What to Expect in Alcohol Detox

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Find Out What to Expect in Alcohol Detox; Dangers, Stages and Treatment

A multi-criteria study published on The Lancet revealed that alcohol is in fact the most dangerous drug to abuse in the world. Through the study of 16 different criteria, it was found that alcohol is even more dangerous than crack, meth, and heroin. One of the things that make it so dangerous is the potentially life-threating detox. Continue reading to find out what to expect in alcohol detox, which includes the dangers associated with withdrawal, stages of detox, and why it’s important to seek therapy after detox.

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Dangerous Drinking Levels

Before we take a look at what to expect in alcohol detox, we will first explore high-risk drinking levels to better understand when there is a potential problem. A standard size drink is as follows:

  • Distilled spirits: 1.5 ounces
  • Wine: 5 ounces
  • Regular beer: 12 ounces

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism define low risk drinking as:

  • For men: 4 or fewer drinks in a day with a total of no more than 14 a week.
  • For women: 3 or fewer drinks a day and no more than 7 in a week.

Drinking more than these advised levels puts a person on the fast-track to becoming dependent on alcohol, if they aren’t already.

Dangers of Heavy Alcohol Use

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2015, 5.3 million women and 9.8 million men found themselves with an alcohol use disorder in the United States – the condition that covers heavy alcohol use, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.

Heavy alcohol use has many dangers associated with it. Some of the long-term effects of alcohol abuse include:

  • Brain: Altered moods, poor coordination and difficultly thinking clearly.
  • Heart: Stroke, high blood pressure, irregular heart beat and cardiomyopathy.
  • Liver: Fibrosis, Cirrhosis, Steatosis and alcoholic hepatitis.
  • Pancreas: Pancreatitis, which is an inflammation that causes poor digestion.
  • Cancer: Alcohol abuse is linked to several forms of cancer including throat, liver, mouth, breast and esophagus.

Dangers of Cold Turkey Detox

Out of all of the drugs that a person can get hooked on, alcohol is one that carries great risk when detoxing alone. The changes that the brain goes through leads to several problems that can prove to be fatal. Apart from the difficulty in just getting through the detox alone without relapsing, the main risks are:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea causing dehydration.
  • Irregular heart rhythms that cause serious heart problems.
  • Delirium tremens, which can be a fatal condition.

How Long Does it Take to Detox from Alcohol?

Withdrawal from alcohol comes with several mild to severe symptoms. So, how long does it take to detox from alcohol? The withdrawal symptoms play out over the course of 7 to 10 days before they begin to dissipate. However, untreated symptoms can persist for weeks, such as anxiety and other psychological symptoms.

Alcohol Withdrawal Stages

What to expect in alcohol detox is to have to deal with three stages of withdrawal. The stages are broken up into what types of symptoms appear, when they occur, and their severity.

The three alcohol withdrawal stages are as follows:

  • Stage one: This stage starts from between 6 to 24 hours after last use. It’s considered a mild stage with symptoms including nausea, mood swings, fatigue, vomiting, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and tremors.
  • Stage two: More moderate symptoms start to appear in the second stage which usually starts after day one and last to around day three. Symptoms commonly experienced during this time include high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, irritability, confusion, fever, and mood disturbances.
  • Stage three: This is the severe stage of detox and what to expect in alcohol detox during this stage includes the possible appearance of delirium tremens (DTs). If the symptoms occur, they are expected to happen after roughly 48 to 72 hours. The symptoms of DTs include severe fever, seizures, severe confusion coupled with hallucinations, and agitation.

The Optimal and Safest Way to Detox from Alcohol

One of the best things you can do to safely detox from alcohol and get the help you need is to find an inpatient alcohol rehab near me. Today, it’s possible to be helped through the symptoms of detox through what is known as a medical or medically-assisted detox.


To start things off, an intake exam that is done before the patient enters into detox is required. This helps to establish the kind of support that an addict will need for their recovery. It includes blood work, discussing your drinking history, and current medical conditions to help tailor-make a detox for the individual.

Medical Detox

A medical detox isn’t just supervised by medical staff, but the program also allows for the use of medications that help the patient with the process of detox. A popular medication that is used for alcohol detox is benzodiazepines, which specifically treat symptoms of insomnia, anxiety and the seizures brought on by DTs.

Not only are prescription medications such as benzos used, but over-the-counter medications are also provided for as the patient needs it, such as to deal with nausea and vomiting.

It Doesn’t End There

Alcohol abuse and addiction points to further problems beyond just dependence to a substance; the causes of addiction often lie in problematic behavior, thinking and poor coping skills among others. Therefore, if one just gets a detox from an inpatient alcohol rehab near me and no subsequent therapy or counseling, then the factors that caused the addiction may do so again.

A rehab conducting your detox should advise you to partake in these treatment programs to help you with your long-term sobriety and ultimately help you to build better coping skills and be a productive member of the community.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get help right away. Make a phone call that will connect you to a professional drug treatment center. The call you make may save your life or the life of someone you love. Call us today at 1.800.429.7690.