It’s not unusual for adults to have a drink after a long day at work, with a meal, or socially at a party. For most people, this means one drink — two at the most. However, for some other people, one or two drinks are only the start. Many of these people have alcohol use disorder (AUD). A significant number of people suffering from AUD will want to stop drinking every year. One of the most important questions is “How long does alcohol detox take?”
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 15 million Americans aged 12 and up had AUD in 2019. This number includes nine million men and nearly six million women. Perhaps even more disturbing, 414,000 adolescents aged between 12 and 17 also struggle with AUD.
What Are the Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder?
MedicalNewsToday.com says signs of AUD vary from person to person but can include:
- Drinking alone
- Drinking in secret
- Short-term memory loss
- Making excuses to drink
- Mood swings
- Losing friends and feeling alienated from family
- Feeling hungover even when not drinking
Once someone suffering from AUD recognizes their condition, they may decide to seek detox.
What Is Detox?
A person suffering from AUD can try to detox on their own. People frequently go to their primary care physician first when they want to stop drinking rather than to a rehab center. They can work with this physician to develop a schedule to stop drinking over several weeks. However, this is very difficult, often resulting in failure and a continuing AUD problem. Many physicians will refer a patient with a drinking problem to health care professionals with more expertise in dealing with alcoholism.
The best choice for a person dealing with AUD is to seek a detox treatment rehab center. People may be hesitant to seek official help because they’re uncomfortable with the idea of experiencing withdrawal symptoms. However, professional rehab centers can provide assistance with the symptoms of withdrawal. Doctors, therapists, and other health care professionals use psychological therapies and medication to help reduce the effects of withdrawal.
How Long Does Alcohol Detox Need To Be?
That depends upon the individual. For some individuals, it might only take three or four weeks. For others, it might take months. The point is that all individuals who have AUD, whether they’re moderate or heavy drinkers, will have withdrawal symptoms.
A 2013 article in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal outlined these first withdrawal symptoms:
- About six hours after an individual has had their last drink, minor withdrawal symptoms start.
- After 12 to 24 hours, some people hallucinate. Doctors don’t consider this a severe complication, despite how scary it may be for the individual.
- After one to two days, minor symptoms continue. They include tremors, gastrointestinal problems and headaches. People with AUD who only have minor withdrawal symptoms peak at 18 to 24 hours, with symptoms decreasing after four or five days.
- After two to three days, some people with severe AUD will experience what’s known as delirium tremors (DTs). This condition frequently causes a high heart rate and high body temperature along with seizures.
- At the three-day mark, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are the most severe.
By the end of the first week, the initial stages of withdrawal are much less severe, and withdrawal symptoms may end at this time for most patients. Moderate withdrawal symptoms can sometimes last a month and include a high heart rate and hallucinations.
What Causes Withdrawal Symptoms?
Drinking alcohol depresses your central nervous system, creating feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Your body likes to maintain balance, so it will signal your brain to make more neurotransmitter receptors that stimulate the central nervous system.
When you stop drinking, you deprive your brain of its original receptors as well as the additional ones created to deal with your drinking. Your central nervous system becomes overactive, creating the withdrawal symptoms mentioned above.
When most people have reached the initial stages of detox and no longer suffer withdrawal symptoms, they’ll likely experience some psychological side effects. These include regular cravings for alcohol or a feeling of anxiety that requires a drink to calm. Group therapies like 12-step programs can be enormously helpful to recovering alcoholics at this point. These support groups help deal with cravings and forge solid social bonds that provide support.
What Are the Treatments Used During Alcohol Detox?
When an individual with AUD seeks detox at a rehab center, medical professionals have several ways to help. These include:
- Psychological counseling: Individual and group therapy allow those struggling with addiction to understand its root causes. Family therapy may also be considered. Counseling helps the individual recover from the psychological reasons for alcoholism.
- Oral medication: Some oral medications stop drinking but won’t cure cravings for alcohol. Other medications block the euphoria connected with drinking and reduce cravings. Still other drugs may help reduce cravings after the individual has stopped drinking.
- Injected medications: Some patients receive a monthly injection of a drug that blocks the cravings for alcohol.
- Continuing support: This includes use of the 12-step programs and other group therapies mentioned above.
- Medical treatment: Individuals who have AUD often have associated health problems. These are caused by a lack of attention to physical conditions when still addicted to alcohol. Health care professionals can treat these issues during the initial withdrawal detox, but some may require more extended treatment.
- Spiritual practices: For individuals associated with a religious or a spiritual tradition, reconnecting with religious or spiritual practices can help them recover from AUD.
- Establishing a treatment plan: The development of a short-term or long-term treatment plan includes goal setting, techniques to change behavior, using self-help manuals, continuing individual and support group counseling and follow-up care at a treatment center.
What To Do When You Realize You Need Help with AUD
Has your drinking negatively affected your work and personal life? Do you want to make a change and detox from alcohol? Our compassionate counselors are standing by 24 hours a day at (833) 596-3502. We’re ready at any moment to help you begin your journey on the road to recovery.