There’s no easy, one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long detox will continue when a drinker attempts to stop drinking alcohol. A number of factors will play a part in determining the length of detox as well as the type and severity of withdrawal symptoms.
- How long has the person been drinking (e.g., months, years)?
- How often and how much does the person drink on a daily basis (e.g., all day every day, periodic binge drinking sessions, etc.)?
- Does the person combine alcohol use with use of other addictive substances?
- Are there co-occurring mental health symptoms either caused by long-term, heavy alcohol use or caused by a mental health disorder?
- Are there co-occurring medical health issues (e.g., depression, chronic illnesses, chronic pain, etc.)?
Depending upon how the above factors occur – or don’t – in combination with one another, the length of alcohol detox will vary.
What’s the key factor to the most efficient and safe alcohol detox experience possible? Choosing a professional, inpatient alcohol detox program that provides medical monitoring and 24-hour care and assistance that is staffed by experts who specialize in addiction treatment can make all the difference.
Medical Health Complications
One of the issues that can lengthen the time it takes to navigate through alcohol detox – often unexpectedly – is medical emergency. Leaps in blood pressure, heart rate, or breathing rate – or a slowing of these functions – as well as seizures and other issues can arise without warning.
In most cases, medical intervention can stabilize the person and ongoing monitoring can ensure that the issue doesn’t happen again.
Especially in cases of alcoholism, where delirium tremens or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is an issue, medical complications may be more likely to occur.
Mental Health Issues
Mental health problems are often a part of alcohol detox and part of the withdrawal symptoms experienced.
They can include:
- Mood swings
- Irritability or agitation
Additionally, a craving for alcohol is almost always a symptom during alcohol detox – one that can be almost impossible to overcome without professional medical assistance. If mental health symptoms are an underlying problem, they can worsen during detox and lengthen the process. With proactive treatment, however, this is a manageable roadblock to recovery.
For those who are living with alcoholism, delirium tremens (DT) describes a very severe and long-lasting alcohol detox. It can begin, as with most alcohol withdrawal symptoms that occur with any alcohol use disorder, within the first 48 to 96 hours after the last drink – but these symptoms specifically may not begin until a week to 10 days after the last drink.
In addition to the usual alcohol withdrawal symptoms, delirium tremens may be defined by any or all of the following:
- Altered cognitive function
- Tremors or heavy shaking
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Intense fear
- Rapid changes in mood
- Feelings of disorientation
- Being in a stupor or sleeping deeply for a day or more
- Heightened activity or manic behavior
- Seizures, especially tonic-clonic seizures
These symptoms may worsen rapidly. It is not recommended that a patient attempt an at-home detox if it is possible that delirium tremens may be an issue due to long-term, chronic, and heavy drinking. Chances of experiencing DT increase if the person has previously had problems with past attempts at alcohol detox or has been diagnosed with alcoholism.
The Good News
There is nothing positive about any alcohol use disorder, especially alcoholism, except for the fact that it is a highly treatable disease. Though there is no cure as of yet, there are a number of evidence-based treatments that have been proven to be effective. The challenge comes in identifying the best possible treatment plan for each individual. Just as no two patients will have the exact same alcohol detox experience, no two patients should undergo the exact same treatment plan.
Contact us today at 844-675-1221 to connect with the program that has the resources to provide your loved one with a tailor-made alcohol detox plan. Call now to begin.
Further Reading About How Long Does It Take to Detox from Alcohol?
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.