What is Detoxing from Alcohol Really Like?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

For those who are preparing to go into a drug treatment facility in order to face their alcohol addiction, they must prepare themselves physically and mentally for the treatment process. While many who struggle with alcohol abuse know the benefits of treatment, they also have significant fear and uncertainty. These feelings of uncertainty are at their most pronounced when focused on the alcohol detox process. It is an essential part of the recovery process, yet for many alcoholics they approach to drug and alcohol detox with great hesitance.

Whether it is due to the horror stories they hear from others or it is due to misinformation, those who seek treatment for alcoholism may desire to skip drug and alcohol detox or think they can detox on their own. These methods are highly unadvisable, risky and can pose significant dangers to your health. Before you go to alcohol treatment, it is necessary to know exactly what alcohol detox is really like.

How Long Does It Take?

The first question that anyone seeking treatment for their alcohol abuse will ask is how long will the detox process take. In a society where we expect results right now, those who start detoxification may feel that the process will go quickly and they can move onto treatment. This attitude is misguided and can actually make the drug treatment process more difficult. In reality, alcohol detox is only the first step in the recovery process and time and patience is needed in order for those who are alcoholic to fully rid the body of toxins and to get to a substance-free and stable state.

In order to for the body and mind to return to normal, the entire detox process lasts on average between 10-14 days. However, the time spent in drug and alcohol detox can be longer dependent on a number of factors including the length of time someone has been drinking, the amount of alcohol consumed, as well as the frequency of use. Additionally, alcohol detox may be a longer process for those who also abuse other substances and/or have underlying health complications.

What are the Symptoms That Can Be Experienced During Detox?


Alcohol directly impacts the functioning of the central nervous system, and when a person abruptly stops their alcohol intake it can’t cope with the lack of alcohol in the body. As a result, people can experience a wide range of physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that can be highly uncomfortable and can be excruciatingly painful. Perhaps the most frightening symptom that can be experienced is delirium tremens (DT’s). Known as “the horrors”, people can experience convulsions that are so violent they can lose consciousness. They can also experience vivid hallucinations and have considerable confusion in regards to their surroundings and who they are.

During the drug and alcohol detox process, people can also expect to experience major disruptions in their sleep patterns. During alcohol detox, patients can feel extremely tired and can fatigue easily during the day. Additionally, people can wake up repeatedly during the night, have disturbing dreams, and may sleep excessively. Additionally, people can also experience deep depression during the detox process. They may face difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, and have a general lack of motivation, and in worst case scenarios experience suicidal thoughts.

Mood swings can also be expected during alcohol detox, and many people in early recovery can experience a wide range of emotions that can swing wildly and unpredictably from one moment to the next. People in the early stages of recovery from alcohol abuse can feel euphoria one minute, boredom the next then can become irritable and agitated the next.  Finally, people who undergo drug and alcohol detox may experience extreme cravings that can be overwhelming–and the thoughts of using can be very real and vivid.

What Happens After Alcohol Detox?

Once a person gets to a substance-free and stable state, detox staff will prepare them for their transition into formal and intensive drug treatment. During drug treatment, experienced therapists and other staff will utilize a wide range of therapy and service options that will help addicts address and overcome their substance abuse. Additionally, those in treatment will get the tools and support necessary live a life of recovery while dealing with the daily stresses at home, at the workplace or at school.

Are You Looking for A Safe and Effective Detox Program That is Proven To Work?

Undergoing drug and alcohol detox at a reputable drug treatment center will help you regain your physical and mental health, and it will make your drug treatment experience easier and more meaningful. For alcohol detox programs that are safe, effective and proven to work, First Steps Recovery should be your first call. Call us today and take the first step towards freedom from alcohol.

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