what expect alcohol detox

What to Expect: Alcohol Detox

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

If you live in America and you over the age of 21, you have likely had a drink of alcohol. This particular substance is on TV, at the events we attend, and at most of our family gatherings. For this reason alone, recovering from an alcohol addiction can prove to be one of the most challenging obstacles for a person to overcome. But with the right help and guidance, it is absolutely possible.

Side Effects

There are myriad reasons to stop drinking. With 17.6 million people suffering from alcohol abuse or dependence, booze is the most common addictive substance in the US. Beyond the ubiquity of alcohol abuse, it is a deadly substance. On a yearly average, alcohol causes or contributes to over 88,000 deaths a year.

Beyond the death toll, perpetual heavy drinking causes serious, destructive effects on a person’s body. These include liver diseases, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular problems, psychiatric problems—depression, anxiety, and suicide—and even dementia, stroke, and neuropathy. 

Why Not Cold Turkey?

Contrary to common misconception, it is very dangerous to detox from alcohol without supervision. Because a person’s body and brain have become dependent on alcohol, withdrawals from heavy daily drinking can worsen quickly, becoming a medical emergency. Detoxing from alcohol is far more complex than simply the decision to stop going to as many parties or cutting back on drinking in the daytime. But a sudden break off of alcohol to an addicted body could cause hallucinations, convulsions, and heart failure that could lead to death.

Alcohol Treatment

The use of taper medications can be helpful in an alcohol detox. Chlordiazepoxide is a common medication to help the detox process, but other benzodiazepines have offered noticeable results. One of the most important aspects of a detox treatment center is a safe environment with ample information always available to a person looking to find recovery. Heavy monitoring and experienced specialists are the keys to a comfortable and successful detox.

Withdrawal symptoms include: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Sweats
  • Tactile disturbances—tingling in extremities
  • Agitation
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Risk of seizures
  • Delirium—(in rare cases) including auditory or visual disturbances/hallucinations/delusions/paranoia


Alcohol withdrawals will affect different people in varying ways. As well, a person who has been an alcoholic for a longer period of time will experience more severe symptoms, but there are a few consistent reactions you can expect your body to undergo when cutting off the supply of drink.

Mild – First 8 hours:

Symptoms can surface within six hours of taking your last drink. The first stage of detox and the effects can include anxiety, abdominal pains, heart palpitations, moodiness, tremors, GI problems, sweating, and headaches.

Moderate – First to the third day:

Here is where your body will begin to show signs of its deeper dependence. Your blood pressure will rise, there will be an irregular heart rate, heavy sweating, some confusion and more.

Severe Delirium Tremens – Third to the seventh day:

Not every person detoxing from alcohol experiences this stage, but it is the most serious, severe, and absolutely life-threatening when not monitored by a professional. The symptoms include disorientation, impaired attention, visual and/or auditory hallucinations, and seizures.

Right Detox

Usually, the detox symptoms will begin to taper after around five days of cessation of drinking. The most important part of the process is safety and comfort. If you or a loved one is looking for a comprehensive and supportive environment to safely detox from alcohol, please call us today: 1-844-489-0836.

Safe, effective and proven to work, our programs are run by caring professionals committed to helping people move through detox with comfort—providing the best first step on the path toward lasting recovery.

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