Quitting alcohol is a decision that can be complicated by physical dependence and withdrawal, which, at its worst, can become life-threatening without supportive care.
Alcohol detox lasts anywhere from five to seven days, on average. During this time, alcohol withdrawal symptoms may cause physical sickness and other severe symptoms.
Here you’ll find information on the timeline for alcohol detox, what to expect during alcohol detox, and how to find an alcohol detox program near you.
Timeline For Alcohol Detox And Withdrawal
Alcohol withdrawal is a condition that develops exclusively in people who’ve become physically dependent on alcohol. This can set in very quickly after a person’s last drink.
Stage 1: First Six To 12 Hours
Individuals who are alcohol-dependent may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms from the lack of alcohol within six to 12 hours after their last drink.
Early signs of alcohol withdrawal may include:
- upset stomach
- difficulty sleeping
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Stage 2: 12 to 48 Hours
Moderate symptoms, including those physical and psychological, can begin to appear within the first 24 to 48 hours of beginning alcohol detox.
Detox symptoms during this stage might include:
- mood swings
- increased body temperature
- fast breathing
- high blood pressure
- pounding heart
- not thinking clearly
Severe symptoms of withdrawal, including hallucinations and seizures, can also develop during this time in people with very severe alcohol dependence.
Stage 3: Up to 72 Hours
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms reach peak intensity about 72 hours, or three days, into alcohol detox. Significant physical discomfort, cravings, and anxiety may occur.
Stage 4: Days 3 to 5
After reaching their peak, symptoms generally begin to decline after the first few days of detox. Some symptoms, including lingering effects on mood and sleep, may continue for weeks.
Protracted Withdrawal After Alcohol Detox
People who have been drinking heavily for a long time, or who have developed a severe alcohol addiction, may experience long-lasting side effects of withdrawal.
This condition, known as protracted withdrawal or post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS), can cause symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia that last weeks or months after your last drink.
What Factors Can Affect The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?
A wide range of factors regarding alcohol consumption, overall health, and genetics can affect the amount of time it takes for a person to fully detox from alcohol.
Factors that can affect the alcohol detox timeline include:
- how much a person drinks
- how long they’ve been drinking
- use of other drugs (e.g. opioids, benzodiazepines)
- co-occurring mental health conditions
- impaired liver function
- overall health status
- history of previous detox attempts
- genetic factors
Additional factors such as age, weight, metabolism, and body fat can also play a role in how severe withdrawal symptoms become and for how long they last.
Alcohol Detox Timeline FAQs
Have questions about detoxing from alcohol? Find answers here to some of the most commonly asked questions about alcohol detox and the timeline.
❓ How Long Does Alcohol Detox Last?
✔️ Most alcohol detox programs last three to five days on average. Some treatment centers may offer extended detox programs lasting a week or more.
The timeline for alcohol detox may be longer for people who:
- are of older age
- drink an excessive amount of alcohol
- have been drinking alcohol excessively for years
- have developed severe alcohol use disorder
- have poor liver function
- having co-occurring disorders
- use multiple addictive substances
❓ Who Needs Alcohol Detox?
✔️ Alcohol detox is the first step on the road to recovery from alcohol dependence and addiction, which can develop as a long-term effect of alcohol abuse.
Signs of alcohol dependence can include:
- increasing how much you drink over time
- spending most of your time thinking about alcohol
- feeling physically sick if you go too long without alcohol
- continuing to drink heavily despite negative consequences
- being unable to cut down on your alcohol consumption
❓ What Happens After Two Weeks With No Alcohol?
✔️ The first week after quitting alcohol is the hardest, physically. After a couple weeks, most physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal should go away.
At this point, the body may begin to start healing from the effects of heavy drinking, although some long-term effects of alcohol may persist for some time.
❓ Can You Detox From Alcohol At Home?
✔️ Detoxing from home carries a high risk for relapse and other medical complications such as seizures, hallucinations, heart problems, and severe dehydration
For this reason, seeking out an outpatient or medical detox program for alcohol detoxification is strongly encouraged. Do not try to detox at home without seeking medical advice.
❓ What’s The Fastest Way To Detox From Alcohol?
✔️ The safest, and fastest way to detox from alcohol is to enter a detox facility or inpatient treatment center for medically supervised detox.
What this can offer:
- 24-hour support of medical professionals
- treatment for severe withdrawal
- reduced risk of relapse
- a quiet environment for detox
- referral for addiction treatment
Getting professional support for detox may prevent a more severe and lengthy detoxification experience by connecting you with medical and behavioral treatment.
Find An Alcohol Detox Program Today
Millions of people seek out substance abuse and addiction treatment each year. By calling us now, we may be able to help you or a loved one get started, too.
To find an inpatient or outpatient alcohol detox program that’s right for you, call our free and confidential helpline today to discuss treatment options.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- American Family Physician — Outpatient Management of Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome
- U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Alcohol
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Alcohol withdrawal
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus — Delirium tremens