24/7 National Substance Abuse Hotline
Free Insurance Verification
Verify your treatment coverage

How to Detox from Alcohol

Once you are dependent on or addicted to alcohol, it can be difficult to quit on your own. This is because when you abruptly quit drinking, you will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms—these can range from unpleasant or irritating to potentially fatal. A professional alcohol detox program can help ease your withdrawal symptoms and keep you safe and comfortable while you quit alcohol. In order to demystify the process, we’ve broken down how to detox from alcohol, both at an inpatient facility and at home during outpatient detox.   

8 Minute Read | Published Jan 11 2024 | Updated Jan 11 2024
ON THIS PAGE

Alcohol detoxification is a process through which your body rids itself of alcohol and other toxins. But if you have a physiological dependence on alcohol, meaning you need to drink in order to stave off withdrawal symptoms, then detoxing on your own can be overwhelming and dangerous. At a professional detox program, a treatment staff composed of doctors, nurses, and counselors oversees your treatment to ensure your safety.   

What to expect when detoxing from alcohol:   

  • Alcohol withdrawal medications
  • Medical care, oversight, and monitoring
  • Detox counseling
  • Referral to alcohol abuse treatment services

Alcohol detoxification has several goals, including:

  • Help the patient to achieve an alcohol-free state
  • Alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • Achieve medical stabilization
  • Treat any co-occurring psychiatric or medical conditions

How to Detox Your Body From Alcohol

The safest and most reliable way to find out if you need alcohol detox services is to see your doctor. They can assess your alcohol use, medical and psychiatric history, and previous withdrawal experiences to determine your risk of complicated alcohol withdrawal. If you have a mild alcohol addiction, your risk will likely be low, whereas a severe alcohol addiction indicates that you are at risk of experiencing delirium tremens or seizures.

Before going to the doctor and detoxing alcohol, you can review the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction. If you exhibit at least two of the following signs of an alcohol use disorder, then you may need professional detox:

  • Regularly drinking more or for longer than you originally intended
  • Failing to cut down or quit drinking, despite efforts to
  • Spending a significant amount of time drinking or recovering from hangovers
  • Experiencing intense alcohol cravings
  • Continuing to drink despite physical or mental health problems caused or exacerbated by drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite interpersonal and occupational issues caused or worsened by drinking
  • Neglecting previously enjoyed activities in favor of drinking
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as while driving
  • Requiring increasing amounts of alcohol to feel desired effects (tolerance)
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to quit 

How many days does it take to detox from alcohol? Well, it depends on factors like age, gender, body mass, and the person’s drinking history. Plus, having food in the body will slow down the absorption process. However, BAC, or a person’s blood alcohol concentration, is typically eliminated at a rate of 0.015 per hour. If you have a BAC of 0.08, then it will take nearly 6 hours for the toxins to process and pass through and out of your body. But depending on testing, it can last longer in the body’s overall system, such as in hair follicles.  

Common Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

If you’re dependent on alcohol and suddenly stop drinking, alcohol withdrawal symptoms can emerge. These symptoms emerge because your body has adapted to the presence of alcohol and can no longer function optimally without it. The severity and length of symptoms depend on how long you’ve been drinking, how much you’ve been drinking, whether you mix alcohol with other substances, and your individual physiology.   Common alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:3  

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Shakiness or tremors
  • Mood swings
  • Impaired cognition
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pale face
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate

In the event of severe alcohol addiction, you may experience life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. If you experience any of the following alcohol withdrawal symptoms, call 911 immediately:  

  • Severe confusion
  • Hallucinations (delirium tremens)
  • Agitation
  • Delusions
  • Seizures

  The risk factors for complicated alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Long duration of alcohol consumption
  • Prior delirium tremens episodes
  • Current severe alcohol cravings
  • Prior detox experiences
  • Seizures

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline: Stages of Withdrawal

Just as withdrawal symptoms may vary from person to person, alcohol withdrawal timelines may dramatically vary as well, but a general timeline can be broken down into three stages.

 

Stage 1 The first stage of alcohol withdrawal begins within about 6 to 12 hours after your last drink. Your symptoms are likely to be relatively mild at this time—you may experience nausea, headache, insomnia, and mild anxiety

 

Stage 2 The second stage of alcohol withdrawal begins within 24 hours after your last drink. If your addiction is severe, you may experience tactile, auditory, or visual hallucinations during this stage.

 

Stage 3 Within 1-3 days after abstaining from alcohol, some withdrawal symptoms have peaked and begun to resolve. During stage three, your risk of seizure and withdrawal delirium is likely to be the highest, which is why it’s so important to seek medical detox services. 

How to Detox from Alcohol at a Facility

There are two main alcohol detox settings: inpatient and outpatient. Inpatient alcohol detox programs include medical detox services, which means you receive 24/7 care, oversight, and supervision to keep you safe. Because of the risk of potentially fatal symptoms, medical professionals recommend that those with moderate to severe alcohol addiction receive medical detox.

The medical staff will provide you with alcohol withdrawal medications, such as benzodiazepines, as well as medications to treat individual symptoms. These medications can alleviate your distressing symptoms and prevent complicated withdrawal when combined. They may also provide supportive care, such as IV fluids or vitamins. Additional medications may include:  

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Beta-blockers

The staff will also monitor and treat any new symptoms that may arise, as well as intervene in case of a medical emergency. If you’re attempting to detox from alcohol at home, you are prone to relapse as a way to ease your unwanted withdrawal symptoms. On the contrary, supervised, medical detox reduces the risk of relapse and increases the chance that you enter an alcohol addiction rehab.  

Can You Detox From Alcohol at Home?

If you have a severe alcohol use disorder or a history of seizures or withdrawal delirium, it’s highly recommended that you seek treatment at an alcohol detox center rather than attempt to detox at home.

This is due to the risk of experiencing dangerous, potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. Choosing to attend a medical detox facility is the best decision for your health and safety.

Additionally, if you are struggling with a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as PTSD, depression, panic disorder, or schizophrenia, this could further complicate your alcohol withdrawal. It may be beneficial to choose an alcohol detox facility that can address your psychiatric issues and then refer you to a dual diagnosis program once you’re stabilized.

However, if you have a mild alcohol use disorder, you may be able to attend an outpatient detox program safely.1 That way, you can receive professional oversight and detox services before going home in the evening. It is never recommended to detox from alcohol at home without any professional guidance or care. 

If you are determined to detox from alcohol at home, you won’t want to do it entirely alone. You will want to choose an outpatient alcohol detox program that gives you the freedom to continue working, attending school, or meeting other obligations. During outpatient detox, you attend detox sessions at a treatment facility during the day and then return home in the evening.

Outpatient alcohol detox can be beneficial if you have a mild alcohol addiction or mild alcohol withdrawal syndrome and your risk of experiencing alcohol withdrawal complications like seizure or delirium is low. If you don’t have a stable support system at home, then detoxing from alcohol at an outpatient facility and going home in the evening is not recommended.

When you return home after your alcohol detox sessions, you will want to do everything you can to ease your discomfort and promote a healing and healthy recovery. Consider preparing a calm, quiet place with dim lighting and reduced social contact while you detox from alcohol. Here are some things you can do to try to ease your at-home detox:  

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Drink electrolyte drinks
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet
  • Take a shower
  • Try yoga or meditation
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Ease chills with an arm blanket
  • Ease sweats with a cold compress

To facilitate your alcohol detox and rehabilitation, remove alcohol from your home before you attempt to stop drinking. That way, you won’t have unnecessary temptations while going through withdrawal.  It can also be beneficial to alter any habits associated with drinking. For example, if you habitually drink alcohol when spending time at certain places or with particular individuals, it can be helpful to avoid these locations and people.  

Treatment After Alcohol Detox at Better Addiction Care 

Once you complete alcohol detox, you are ready to attend an alcohol addiction treatment program—either inpatient or outpatient. While detox helped you to rid alcohol from your body, it didn’t provide you with the interventions and therapy necessary to change your drinking behaviors. With the help of substance abuse counselors, doctors, and therapists, an alcoholism recovery program can help you understand the underlying factors that influenced your addiction in the first place.   

Speak to a specialist at Better Addiction Care by contacting us or calling us at 800-429-7690 today!  

Related Readings: 

Xanax With Alcohol

Tips for Staying Sober 

Resources

bullet Hayashida, M. (1998)
"An Overview of Outpatient and Inpatient Detoxification. Alcohol Health & Research World 22(1), 44-47"
Retrieved on August 31, 2023
bullet National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (2021, April)
"Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder"
Retrieved on August 31, 2023
bullet U.S. National Library of Medicine (2021)
"Alcohol withdrawal"
Retrieved on August 31, 2023
bullet Trevisan, L.A., Boutros, N., Petrakis, I.L., Krystal, J.H. (1998)
"Complications of Alcohol Withdrawal. Alcohol Health & Research World 22(1), 61-66"
Retrieved on August 31, 2023
bullet Gortney, J.S., Raub, J.N., Patel, P., Kokoska, L., Hannawa, M., & Argyris, A. (2016)
"Alcohol withdrawal syndrome in medical patients. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 83(1), 67-79"
Retrieved on August 31, 2023
bullet Muncie Jr., H. L., Yasinian, Y., & Oge, L. K. (2013)
"Outpatient management of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. American Family Physician, 88(9), 589-595"
Retrieved on August 31, 2023
UP NEXT

Part of How to Detox from Alcohol

Reasons Why a 30 Day Alcohol Detox Might Be Right Updated: Jan 11 2024 Alcoholism affects an average of 15.1 million Americans each year, yet only about 1.3 million Americans will seek the professional help they need....
5 Things You Need to Know About Alcohol Detoxification Updated: Jan 11 2024 Alcoholism is one of the most common and widespread forms of addiction. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA),...
The Dangers of Alcohol Detoxification Updated: Jan 11 2024 Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a national concern as many people become addicted to alcohol and struggle to find the help they need. The Centers...
ON THIS PAGE