just one of the many criteria that doctors use to diagnose alcohol use disorder. However, what is alcohol withdrawal? It’s a distressing set of physical and mental symptoms that occur after an individual tries to cut back or stop drinking.
Keep in mind that you aren’t alone if you struggle with alcohol abuse. Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused drugs in America. Part of the reason is that it’s so easy to buy. Also, some experts blame marketing that makes drinking alcohol look cool, which inspires people of all ages to drink.
How long does it take to detox from alcohol? This is a common question because it’s generally recommended that you visit a detox center to deal with alcohol detox symptoms before you enroll in rehab. In fact, many rehab centers won’t even take patients who haven’t undergone detox first.
On that same note, it’s never recommended that you try to detox alone. You have a much higher chance of completing detox without relapsing when you enroll in a hospital for alcohol detox.
Remember that your withdrawal timeline might differ depending on your family history of abuse too. Studies show that addictions, such as alcohol addiction, can run in families. In many cases, people who have a family history of drug abuse fall victim to drug abuse as well. Additionally, it could take these individuals longer to recover from alcohol withdrawal if they have a family history of addiction. Experts believe that it has to do with genetics.
Before jumping into the alcohol withdrawal timeline, you should understand the symptoms that you’re likely to experience while detoxing from alcohol. The most common symptoms include:
Depending on the severity of your alcohol addiction, these symptoms can be severe. For instance, you could have tremors or seizures. Actually, alcohol is one of the few drugs that produces withdrawal symptoms that can cause death. In most cases, drug withdrawal symptoms are painful, but few drugs cause withdrawal symptoms that are strong enough to lead to death.
Mainly, the more heavily that you drink, the more likely that you are to experience alcohol withdrawal. The severity of alcohol withdrawal depends on many factors:
When talking about how long it takes to detox from alcohol, you have to consider delirium tremens. DTs is a very serious alcohol withdrawal symptom. Although it’s pretty rare, affecting about 5% to 10% of people who experience alcohol withdrawal, it’s potentially fatal. It’s much more common in people who drink heavily for a long period of time.
In general, symptoms of delirium tremens start to appear within 4 days of the last drink. Despite that, it’s not uncommon for DTs to develop after the four-day window. The symptoms typically include:
Thankfully, delirium tremens are usually only fatal when left unmanaged. That’s why it’s so important to seek medical treatment for alcohol detox symptoms. In the cases where DTs occur, having medical professionals nearby is essential.
Treatment for DTs often starts with extensive medical observation, including frequent checks of all vital signs. Individuals receive IV fluids, supportive care, and adequate nutrition to give their bodies the strength they need to overcome DTs.
Now that you know a bit more about the withdrawal symptoms to expect from alcohol withdrawal, let’s talk more in-depth about the alcohol withdrawal timeline. There are three different stages of alcohol withdrawal, all of which vary in severity and length.
Stage one commonly starts within 6 to 12 hours of your last drink. These symptoms are normally mild, such as anxiety, headaches, and irritability. In fact, people who abuse alcohol tend to experience these withdrawal symptoms at one point or another. Once these symptoms develop, they’re likely to start drinking again to make the symptoms stop.
During detox, though, you won’t be able to drink. You’ll have to overcome the symptoms in order to move on to stage two. It often starts within the first 24 hours but can take up to 72 hours. This period of time is when withdrawal symptoms peak. It’s vital that you enroll in a hospital for alcohol detox before stage two begins because you’re much more likely to relapse as the withdrawal symptoms intensify.
It’s normal to experience visual and auditory hallucinations during stage two. You might also experience tremors and seizures if your alcohol abuse progressed far enough. This stage has the worst withdrawal symptoms. But, thankfully, you will be well on your way to recovery once you work through this second stage.
Stage three is the longest of all the stages. It can last anywhere from a few days to weeks. The symptoms that you experience go back to being fairly mild. The longer you go without drinking, the milder that the symptoms become. It’s not uncommon to start rehab at this stage.
Alcohol detox and withdrawal symptoms are known for being uncomfortable and even painful at times. In fact, this reason is why so many people avoid seeking treatment for alcohol addiction. They simply don’t want to worry about the alcohol withdrawal timeline and the pain that comes with it. Thankfully, there are ways to lessen the burden that comes with detoxing from alcohol.
One of the easiest ways is with medication-assisted treatment. As the name suggests, it involves taking medications to limit or lessen the impact that the withdrawal symptoms have on your body. At times, these medications can even reduce the risk of developing potentially deadly withdrawal complications, such as DTs.
Sometimes, medication-assisted treatment can shorten the withdrawal timeline. It’s one reason why it’s so hard to determine how long does it take to detox from alcohol. There are so many factors to consider that not everyone has the same detox timeline.
Like with traditional detox treatment, you can expect to be carefully evaluated for the duration of your medication-assisted treatment. This close evaluation allows medical professionals to spot and prevent major complications before they arise.
The main takeaway here is that medication-assisted treatment can make alcohol withdrawal more manageable. As a result, you’re less likely to relapse. Since medication-assisted withdrawal is less painful, it makes seeking treatment less daunting.
Detox is, by far, the most essential first step that you can take when it comes to overcoming alcohol addiction. However, it’s far from the last step. Once you’re done detoxing, you may need to go through a rehab program.
Most of the time, there’s an underlying cause behind why people abuse alcohol. Rehab can help you overcome and deal with any underlying issues. Not doing so can lead to relapse even after detox.
For example, it’s common for addiction to occur alongside mental disorders. Let’s say that you struggle with anxiety. You might drink to reduce the impact that your anxiety has on your daily life. Unfortunately, drinking only hides or temporarily relieves the problems associated with that mental disorder. As a result, you continue drinking in order to get relief. Eventually, this behavior leads to a dependency on alcohol. Depending on alcohol in this manner leads to abuse and addiction.
Usually, people seek residential or outpatient treatment after detox. The type of treatment that you get really depends on the level of care that you need. In either of these programs, you’ll probably participate in various types of therapy and a 12-step program.
Do you or a loved one struggle with alcohol abuse? Do you want to learn more about the alcohol withdrawal timeline? If so, reach out to The Key to Recovery. We provide several unique programs that help you overcome withdrawal and navigate the recovery process. Some of these programs include:
Don’t try to figure out how long does it take to detox from alcohol by yourself. Let the friendly and caring staff at The Key to Recovery help you. Contact us today to learn more.