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How Much Time Is Needed To Detox From Alcohol


Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that works by slowing down vital functions in one’s body. The feelings elicited when an individual ingests alcohol occurs because of the way the substance interacts with one’s neurotransmitters. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) asserts, “Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works.”

When an individual habitually abuses alcohol, her body will become accustomed to functioning with alcohol present in her system. When alcohol is absent from one’s system, the body will react accordingly, and withdrawal symptoms will ensue. There is a variety of contributing factors that can affect the severity of withdrawal symptoms, the duration of withdrawal symptoms experienced, as well as which withdrawal symptoms manifest. It is impossible to provide a finite amount of time that is required to successfully detox from alcohol, as according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) alcohol withdrawal symptoms and duration of detox are highly variable.  

Detox Withdrawal Timeline

After habitual alcohol abuse, an individual that wants to stop drinking alcohol must undergo detox. Detox is the process that cleanses one’s body of all foreign, abused substances. Although every individual is different and will go through the detox process at a somewhat varied pace, below is a broad timeline that divides the detox process into four stages, provided by National Library of Medicine

  • Stage 1: six twelve hours after one’s last drink: common symptoms can include:
    • Depression
    • Mood swings
    • Insomnia
    • Excessive sweating
    • Headache 
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Anxiety
    • Stomach pain
    • Shakes/tremors 
  • Stage 2: twelve to twenty-four hours after one’s last drink: common symptoms can include:
    • Hallucinations
    • Dehydration
    • Mental confusion
    • Irritability
    • Increased blood pressure
    • Irregular heart rate
    • Loss of appetite
  • Stage 3: twenty-four to forty-eight hours after one’s last drink: common symptoms can include:
    • Low blood sugar
    • Intense mood swings
    • Grand mal seizures: about four percent of people withdrawing from alcohol experience grand mal seizures 
  • Stage 4: forty-eight hours to seven days after one’s last drink: common symptoms can include:
    • Depression
    • Restlessness
    • Confusion
    • Delirium tremens
    • General physical discomfort
    • Symptoms may begin to taper off

It is important to note that withdrawal symptoms, although likely intense during the detox phase, do not necessarily subside entirely upon completion of the acute detox process. After ten days, any subsequent withdrawal symptoms that occur are known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). It is best to undergo detox from alcohol in a supervised setting, to ensure the safety of the individual for the duration of the process. 

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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