By We Level Up NJ Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: February 16, 2023
What Is Alcohol Detox?
Alcohol detoxification (detox) is defined as the natural process in the body as it attempts to free the system of toxins and waste products from excessive, long-term alcohol drinking. Alcohol detox in a treatment setting usually includes medical observation, medication, and counseling.
Detoxification, or detox, is the first stage of substance abuse recovery. It is a period of medical treatment, usually including counseling, during which a person is helped to overcome psychological and physical dependence on alcohol.
Individuals who have been drinking heavily for a long time are more likely to experience adverse side effects during detox, some of which can be dangerous.
Continued alcohol abuse can lead to tolerance and biological changes that create false homeostasis. Disrupting this balance and restoring the person to a healthy state is a process that is as important as it is delicate .
Alcohol Addiction is a life-threatening condition that can lead to a constant health crisis and may even be fatal . Thus, immediate professional help is the only way to avoid harm to yourself or a loved one. Comfortable alcohol detox is attainable if you seek professional help rather than detox by yourself and face harmful withdrawal symptoms.
Acknowledging you are an detox alcoholic and seeking treatment seriously and early helps reduce its impact and lessen the chances of relapsing. In addition, people struggling with alcoholism for extended periods may have a more difficult time getting sober and could suffer serious health issues.
Importance of Alcohol Detox
An alcohol detox program is a carefully supervised process during which you concentrate on removing alcohol from your system. However, addiction specialists agree that recovery can’t move forward until you lessen your physical dependence and overcome alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
However, that creates challenges for the body. For example, when you have an alcohol use disorder (AUD), your brain has grown dependent on alcohol to deliver a specific “fix.” Once you remove that source, the body responds physiologically, which can be painful.
Detox is not a process to try to do yourself. It is a clinically-based program that helps you manage these physiological events under the care of a qualified medical team. Once alcohol is cleared from your body, you can start handling the other issues that brought you to this point.
How to detox from alcohol
Detox for alcohol is the initial step before a longer treatment program. Detoxification or detox can be safely and comfortably performed in an inpatient facility, where there is round-the-clock medical monitoring for heavy drinkers. In most cases, the alcohol detox process involves three steps:
- Intake. The medical team will do a comprehensive review of the substance, psychiatric and medical histories of incoming clients to fully understand each situation.
- Medication. Many detox programs include medications that simulate the effects of alcohol to mitigate withdrawal symptoms. Medications may also target co-occurring disorders or general discomfort.
- Stabilization. The client undergoes psychological and medical therapies to help them reach a balance of body and mind.
- Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
- MAT For Alcohol Addiction And For Comfortable Recovery
- What Is Inpatient Rehab?
- Is Alcohol a Depressant?
- Alcohol Liver Damage
- Inpatient Alcohol Rehab Treatment Levels of Care, Therapy Types & Detox Programs
- Medication Assisted Treatment
- Top-rated Upscale Inpatient Rehab Addiction Recovery Treatment
- How Long Does it Take to Detoxing from Alcohol?
Alcohol Detox Statistics
In 2019, of the 85,688 liver disease deaths among individuals ages 12 and older, 43.1 percent involved alcohol. Among males, 53,486 liver disease deaths occurred, and 45.6 percent involved alcohol. Among females, 32,202 liver disease deaths occurred, and 39.0 percent involved alcohol.
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 85.6 percent of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime.
According to the 2019 NSDUH, about 7.3 percent of adults ages 18 and older who had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the past year received any treatment in the past year.
An estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually.
The chemical name ethanol sometimes refers to alcohol, is a depressant drug that is the active ingredient in drinks such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits (hard liquor).
What is its origin?
The earliest known evidence comes from 7,000 BCE in China, where residue in clay pots has revealed that people were making an alcoholic beverage from fermented rice, millet, grapes, and honey.
What are common street names?
Many people have heard of the names “booze,” “brew,” and “cold one” to describe alcohol, specifically beer. Some other common street names and nicknames for alcohol include:
- Hard stuff
- Liquid bread
- Oats soda
What are common scientific names?
- Absolute alcohol
- Alcohol (USP)
- Ethanol (JAN)
- Ethylic alcohol
- Ethyl alcohol
- Ethyl hydrate
- Ethyl hydroxide
- Grain alcohol
Legal status: US: Unscheduled
Routes of administration Common: by mouth
Uncommon: suppository, inhalation, insufflation, injection
What Type of Drug is Alcohol?
- Sedatives; Anxiolytics
- GABAA receptor positive modulators
What is its effect on the body?
Physiological effects of oxycodone include:
- Pain relief, sedation, respiratory depression,
constipation, papillary constriction, and cough
- Extended or chronic use of oxycodone
containing acetaminophen may cause severe liver
Protein binding: Weakly or not at all
Metabolism: Liver (90%):
• Alcohol dehydrogenase
• MEOS (CYP2E1)
Metabolites Acetaldehyde; Acetate; Acetyl-CoA; Carbon dioxide; Water; Ethyl glucuronide; Ethyl sulfate
Onset of action Peak concentrations:
• Range: 30–90 minutes
• Mean: 45–60 minutes
• Fasting: 30 minutes
Elimination half-life Constant-rate elimination at typical concentrations:
• Range: 10–34 mg/dL/hour
• Mean (men): 15 mg/dL/hour
• Mean (women): 18 mg/dL/hour
At very high concentrations (t1/2): 4.0–4.5 hours
Duration of action 6–16 hours (amount of time that levels are detectable)
Excretion• Major: metabolism (into carbon dioxide and water)
• Minor: urine, breath, sweat (5–10%)
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Alcohol Detox Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may vary significantly from one person to another but may include any of the following physical and psychological symptoms
Physical Detox Symptoms
- Shaky hands
- Racing heart
- High blood pressure
- Dilated pupils
- Appetite loss
- Pale skin
Psychological Detox Symptoms
- Feeling depressed
- Mood swings
- Inability to think clearly
- Extreme agitation
- Hallucinations (feeling, seeing, or hearing things that aren’t there)
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How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol
People who decide to quit drinking may undergo painful, uncomfortable, or even dangerous symptoms, and those symptoms may be experienced from hours to days. Although there is not a specific alcohol withdrawal timeline, as symptoms and length will differ based on different factors such as the simultaneous presence of mental and physical health issues, average amount and duration of heavy drinking behavior .
So how long does alcohol withdrawal last? Exactly how your detox progresses will be influenced by many factors, so it’s difficult to determine with accuracy what course your detox may take. However, it is possible to get a general time frame for the detox process, complete with the progression of symptoms.
Alcohol detox timeline
A typical alcohol detox timeline for alcohol withdrawal symptoms may look something like this:
6-12 hours: Following the last drink, the first withdrawal symptoms, which may be mild, begins. These may include headache, mild anxiety, small tremors, insomnia, and stomach upset.
12-24 hours: Some people may encounter visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations.
24-72 hours: Different symptoms may have peaked and begun to level off or resolve (although some more protracted symptoms may last for weeks or longer).
24-28 hours: Seizure risks may be highest from 24-48 hours after the last drink, requiring close monitoring and seizure prophylaxis.
48-72 hours: Withdrawal delirium (such as, DTs) may show from 48-72 hours after drinking has stopped.
Occasionally, some individuals may experience continous withdrawal related symptoms that last for months. Symptoms may include sleep disturbances, fatigue, and changes in mood. However, most individuals who encounter these extended symptoms fully recover with medical detox and withdrawal management.
Side Effects of Alcohol Detox
For many individuals struggling with alcoholism, the detox process can be overwhelming and frightening. When you stop drinking alcohol, your body will go through withdrawal. Unfortunately, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are usually intense enough to turn individuals fall back to drinking.
The side effects of detoxing alcohol can be mild or severe and life-threatening. One in 20 people undergoing alcohol detox will experience a severe side effect known as delirium tremens or DTs. Heavy or long-term alcoholics should consider inpatient or residential detox to avoid potentially life-threatening complications.
However, knowing the side effects and what to expect during detox can help make the process less frightening. In addition, many individuals are able to break their alcohol dependency with the support of loved ones, friends, and professional addiction treatment. Experiencing detox in an inpatient or residential facility also allows medical professionals to help monitor and assist throughout the process.
Alcohol detox causes many side effects, and your body will take time to adjust to functioning without alcohol. However, once you go through detox, your risk for possibly life-threatening illnesses is significantly reduced.
What Is Alcohol Withdrawal?
Just like with any addictive substance, if you drink alcohol heavily for weeks, months, or years, you will inevitably develop a mental and physical dependence on it. You will need to have more drinks and drink more often in order to get drunk, and you will need to drink to prevent the body’s physical cravings from arising.
If you abruptly quit this habit of heavy drinking, you will likely experience withdrawal ranging somewhere from moderate to severe. Alcohol depresses your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), slowing cerebral messaging and altering the way signals are sent and received.
Eventually, the central nervous system adapts to the alcohol’s presence, and it becomes its new normal. The body functions on overdrive to fight the depressant effect of the alcohol and to keep neurotransmitters firing clearly. When alcohol suddenly is no longer present, the brain basically overheats causing symptoms of withdrawal to set in.
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Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can occur when you suddenly quit drinking alcohol after regular excessive drinking and can range from severe to mild. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be quite serious, and in some situations, they can actually be deadly.
Because they can worsen over time, it’s important to know whether your symptoms are getting more severe so you can seek help. The most severe symptoms usually arise between two and five days after you quit drinking, which means that the first day or two may not be a good indicator of your risk of serious problems.
Though alcohol withdrawal symptoms generally begin within eight hours after your last drink, you may not experience any until several days later. These symptoms tend to spike around 24 to 72 hours after your last drink, though milder ones may persist for much longer in some people.
Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
- Feeling anxious or nervous
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling depressed
- Feeling wiped out and tired
- Mood swings
- Not being able to think clearly
- Having nightmares
- Dilated pupils
- Difficulty sleeping
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Appetite loss
- Faster heart rate
- Pale skin
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the most extreme effects of alcohol withdrawal is called delirium tremens, or “the DTs.” About 3% to 5% of individuals who withdraw from heavy alcohol consumption experience delirium tremens. This condition can become life-threatening if it’s left untreated, so if you or a loved one show any symptoms of the DTs, seek emergency treatment because symptoms can get worse.
Symptoms of delirium tremens include:
- Extreme agitation
- Extreme confusion
- Hallucinations (feeling, seeing, or hearing things that aren’t there)
- High blood pressure
Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline
While alcohol withdrawal is quite unpleasant, alcohol is a fast-acting substance that the body metabolizes fairly quickly. The onset of alcohol withdrawal symptoms will normally start between 4 and 12 hours after taking the last drink. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are usually the worst when they peak around the second day without a drink. However, since alcohol clears the body quickly, most withdrawal symptoms subside by day 4 or 5. In extreme cases, some less severe symptoms can last from one week to a month. A person may experience a longer withdrawal period if they combine alcohol with other drugs, have another serious health condition, have a family history of alcoholism, or have experienced alcohol withdrawal in the past.
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Treatments For Alcohol Withdrawal
Alcohol detox should not be administered lightly because the withdrawal may involve a lоt оf аgоnу аnd раіn. For instance that if detox is done without medical detox supervision, the untrеаtеd аnd unmanaged ѕуmрtоmѕ саn bе lіfе-thrеаtеnіng. To emphasize, the treatment process should not be hurried as each person’s symptoms subside at their rate because other complications may arise that need to be addressed. Generally, inpatient alcohol detox ranges from 3-7 days before transition into inpatient or outpatient treatment .
Multiple approaches can be taken to treat alcohol withdrawal. This can vary from a medicalized approach to a more alternative approach. With a holistic view of addiction treatment, our detox facilities provide various therapies from one end to the other. This allows us to provide each client with the best treatment possible.
Benefits Of Medically-Assisted Detox Treatment
Medically assisted detox has proven to be beneficial for those who are struggling with alcoholism. Obviously, the most important benefit is enhanced physical health, but this crucial first step in recovery has other benefits, such as:
- Professional support – We Level Up NJ team is dedicated to being there to support you through every step of the detox process.
- A safe setting – It is crucial to go through detox in an environment where you feel safe and comfortable. At We Level Up NJ, we ensure your safety and comfort as you detox.
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – Our team is highly qualified to administer medication during detox, if necessary. This medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can make the difference between making it through detox or relapsing into alcohol addiction .
Medications Used During Alcohol Detox
When alcohol detox is treated in an inpatient rehab facility, different medications may be used to help reduce uncomfortable alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Medications can also help keep a person’s body chemicals in balance, lowering the risk for severe complications. In rehab, a medical professional will administer the medication and monitor its effects. If the medication begins to cause unwanted side effects or interferes with the detox process, another remedy can be used.
Treating Alcoholism In Alcohol Detox NJ Center
How to detox from alcohol? Alcohol detox can be dangerous, mainly if it is done without the help of a professional. Delirium tremens and other withdrawal symptoms that may afflict the detoxing patient are hazardous and may even be fatal. Delirium tremens usually start two to five days after the last drink. Shaking, confusion, high blood pressure, fever, and hallucinations are some symptoms. Therefore, it is advisable to detox in a rehab center to access qualified professionals who can manage comfortable alcohol detox and withdrawal complexities.
The medically assisted detox processes allow the body to process the alcohol in the system. And, it gently unaccustomed the body to its dependence on substances such as alcohol. Basically, it is the first stage of alcohol treatment and one you should seek before your addiction gets more damaging withdrawal symptoms, making the process more stressful.
The symptoms may seem to get worse through the detox process. That is why they need constant care and attention to help manage the symptoms with detox. Remember, alcohol addiction treatment is within your reach to ensure your recovery starts on a comfortable and safe step. And, you have us. You may contact We Level Up NJ for further details of getting addiction treatment.
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 NIAAA – https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder
 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441882/
 CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/alcohol.htm
 SAMHSA – https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma15-4907.pdf
 NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761817/
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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Naltrexone. November 2016. http://www.samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment/treatment/naltrexone
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Acamprosate. November 2016. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a604028.html
U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2012). Disulfiram. November 2016. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682602.html
Pappas, Stephanie. (2012). Alcoholics’ Brains Recover Quickly After Detox. October 2016. http://www.livescience.com/24027-alcoholics-brains-recover-detox.html