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Alcohol Detox: Timeline and Withdrawal Symptoms

Alcoholism, consuming more than seven drinks a week for women and 14 for men, can increase the chances of many health consequences. In addition, liver disease and cardiovascular disease are the leading affected systems by alcohol abuse. The body and mind become dependent upon the substance. With the decision to stop the cycle and break the addiction, treatment professionals can set an alcohol detox timeline. Unfortunately, 15.1 million adults have an alcohol use disorder, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Sadly, they also establish that only 6.7% will seek treatment. By learning about the alcohol detox timeline, a person can better protect themselves and their loved ones from tragedy.

What is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is the safe, medically supervised treatment to begin the recovery plan for an alcohol use disorder. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are extreme. Monitoring by experienced professional staff during alcohol detox ensures adherence to the alcohol detox timeline. Alcohol detox presents with uncomfortable symptoms, and medical emergencies can occur.  The main goal of alcohol detox is to rid the body of alcohol and keep addicts as comfortable as possible.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome is a set of symptoms occurring upon cessation of alcohol consumption. Prolonged alcohol usage can disrupt the regular neurotransmitter activity in the brain. In addition, the body builds tolerance to alcohol with the addiction spans. The higher the tolerance level to alcohol, the longer the alcohol detox timeline increases, and the danger increases for withdrawal. 

The alcohol detox timeline contains three stages of withdrawal symptoms. Never attempt detox from alcohol without medical assistance from trained professionals. The severity of the alcohol dependence by the symptoms below describes the stages of withdrawal. Detox with medical monitoring decreases the severity of these symptoms while monitoring essential body functions. 

  • Stage One: (Mild) symptoms of headaches, anxiety, irritability, insomnia
  • Stage Two: (Moderate) symptoms of stage one and rapid heart rate, sweating, confusion, and low-grade fever 
  • Stage Three: (Severe) disorientation, hallucinations, and seizures with fatal potential

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

According to the general alcohol detox timeline, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can begin only hours after the last drink. In addition, factors such as gender, weight, age, length of alcohol abuse, the severity of alcohol usage, mental health, and physical health determine the withdrawal timeline and symptoms. Once the addict begins to experience the withdrawal symptoms, they rebound and drink again for relief. 

Signs and symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include:

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Tremors or shakes
  • Insomnia, trouble sleeping, nightmares
  • Fatigue
  • Mood changes, irritability
  • Light and sound sensitivity
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances, including nausea and vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased blood pressure or heart rate
  • Hyperthermia
  • Rapid abnormal breathing
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Profuse sweating
  • Fever
  • Impaired judgment and memory, confusion

Delirium tremens can be one of the most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, senior or middle-aged alcoholics are at a high risk of developing respiratory arrest, cardiac arrhythmias, and aspiration pneumonitis. These potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms require immediate medical attention. Alcohol detox timelines guide professionals through this challenging process.

Alcohol Detox Timeline

An alcohol detox timeline refers to the onset of withdrawal symptoms once detox begins and the series of symptoms that continue to present throughout detox. Withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as four to twelve hours after the last drink. The second day of withdrawal can be challenging. Alcohol clears the body quickly, and by day four or five, withdrawal symptoms may begin to subside. Severe cases can produce withdrawal symptoms for up to a month. Detox can be longer if combined with another substance, and a significant health condition is present, or if this is not the first attempt at sobriety.

An average detox timeline appears similar to the following timeline:

  • 6-12 hours after the last drink: early mild withdrawal symptoms of headache, mild anxiety, insomnia, slight tremors, and upset stomach
  • By 24 hours: same symptoms as early withdrawal symptoms plus visual, auditory, or tactile hallucinations
  • 24 to 72 hours: previously experienced symptoms begin to peak and level off, seizures, seizure prophylaxis, withdrawal delirium (DTs)

After Detox: Finding Effective Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Understanding the alcohol detox timeline, withdrawal symptoms, detox, and treatment options, maintaining sobriety is a lifelong 12-step process. Living a sober life brings many challenges, and undergoing a solid treatment plan with qualified professionals at the helm, is just the beginning. After detox and achieving a medically stable state, aftercare is essential. Inpatient or intensive outpatient programs, including a solid support system, must follow. Relapse is highly probable without a recovery program to provide the tools needed to continue sobriety. 

Finding a treatment center offering all possible solutions to an alcohol use disorder provides the most effective success rate for future sobriety. Individual therapy, group or 12-step meetings, lifestyle skills training, and new holistic therapies cover the basis for well-rounded treatment plans. In addition, a clear understanding of the alcohol detox timeline can help the support system engage with treatment plans. Recovery is a lifelong struggle.

Safely Detox From Alcohol in Atlanta, GA

Alcohol detox is terrifying. If you are experiencing the downfalls of alcoholism or someone you love needs help with alcohol addiction, we are here to help you. The Retreat of Atlanta understands the alcohol detox timeline and the desperation involved with alcoholism. We offer professional treatment teams familiar with alcohol use disorder. We can help design your detox and treatment plan. Contact our admissions page today and begin your journey to lasting recovery.

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