Table of Contents
- Alcohol Detox: An Insight into This Process
- What is Alcohol Detox?
- Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal
- The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
- The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: Other Things to Know
- Alcohol Detox Process
- How Long Does it Take to Detox From Alcohol?
- Alcohol Detox Medications
- What Happens After Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol Detox: An Insight into This Process
Alcohol is the number one most-commonly abused substance nowadays. Alcohol abuse has proven to be detrimental to the health of both men and women, and it has been found that alcohol dependency is the most common substance abuse problem in the world and among the U.S. population in particular (Alcoholics Anonymous 2010). The process of alcohol detoxification involves getting rid of all traces of alcohol from the system with a lot of patience, dedication, and determination.
What is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detox is the process of removing alcohol from your body. This is necessary because when you drink alcohol, it gets into your bloodstream and is distributed throughout your body. When you stop drinking, your body begins to eliminate the alcohol.
This is a natural process, but it can take time for your system to rid itself of all the alcohol you have consumed. When you drink heavily or frequently, your body builds up a tolerance to alcohol, which means that it takes longer for the alcohol to be eliminated.
The process of detoxification is different for each individual and can last from several hours to several days, depending on the amount of alcohol consumed.
Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal
Alcohol detox and withdrawal is the process that takes place in your body when you stop drinking alcohol. The effects of alcohol on the brain are caused by its active ingredient, ethanol (alcohol). When you drink alcohol, it is absorbed into your bloodstream through the lining of your stomach and small intestine. From there, it travels to all parts of your body including the brain.
The effects you experience when you drink alcohol are caused by the ethanol in your blood. The amount of time it takes for the ethanol to reach your brain and affect how you feel depends on several factors, including:
- How much and how fast you have consumed alcohol
- Your body weight.
- Drinking on an empty stomach will cause the alcohol to reach your brain more quickly than if you have food in your stomach. Drinking on an empty stomach will also cause the alcohol to enter your bloodstream faster.
- The type of alcoholic beverage you consume will also affect how quickly the alcohol reaches your brain. Liquor, beer, and wine all contain different amounts of ethanol.
- The type of food in your stomach will slow down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.
- If you are a woman, your body weight and the amount of fat on your body will also affect how quickly alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream. Women tend to have less water in their bodies than men, which means the alcohol will be absorbed into their bloodstream faster.
- If you are taking any medications or other drugs, these can also slow down how quickly the alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream.
The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
Since alcohol is a depressant, drinking it can slow down the central nervous system. When you drink too much alcohol and your body becomes dependent on this substance, your brain will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when the alcohol is no longer present.
The severity of these symptoms can vary depending on how much you drink and how long you have been drinking, but there are some common withdrawal symptoms that people often experience.
The first stage of withdrawal is known as the acute phase, which can last for up to a week after you have stopped drinking. During this time your brain will begin to function in a normal way again and you will experience a wide range of symptoms. These can include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
These symptoms are usually mild but can be severe in some cases.
The second stage of withdrawal is referred to as the intermediate phase and can last for several weeks after you have stopped drinking. During this time your brain will still be recovering and you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much or not being able to sleep)
- Generalized anxiety and panic attacks
These symptoms are often more severe than the first stage and can last for several weeks.
The final stage of withdrawal is referred to as the late phase and this usually lasts from six months to a year after you have stopped drinking. During this time you may experience some of the following symptoms:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Irritability or aggression
These symptoms are the most difficult to deal with and may be ongoing for a long time. Many people find that seeing a warm, compassionate therapist with whom they are comfortable during this time can make all the difference in the world!
The following is a list of the most common withdrawal symptoms.
- Tremors, shakiness, and/or anxiety
- Hallucinations and/or delusions
- Nausea and vomiting
- Body aches or pain
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: Other Things to Know
The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be very unpleasant, especially if you are not prepared for what to expect. When a person is dependent on alcohol, the body has become accustomed to having it in the system. When the supply of alcohol is stopped, some very unpleasant symptoms can occur.
The withdrawal timeline for alcohol looks like this:
- 12-48 hours after the last drink:
The first symptoms of withdrawal appear. These include anxiety, insomnia, and agitation.
- 48-72 hours after the last drink:
Symptoms become more severe, including tremors, sweating, and rapid heart rate.
- 72-96 hours after the last drink:
The worst symptoms are usually over at this point but can include hallucinations and seizures.
Alcohol Detox Process
Alcohol Detox, also known as Alcohol Withdrawal or Alcohol Abstinence Syndrome is the process of getting rid of alcohol from the body. The term “alcohol detox” refers to a set of symptoms that occur in the body when it is deprived of alcohol. It is important to understand that Alcohol Detox should not be confused with Alcohol Dependence, which refers to a person’s physical and psychological reliance on alcohol.
Alcohol Detox is a process that usually takes place in an Alcohol detoxification facility, or as part of an addiction treatment program. The duration of the process depends on the amount of alcohol a person has consumed and the time it takes for the body to rid itself of this substance.
The process usually begins with an alcohol detoxification period, which is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that can be severe and even life-threatening.
An alcohol detox program is often followed by further treatment, including counseling, to help the person manage their addiction. In the United States, detoxification from alcohol is most often accomplished in an alcohol detoxification facility.
In these facilities, a person’s withdrawal symptoms are monitored and treated by medical professionals. The length of time required for a person to complete an alcohol detoxification program varies. Detoxification from alcohol may be done on an outpatient or inpatient basis.
How Long Does it Take to Detox From Alcohol?
The time it takes to detox from alcohol depends upon the severity of your addiction. If you are a regular drinker and have been drinking heavily for years, this will take longer than if you only drink occasionally.
Most people experience withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours of their last drink, but it can take longer for others. If you are a heavy drinker, you may feel the effects of alcohol withdrawal for a week or more.
The severity of your withdrawal symptoms is also dependent on how quickly you detox from alcohol. If you drink heavily, it will take longer to recover than if you drank only occasionally.
The first day of your alcohol detox is the most difficult. This is because you are still very much inebriated and will feel very ill. You may suffer from headaches, nausea, vomiting, shaking, and sweating.
In addition to these symptoms, you may also experience hallucinations and seizures if your detox is not done under medical supervision. Your blood alcohol level will still be quite high and this can cause your body to go into shock. The most important thing you can do is stay at home, drink plenty of fluids, and rest. The first day or two will be the worst, after that, you will begin to better.
The first few days of alcohol detox are the most dangerous and it is imperative that you stay in a safe environment, preferably with someone who can watch over you. If the symptoms become too much to bear, or if you feel like your life is in danger, contact emergency services immediately.
The first three days of alcohol detox are the most difficult. The withdrawal symptoms can be very uncomfortable, but they will pass. During the first three days of alcohol detox, withdrawal symptoms will be at their worst. The most common symptoms are:
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Tremors or shakes
- Nausea and vomiting
Other symptoms may include:
- Irritability or anger outbursts
- Depression and suicidal thoughts, feelings of despair, and hopelessness
- Physical pain in the head, stomach, or muscles
During this time you may need medication to help relieve your symptoms. The doctor will prescribe medications that are intended to reduce anxiety and other uncomfortable symptoms.
The medications that are commonly used to treat alcohol withdrawal include:
- Benzodiazepines (Valium, Librium) – these drugs help relieve anxiety and muscle tension; they also help you sleep.
- Anticonvulsants (Dilantin) – these drugs are used to control seizures that may occur during withdrawal.
The goal of treatment for withdrawal is to help you have as comfortable a withdrawal period as possible. Medications are used to control the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, but they do not eliminate them completely.
The following are ways to help you manage your withdrawal symptoms:
- Stay in bed and rest as much as possible.
- Drink plenty of water or juice to stay hydrated.
- Eat small, frequent meals.
- Avoid or limit caffeine, sugar, and nicotine products.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises and meditation.
- Use a hot bath or shower to ease muscle aches.
- Do not take a cold bath or shower because this may cause shivering, which can increase your risk of developing a fever.
- Get plenty of rest. Sleep for as long as you need to.
- Take your medications exactly as prescribed.
- Ask for help if you feel confused or unable to function normally.
- If you are still feeling unwell after a couple of days, contact your doctor.
- Do not drive or operate machinery until you feel better and have discussed with your doctor that it is safe to do so.
- Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. These will only increase your risk of feeling unwell while you are withdrawing from alcohol, which could lead to serious health problems or even death.
- Eat healthy, nutritious food. If you do not feel like eating, try to eat anyway to prevent yourself from getting weaker and becoming dehydrated.
- Drink plenty of water or fruit juice and other non-alcoholic drinks to prevent dehydration.
- If you feel dizzy or faint, get up slowly from a lying position. Do not stand up suddenly if you are sitting down.
- If you feel that you are getting cold, warm yourself with blankets.
- Keep active and try to stay busy. This will help distract your mind from the alcohol withdrawal symptoms you might be experiencing.
- If you are showing signs of anxiety, try to relax by taking deep breaths and listening to some soothing music or a book on tape.
- Do not attempt to drive any vehicle or operate any machinery.
- Do not take any alcohol while you are going through the withdrawal process. This can be dangerous and even fatal because of the risk of relapse.
- If you are experiencing strong nausea, do not take any medication for it. If the symptoms are too much to bear, try drinking some ginger ale or eating crackers.
- Drink plenty of water and fruit juices to stay hydrated.
- If you are experiencing any hallucinations or delusions, do not attempt to drive a car or perform any other task that requires concentration and attention.
- Try to get as much rest as possible.
- Eat healthy food and stay away from junk food.
- If you feel like taking a walk, go for it but do not overdo it. You can also try to do some light exercises.
- Try to keep yourself occupied so that you don’t have time to dwell on your cravings.
- If you feel like talking, confide in someone you trust.
- If you feel like crying, let it all out. You will feel much better after having a good cry.
- Try to be as positive and optimistic as possible even though you may not feel like it.
- Avoid people who are drinking or smoking. They will only make you want to do the same and can also lead you into temptation.
- If your friends are drinking or smoking, do not get into an argument with them. Just leave the place as soon as possible and go somewhere else where you can be alone.
- Avoid places that have alcohol or cigarettes.
- Do not watch TV or movies that have people drinking alcohol.
- If you feel like going for a walk, go out in the fresh air and take deep breaths of clean air.
- Do not listen to music that makes you feel sad or depressed. Listen to something uplifting and cheerful instead.
- Stay away from the computer, especially if there are games on it that might make you feel like drinking.
- Try to do something productive or creative, such as painting, writing, or reading a book.
- Remember the reasons why you want to quit alcohol.
- If you feel like smoking, chew some gum instead.
- Do not eat foods that make you want to drink alcohol.
When the craving comes:
Remember why you are doing this. Think about the benefits of not drinking and how much better you will feel. Get up, go for a walk or do some other activity to distract yourself from your craving.
Alcohol Detox Medications
Detoxification is the process of removing alcohol from a person’s body. The term detox may also refer to the period of time during which an individual has stopped using drugs and/or alcohol, and is “cleaning” the body. The term detoxification may also refer to a treatment process for individuals who have developed an addiction or dependence on drugs, alcohol, or certain other substances.
A detoxification treatment program can vary widely in the type of therapies used but generally includes medical supervision and monitoring. Some programs include treatments such as individual or group counseling sessions, educational classes, nutritional counseling, or other therapies.
Detoxification programs are often used prior to entering a rehabilitation program, or as an alternative for those who do not respond well to treatment.
The length of time that a person remains in detoxification can vary depending on the substance(s) being taken and how long it has been since they have last used it.
In addition to medical supervision, some programs offer a safe environment and other forms of support during the detoxification process. This may include spiritual guidance, psychological counseling, or peer support groups.
The goal of detoxification is to help individuals with substance abuse disorders become physically stable and mentally alert.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that the most common form of detoxification is a process called “rapid detox,” which is often used for opioid or alcohol withdrawal. This process usually takes from one to three days and uses medications such as clonidine (Catapres) or lofexidine (Lucemyra) to help control the symptoms of withdrawal. The medications are generally given in a hospital or other medical facility, and patients may be monitored for complications such as seizures.
The second form of detoxification is called “ultra-rapid detoxification,” which is used for patients who are addicted to opioids. In this procedure, the patient is given anesthesia that puts him or her into a deep sleep. This is followed by a drug that prevents the withdrawal symptoms from developing, and then another drug to reverse the effects of the anesthesia.
The patient awakens hours later with no memory of what happened during the procedure.
Detoxification may be used to treat addiction to drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine (speed). It is not used for patients addicted to alcohol or benzodiazepines (such as Valium).
Detoxification is a procedure that helps the body get rid of substances that can cause physical and psychological dependence. The goal is to help people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol stop taking them and also to help them cope with the effects of stopping.
The most common way of detoxifying from drugs is to use medicines, such as methadone and buprenorphine (Subutex), that are similar to the drug that a person is addicted to. These medicines help prevent withdrawal symptoms and relieve cravings for drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and alcohol.
The goal of detoxification is to help a person stop taking drugs or alcohol and to begin the recovery process. It is often done in a hospital, as it can be dangerous if a person stops using drugs suddenly. The length of detoxification depends on the drug being used. For example, heroin withdrawal usually lasts about 5 days, while alcohol withdrawal can last weeks.
The main reason for detoxification is to help a person start the recovery process. It is important to remember that detoxification alone does not cure addiction. Treatment after detoxification helps a person learn how to live without drugs and alcohol, as well as deal with the possible psychological and social problems that can develop from addiction.
Detoxification is often a very difficult time for people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, as they have to deal with the pain of withdrawal as well as the stress of being in a completely new environment. The detoxification process is also very difficult for family members and friends, who have to watch their loved ones suffer through the painful process of withdrawal.
Detoxification can be accomplished with medications and other treatments, which are designed to help a person through the process of getting off drugs or alcohol. The detoxification process usually takes place in a hospital or treatment facility, where the medical staff can monitor the patient and administer medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms.
The detoxification process is often very difficult for both patients and their families. For patients, the detoxification process is painful and uncomfortable. Patients may suffer from a variety of symptoms, including nausea, sweating, chills, and even hallucinations.
Detoxification is also difficult for family members because they know there is a chance that their loved ones may not recover. Family members must help the patient through detoxification, but they also need to be prepared for the possibility of losing their loved one.
Here is a list of the most common medications used to treat alcohol withdrawal:
- Valproic acid
- Clomethiazole (a sedative)
- The following is a list of medications that are used to treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain and fever
- Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), for nausea, vomiting, and insomnia
- Antipsychotics such as haloperidol, chlorpromazine, or thioridazine for hallucinations and delusions
- Benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), or lorazepam (Ativan), for anxiety, agitation, and insomnia
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol) or valproate (Depacon) to control convulsions and seizures
- Clomethiazole (Reglemine) for alcohol withdrawal seizures
- Ethanol to relieve symptoms of acute alcohol withdrawal and reduce the risk of relapse in abstinent alcoholics
- Haloperidol (Haldol) for severe agitation and psychosis
- Lorazepam or oxazepam for anxiety, agitation, insomnia, and alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Phenobarbital for seizures.
What Happens After Alcohol Detox?
After the patient has been through detoxification, he or she will be able to move on with treatment. The next step is usually rehab, where patients learn how to live without alcohol and drugs. The patient will also learn how to live with the underlying issues that led to his or her addiction. This is where family members can play an important role in recovery, by helping their loved ones work through the underlying issues that led to the addiction.
Detoxing from alcohol and drugs can be a dangerous process, but it is an important step in getting clean and sober. The first step to recovery is detox. If you or someone you care about needs alcohol detox or treatment, call us at West Valley Detox to speak to one of our qualified staff.