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When considering your options for alcoholism, detox is the first stage in the process of recovery.
Detoxification is very unpleasant, and withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 2 hours after your last drink. It is usually the first step in a typical rehab treatment program.
Minor symptoms of alcohol detox include anxiety, nausea, sweating, insomnia and headaches.
However, withdrawal is usually severe, so alcohol detox should be monitored by a medical professional who can regularly check blood pressure and heart rate to ensure your condition does not worsen.
Unsure whether residential detox and rehab will be effective? Read more about rehab success rates here.
Severe symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Extreme hallucinations
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
- Serious cravings
- Delirium tremens
How long does an alcohol detox last?
There is no exact time frame for an alcohol detox – it depends on the individual case. However, despite the most unpleasant and painful symptoms usually subsiding within a week, the more minor symptoms can last anywhere between a few months to a year.
Withdrawal symptoms depend on how long you have been drinking and the severity of your alcoholism.
The early stages of detox are excruciating and distressing, but the most severe symptoms only occur in the short-term. After that, you will be in the care of medically-trained professionals who will aid your recovery.
Here is a timeline which explains what to expect:
- The first 6-12 hours: The first symptoms of detox are usually very mild; however, as your body begins craving alcohol, symptoms can come on very quickly. Symptoms include headaches, anxiety, nausea or vomiting and irritability.
- Day one/24 hours: Symptoms worsen and become acute. As well to the minor symptoms experienced during the first 12 hours of treatment, patients can also experience disorientation, tremors and seizures.
- Day two: The second day will be much like the first, with the more painful symptoms continuing into the second day. As the body rids alcohol from its system, symptoms such as hallucinations and panic attacks will commonly occur.
- Day three – one week: Different withdrawal symptoms occur during this period depending on the severity of the case and the individual symptoms. This is the period of time in which you are most at risk of life-threatening symptoms such as delirium tremens. Read more.
- After one week – Some of the withdrawal symptoms begin to subside. However, some symptoms will persist for a few weeks, and milder symptoms will continue for a more extended period of time during your time at an inpatient rehab centre. The specific symptoms experienced in the long term depends on the patient’s situation.
Does Alcohol detoxification involve medication?
Medication is often prescribed to patients during the detoxification process. However, this is not intended to be a substitute for the substance you are detoxing from, not does it prevent withdrawal symptoms.
The medication is issued only to ease anxiety and depression and to help the patient get sufficient sleep. Detox is usually the first stage of a complete 28-day alcohol rehab program.
Some drugs that may be used to ease patient symptoms during the alcohol detox process are:
Learn more about the detox medication options here.
What are PAWS?
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) are prolonged and long-term symptoms of alcohol detox. Symptoms include anxiety, low energy, insomnia and delayed reflexes. More
Last Updated on January 10, 2024 by Ravi Kirthy