The time it takes to successfully eliminate alcohol from your body depends on the severity of your addiction. Your age, physical health and any history of DTs or alcohol withdrawal seizures are also factors to be considered when determining a detox timeline.
Detox Timelines in a Nutshell
Detox from alcohol lasts on average 3-7 days, depending on the following:
- How much alcohol the person has been drinking
- The length of time they have been drinking for
- Their overall health – physically and cognitively
- What withdrawal symptoms occur, and how they are tolerated
- If the more painful symptoms have subsided after three days
- Patient’s age/gender
Heavy drinking is defined as consuming between 70 and 100 units per week. (4 pints is 10 units, 1 litre of vodka is 40 units).
Alcohol Detox Timeline Example
- If you consume more than 15 units of alcohol daily (half a bottle of vodka, 1.5 bottles of wine, 6 pints of beer), then you can assume that detox will take approximately three days
- If you have been consuming this level of alcohol or more for an extended time period measured in years, then detox will take longer up to 10 days
- Please note everyone is different and may or may not experience the below thoughts or symptoms
What Happens When You Stop Drinking?
In the first 12 hours
Often for heavy drinkers and alcoholics, the first 6-12 hours are often symptom-free and may only consist of mild headaches and an increase in anxiety and irritability. There may be sweating and some confusion or dizziness.
In the first 24 hours
After 12 hours, as no new alcohol is added to your system, the withdrawal symptoms get progressively worse. Hangover symptoms like anxiety, shaky hands, headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and sweating all increase in intensity.
Hallucinations, confusion and seizures can also occur in more advanced cases of alcoholism.
Seizures can be a single ‘tonic-clonic seizure’ or consist of a brief episode of multiple seizures.
12-48 hours after your last drink is usually the most dangerous time for an alcoholic or heavy drinker to withdraw from alcohol. It is best to have medical supervision.
As the body craves alcohol, the more uncomfortable symptoms may continue into the next day. Patients often feel very unwell and frequently disoriented. Anxiety can become much worse with some people experiencing panic attacks, crying and becoming very emotionally upset.
Third day onwards
This is a period where some of the symptoms begin to improve in some cases. In some cases, delirium tremens will occur at this stage. Patients often complain of feeling flat or empty, with many choosing to join the programme. You should still expect to experience cravings at this point.
For most people, excluding more severe cases, all physical sensations and symptoms will have tapered off. However, feelings of unease and anxiety may persist. In fact, any of the emotions that drinking suppressed will return, including depression. Physical cravings may decrease but a tendency to obsess over alcohol may persist.
Enhanced Patient Care
We ensure that alcohol detox is a gradual, safe and comfortable process. Our nurses and doctors conduct blood and urine analyses to ensure overall health. In addition, we prescribe vitamin replacements as most people who have been drinking heavily are low in essential vitamins and minerals. See detox medication.
Our psychiatrist-led medical team monitors for possible complications closely, and we are adept at quickly identifying and responding to any severe withdrawal symptoms.
Any symptoms are monitored closely by our specialist medical team. In addition, our nurses have many years of experience in treating alcohol detox.
Patients with the following alcohol-related illnesses may need to spend longer in detox
- Fibrosis/scarring of the liver tissue, Wernicke’s encephalopathy (malnutrition) or alcoholic hepatitis can significantly prolong detox times.
- All patients with decompensated liver disease are treated under specialist supervision.