Alcohol detox time

While most cases of acute detox are over within about a week, detox from alcohol can last anywhere from a few hours to several months. We review the common symptoms that can occur, their risks, and the complete time it takes to go through alcohol detox here.

minute read

Detox is described as the first step in treatment of alcohol problems because until there is no alcohol in the body, a person cannot participate in the educational and therapeutic process of rehab. But how does it take to detox from alcohol? What’s the timeline.

We review the first hours, days, and weeks of alcohol detox here. And remind you to ALWAYS SEEK MEDICAL SUPERVISION for cases of alcohol dependence. More here on why supervised detox is critical, with a section at the end for your questions about alcohol withdrawal and treatment during alcohol detox.

Alcohol detox duration and length

How long does it take to detox from alcohol? Unfortunately, there is no way to predict alcohol detox duration and length; it is a very individual process. While most cases of acute detox are over within about a week, detox from alcohol can last anywhere from a few hours to several months (especially when complications are present). The alcohol detoxification process is influenced by:

  1. The length of time the individual has been dependent on alcohol
  2. The level of alcohol dependency
  3. The person’s tolerance to alcohol

Additionally, the length and severity of withdrawal symptoms will vary from person to person and depend upon a few factors. The initial symptoms usually are relatively mild and include anxiety, insomnia, and tremors. These symptoms may begin within 3 to 6 hours following cessation of drinking and often before the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) has returned to zero. The symptoms usually abate within 1 to 3 days.  However, what happens when severe alcohol detox symptoms occur?

A schedule for alcohol detox

Alcohol detox begins as the blood alcohol concentration in the central nervous system lowers. Heavy drinkers who abstain from drinking for 5-10 hours will probably get the shakes. Be extremely wary if you get tremors after a few hours of not drinking – it is highly recommended that you seek out a professional detox facility before continuing.

Day 1-2: Symptoms of early alcohol withdrawal may range in severity from mild tremors to massive convulsions. Mild cases of withdrawal can become uncomfortable. Initial symptoms of withdrawal may include headache, tremor, sweating, agitation, anxiety and irritability, nausea and vomiting, heightened sensitivity to light and sound, disorientation, difficulty concentrating, and, in more serious cases, hallucinations. These initial symptoms intensify and then diminish over 24 to 48 hours.

Severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can be life-threatening. Risk of serious complications requires round-the-clock monitoring of blood pressure and vital signs during this time. 6-48 hours after the last drink is the point at which mortality becomes a possible risk. The risk of seizures peaks around 24 hours, and several seizures over several hours are common.

Days 3-4: Two to four days after last use of alcohol, delirium tremens DT’s can occur. This symptom does not occur in most patients, affecting only 5-10% in total. However, the mortality rate for the DT’s is about 15%. This is why its extremely important to detox in a facility equipped to handle detox patients.W hat makes this condition particularly dangerous is the nature of the physiological symptoms. Your body’s central nervous system is hyper-excited, and your circulation and breathing can shift dangerously. You also can experience dehydration that is life-threatening.

Distinctive hallucinations may also occur during withdrawal, usually auditory. These hallucinations may continue for up to two days after they begin, and occur in about 20% of cases of hospitalized alcoholics. They often take the form of accusing or threatening voices. The odds of developing hallucinations increase if you have been using other drugs or you have been an alcoholic for a long time. This symptom relatively uncommon and is generally not dangerous, but it can be extremely unsettling.

Average alcohol detox time

The length of time for someone to make it through alcohol withdrawal and all of its symptoms will vary from person to person. Do not hesitate to seek out medical attention for yourself or prompt a friend to check into a facility for help, especially if a strong dependency has formed. If you notice that someone you know is experiencing severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, especially delirium tremens, call for medical help immediately.

Get Personalized Addiction Treatment Text Support

Receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Want to get help, but not ready to talk? Instead, sign up for text support to receive:
  • Resources about addiction and recovery
  • Information about our treatment process

Alcohol detox timing questions

Do you still have any questions about the timing or duration while removing booze from your system? If there`s anything we can help you with, please feel free to contact us by leaving us a message in the section below. We are eager to hear from you and will try to respond to you personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: NIAAA: Exploring Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
NIAAA: Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal
Love To Know: How long does alcohol withdrawal last
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
I am ready to call
i Who Answers?