How Long Does it Take to Detox From Alcohol?
Last Updated: August 24, 2023
Although the time it takes to remove alcohol from your system differs for everyone, alcohol detox generally takes about seven days.
Detoxing from alcohol often takes about a week, but the time varies by person. Alcohol detox is the most dangerous detox and carries a higher risk of dying than heroin or cocaine detox; therefore, someone who has a severe alcohol addiction or relapsed before should get medical help for this process.
How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol?
How long it takes to detox from alcohol differs based on individual factors. Detox begins 12–24 hours after the last drink and lasts five to seven days for most people. Someone who uses alcohol heavily may take even longer to detox from alcohol.
There is a misconception that detox is solely the process of your body ridding a substance, like alcohol, from the bloodstream. While that is part of detox, it is really the process of your brain readjusting its sensitivity to chemicals to account for the new absence of alcohol.
Alcohol is eliminated from the bloodstream in about 12–36 hours, depending on how heavily it was used. The brain, however, can take a week or more to adjust to the absence of alcohol fully. This adjustment causes withdrawal symptoms and the harmful effects of detox.
Alcohol Detox Timeline
The alcohol withdrawal timeline differs based on the individual but follows a somewhat predictable path. The alcohol detox timeline often occurs in four distinct stages.
- Onset (6–12 hours): Mild symptoms begin and may include alcohol cravings, nausea, insomnia and mood changes.
- Intensification (12–48 hours): The symptoms of the first stage worsen, and physical changes such as blood pressure and heart rate increase may occur. Tremors, sweatiness and anxiety may develop and strengthen.
- Peak (48–72 hours): This is the most intense detox stage and when the most dangerous symptoms may occur. Seizures, hallucinations and delirium tremens may develop as symptoms reach peak intensity.
- Reduction (three to seven days): Symptoms gradually reduce in intensity, disappearing one by one. Symptoms typically decrease more slowly than they developed.
Symptoms may peak within 24–48 hours in a mild detox but more often within 48–72 hours during a more intense detox. Symptoms can continue for a week or more but gradually reduce after peaking. Physical effects rarely last over 10 days, but mental symptoms and cravings may persist for months.
Factors That Influence the Alcohol Detox Timeline
Several factors may influence a person’s alcohol detox timeline, including:
- Severity of alcohol use: Those who have been drinking heavily for an extended time may experience a longer and more difficult detox period than those who have been drinking moderately for a shorter time.
- Age: Older individuals may have a longer detox period due to liver function and metabolism changes.
- General health: Those with pre-existing health conditions or compromised immune systems may experience a more extended detox period or worse symptoms.
- Genetics: Genetic factors may influence an individual’s ability to metabolize alcohol and could affect the length and severity of withdrawal symptoms.
- Medication use: Individuals taking certain medications may have a longer or a shorter detox than they normally would.
- Nutritional status: Poor diet can affect an individual’s ability to cope with detox and may prolong the process.
How Long Does It Take the Body To Recover From Alcohol Abuse?
The body can fully heal from alcohol abuse within 7–10 days. Alcohol abuse does, however, cause many physical side effects beyond withdrawal symptoms when stopping alcohol use.
Recovery from alcohol abuse depends on how much alcohol has already damaged the body. For example, alcohol abuse can cause irreversible liver damage, even when alcohol use is stopped. In this situation, the body will never fully recover from alcohol abuse.
The body’s ability to heal from alcohol abuse and the speed at which it will recover depend on how heavily alcohol was used. The sooner you stop drinking alcohol, the better your chances of completely and quickly recovering from alcohol abuse.
Take A Step Toward Recovery
Detox From Home vs. Medical Detox: Which Is Faster?
The alcohol detox timeline is often similar at home or with medical help, but the risks and comfort dramatically differ. Detoxing from home can be risky, especially if dangerous symptoms like delirium tremens develop. Over one-third of people with this side effect die without medical treatment.
While there isn’t a significant difference between home and medical detox timelines, a home detox will generally be much less comfortable as unpleasant withdrawal symptoms go untreated. If dangerous symptoms develop, death or disability can also be more likely to occur without medical treatment.
Detoxing with professional help is safer, easier and more comfortable. At The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, we have substantial experience helping people get through medical detox as comfortably as possible. Contact us to learn how we can help you on your journey to lasting sobriety.
Our Recovery Advocates are ready to answer your questions about addiction treatment and help you start your recovery.
MedlinePlus. “Alcohol.” March 22, 2022. Accessed March 2, 2023.
David C. Dugdale. “Alcohol withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, January 17, 2021. Accessed March 2, 2023.
Saitz, Richard. “Introduction to Alcohol Withdrawal.” Alcohol Health & Research World, 1998. Accessed March 2, 2023.
Elliott, Dolores. “Caring for hospitalized patients with alcohol withdrawal syndrome.” Nursing Critical Care, September 2019. Accessed March 2, 2023.
Rahman, Abdul & Paul, Manju. “Delirium Tremens.” StatPearls, August 22, 2022. Accessed March 2, 2023.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.