Alcohol Detox: Overview, Withdrawal, How it Works, and Detox Length - America's Rehab Campuses
Get Into Treatment Today: Detox & Inpatient - Beds Available Now. Updated: 01/23/19

Alcohol Detox: Overview, Withdrawal, How it Works, and Detox Length

People who are dependent on alcohol can have a difficult time withdrawing from it due to a range of unwanted symptoms, including tremors, vomiting, and diarrhea. Alcohol withdrawal can be particularly dangerous for those who have been drinking large quantities of alcohol for a long period of time since these individuals face a higher risk for complications like seizures and death. However, alcohol detox can help patients safely withdraw from alcohol with a reduced risk of complications, allowing them to successfully recover from alcohol addiction.

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is a professional, evidence-based treatment used at alcohol and drug rehab centers to help people safely stop drinking and overcome alcohol dependence. The goal of alcohol detox is to reduce withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications that commonly arise from alcohol use. Many alcohol rehab centers use medications as part of alcohol detox to control and reduce symptoms until patients have fully withdrawn and recovered from alcohol dependence.

Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal usually begin within six to 24 hours of the last drink and peak at between 36 and 72 hours.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Fever, excessive sweating, and dehydration.
  • Dilated pupils and loss of appetite.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting.
  • Fatigue and depression.
  • Tremors, especially in the hands.
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Insomnia and nightmares.
  • Nervousness, anxiety, and extreme agitation.
  • Irritability and mood swings.
  • Hallucinations, delirium, and seizures.

What Happens During Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox can take place in an inpatient or outpatient treatment setting, though inpatient rehab is generally recommended for those suffering moderate to severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Inpatient treatment centers allow patients to be monitored closely for hallucinations and a severe form of alcohol withdrawal called delirium tremens, which is marked by seizures and severe confusion.

During alcohol detox, medical staff monitors patients for symptoms and complications as well as takes readings for blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature. Benzodiazepines like diazepam may be used to sedate patients and relieve symptoms until the withdrawal period has ended. Patients are usually advised to drink plenty of water throughout the day to replace fluids lost through sweating and diarrhea. In some instances, fluids and medicines may be administered intravenously for those recovering from severe alcohol dependence.

How Long Does Alcohol Detox Last?

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms usually last for between two and 10 days but may go on for weeks depending on the severity of the addiction. Alcohol detox is only the first stage of alcohol addiction treatment, and it rarely helps people achieve long-term abstinence on its own. After alcohol detox, patients normally transition to alcohol rehab centers where they can receive therapy to recover from addiction.

America’s Rehab Campuses use alcohol and drug detox to help you safely overcome substance use disorders and addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our many available addiction treatment programs that can be customized to help you or a loved one experience a full, safe recovery from drug and alcohol dependence.

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