This Page was last reviewed and changed on June 9th, 2021
Alcohol detoxification is the process which removes all alcohol from your body, and is a necessary step before you can begin receiving addiction treatment. Detox from alcohol can be physically and emotionally tough, but it will ensure that you are ready for treatment and can start planning your new life free from addiction. In this page, we will discuss the science behind detox and the potential dangers of alcohol home detox. We will also explain what to expect during detox, and the different options and support available through addiction treatment services.
Ultimately, the only way to get alcohol out of your system is to stop drinking it. However, doing this safely requires professional help and sometimes the use of detox medication. Detoxing from alcohol is different for everybody as each person has their own needs and level of alcohol addiction. This is why when you first enter alcohol or drug rehab, you are fully assessed as to the severity of your addiction so that a treatment plan can be devised to help your recovery.
This all begins with detox, and if you decide to seek professional alcohol treatment, medical assessments will be made to decide if you require medication to minimise your risk and discomfort. This decision will ultimately be based on your history of alcohol and substance use and your potential risk of developing severe withdrawal symptoms.
How long does alcohol stay in your system?
The time it takes to detox from alcohol will depend on various factors, such as how much you drink, how long you have been addicted to alcohol and whether you have detoxed before. Your withdrawal symptoms will probably get worse through the first and second days and then will typically peak somewhere around day three or four. From there, provided you do not develop any complications, most of your withdrawal symptoms should completely subside within seven to ten days. You may be prescribed medication following detox to help you control your cravings, which can continue to emerge even after all the alcohol is out of your system.
Cold-turkey alcohol detox
Many people decide not to seek professional help when detoxing from alcohol, and instead choose to undergo home alcohol detox. But is detoxing at home as safe and effective as undergoing detox at a professional rehab clinic? Going “cold turkey” means giving up all alcohol in one go without any medical assistance, and this can be very dangerous. You could develop serious withdrawal symptoms, known as delirium tremens (DTs). These symptoms pose significant risks to your health and can lead to dangerously high fevers, paranoia, confusion and seizures. It is never advisable to undergo home alcohol detox without medical assistance, particularly if you have pre-existing health problems. Detoxing at home often means that you won’t have had these risk factors identified and that there may be no one there to help you if your withdrawal symptoms become severe.
What are the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?
While the above are serious withdrawal symptoms which can be particularly dangerous, the vast majority of people who detox from alcohol will experience some amount of discomfort if not on medication. Common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include headaches, stomach upsets and tremors. Some people may experience fever dreams and an increased heart rate and body temperature. You may lose your appetite or have trouble keeping food down, but all of these symptoms will usually abate after a week or so.
How can I naturally remove alcohol from my system?
If you are looking for a gentler, more natural way to alcohol detox, you can attempt to cut your intake down over a longer period of time while focusing on positive overall lifestyle changes. Reducing the amount you drink while exercising more and eating healthily can bring gradual improvements.
You may not experience the same levels of alcohol withdrawal symptoms as if you gave up drinking in one go, but it may take a while until you are able to quit alcohol altogether. Many people who undergo home alcohol detox without professional advice or support never reach that point, and are unable to get over that final hurdle and achieve total sobriety.
What is the most successful way to stop drinking?
The most successful way to stop drinking is by undergoing a medically assisted alcohol detox and then receiving professional addiction treatment. This is also the safest method. Detox alone does not address the underlying causes of alcohol addiction – it just removes the substance from your body. When you do a home detox without specialist addiction treatment for your underlying alcohol dependence, there is a high chance of relapse because you will still have the same addiction triggers and reactions as before.
You can learn more about the different alcohol treatment centres in your local area, which can help you to address the causes of your alcohol dependence. Our centres offer comprehensive treatment services including medically assisted detox, a range of addiction therapies and crucial aftercare treatments.
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What happens when you give up alcohol?
Giving up alcohol after heavy and long-term alcohol use causes your body to go into an abrupt adjustment period. Our bodies are very intelligent and adaptive, and they can produce chemicals which help to maintain system balances whenever you introduce a substance like alcohol or drugs. When you give up alcohol, there will be a surplus of that compensatory chemical in your system because the brain has become accustomed to producing it. It is this chemical imbalance which causes alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
What can I expect from home alcohol detox?
When you undergo alcohol home detox, you won’t have any medical support and may even be alone with your withdrawal symptoms. Your brain and body will be working overtime to address chemical imbalances, and you may feel a massive urge to drink in order to quell the symptoms. You may feel nauseous, feverish and confused, and may experience tremors and sleep problems. If during your home alcohol detox you begin to experience any of the severe withdrawal symptoms explained above, it is vital that you seek immediate care from a healthcare professional because these symptoms can be potentially life-threatening.
Is detox at a treatment centre safer than alcohol home detox?
Medical detox is far safer than home alcohol detox because your body adapts to reduced alcohol levels at a gradual pace. You will also be under the 24/7 supervision of healthcare and addiction professionals. They will take steps to ensure that you are physically and mentally secure, and will monitor your internal temperature, heart rate, breathing and blood pressure to make sure that everything is okay.
When you detox at home, this help and support will not be available to you and so the risks are much higher. If you are determined to detox at home, we advise you to speak to your GP first so they can give you some advice and support before you start your home detox.
What help does a healthcare professional offer?
Before the detox process begins, your specific needs and the current state of your health will be assessed. At this point, the healthcare professionals may decide that you need medicinal help with your detox. They may also decide this further along in the process if you develop more serious alcohol withdrawal, as your symptoms progress during the different stages of detox.
This medication may include benzodiazepines such as diazepam, alprazolam or lorazepam to reduce the likelihood of seizures. It may also include certain neuroleptic medications to help relax your central nervous system and reduce the agitation and discomfort often caused by alcohol withdrawal. In addition, you may be given certain nutritional supplements and support to help rebalance your mineral levels, which may have been depleted by heavy drinking.
Can your body heal if you stop drinking?
The short answer to this question is yes, but with certain caveats. Age, overall health and, most significantly, the extent and duration of your alcohol misuse, all play a factor in your long-term recovery. Our bodies and brains are incredibly resilient, however, and you may start to see some major health improvements within just a few weeks of your detox. Your liver will begin its recovery with fat reductions of as much as 20% after just one month, your blood sugar levels will begin to normalise and you will begin to feel more energised and cognitively sharp. Longer-term results vary from person to person, but the vast majority of people who have successfully gone through detox and alcohol addiction treatment see significant improvements in their physical, mental and emotional well-being.
What causes alcohol withdrawal?
Withdrawal is the direct result of the body, and in particular the brain, having to cope with less alcohol in the system than it is normally accustomed to. It encourages the release of certain chemicals needed to balance out the alcohol present.
When someone drinks alcohol to excess over a long period of time, their brain gets used to having to compensate for alcohol and will continuously produce those chemicals in order to keep the body functioning normally.
If drinking habits suddenly change and that level of alcohol drops for any reason (such as when you start an alcohol detox programme), it creates a situation in which more chemicals are produced than are needed to compensate. This is the mechanism that triggers withdrawal, and there are only two ways to fix it. The first is to drink alcohol again to balance out the excess chemicals, and the second is to wait until the body has rebalanced itself through medical detox.
What are delirium tremens?
Delirium tremens (DTs) are severe withdrawal symptoms that people with the most serious levels of alcohol addiction may experience during detox. DTs can be potentially very serious and include dangerously high body temperatures, hallucinations and possibly even seizures. The problem with alcohol home detox is that people are not assessed or observed for signs that they are at risk of DTs. People are more likely to experience DTs if they are older, have been drinking heavily for a long period of time and if they have underlying health conditions like liver or heart problems. DTs can be potentially life-threatening, so if you have any of these conditions, you should really think twice before detoxing at home.
Physical signs of alcohol withdrawal
There are various physical signs of alcohol withdrawal. Most commonly, you may experience increased body temperature, tremors, headaches and an upset stomach. In addition, some people may become confused, more irritable and have problems sleeping. These signs will usually start to decline after just a few days of detox.
Call us now for help
+44 2039 496 584
There are various options available to you for alcohol addiction and recovery. You may be able to get all the help you need from local support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, or you may want to enter a recovery programme at an addiction treatment centre. You will need to weigh up the pros and cons of both to decide what is the best option for you and your recovery.
Private rehab treatment
Private treatment at an inpatient addiction treatment centre is considered by many people to be most effective in supporting them through the recovery. Detoxing from alcohol is potentially dangerous but the medical help available will ensure that you are safe during detox. After that, the advice and treatment you will receive through a private addiction service, as well as the support network provided after you leave, can be incredibly valuable. Addiction treatment is a multi-faceted process, and private rehab treatment provides comprehensive recovery programmes to suit every client’s needs. This will include a range of individual and group therapies as well as special CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions to address the underlying issues behind addiction and offer the tools to explore healthy coping mechanisms.
There are treatment and recovery services available through the NHS if you are certain that private rehab is not right for you. You will need to speak to your GP to get advice about the best options available to you. Unfortunately, most treatment available is outpatient treatment, which makes medically supervised detox very difficult. Waiting lists for these services can often be very long and their long-term effectiveness in terms of recovery does not compare to that of private, inpatient treatment. You will still be exposed to your old triggers and may even be living with people who are still drinking alcohol at home while you are trying to detox and receive treatment.
Is it safe to detox from alcohol at home?
Home alcohol detox is often best done after a longer period of reducing alcohol intake at a detox clinic so that your dependence levels are already lowered. Detoxing with the help of a medical professional will reduce the chances of experiencing the most severe symptoms of withdrawal.
Speak to your GP before you attempt a home detox so that you can get any support and information they have about how to do it safely. They may even be able to give you some prescription drugs to help with the recovery process. You should also make sure you have loved ones with you while you are undergoing an alcohol home detox, as they will be able to tend to your needs and look out for any signs of trouble. Long-term recovery from alcohol always starts with detox. Some people believe that they will be able to do this themselves through home detox but this is not the safest or most effective way. To give yourself the best chance of full recovery, it is always advisable to seek professional treatment and advice. Completing your detox at a professional rehab centre will ensure that you are safe, that you are given any medication you need and that once all the alcohol is out of your system, you have the best possible treatment options available to you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you prevent alcohol withdrawal?
No, your body will go through alcohol withdrawal if you are dependent on alcohol and stop drinking.
Can you die from alcohol withdrawal?
Yes, it is possible to die during alcohol withdrawal. Death is extremely rare, though.
What should you eat during alcohol detox?
Eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetable that give your body the nutrients it needs to get through this taxing process.
What can you expect during detox?
During detox you can expect to feel at least somewhat uncomfortable. Your symptoms will vary depending on the severity of your condition.
How does it take to detox from alcohol?
The average time for detox is between 7 and 10 days.
How long does a person stay off alcohol after a detox?
A combination of aftercare services, group support, and the support of friends and family is what makes it possible to stay off alcohol after detox.
Why should I enter an alcohol detox programme?
Professionally administered detox gives you the best chances of recovery by offering you a medically supervised procedure based on the latest treatment models.
What is a binge drinker vs an alcoholic?
A binge drinker is someone who drinks excessively at specific times but is not dependent on alcohol. An alcoholic is a person whose body and mind are dependent.
Is there a distinction between moderation and abstinence?
Experts recommend moderation to people who misuse alcohol but who are not dependent on it. Moderation is not an option for alcoholics. The only real ‘cure’ for alcoholism is abstinence.
Why is it necessary to detox properly from alcohol?
A person dependent on alcohol is suffering from a condition in which both the body and mind rely on alcohol. Detoxification is necessary in order to restore the body’s proper functioning.
Are withdrawal symptoms different for different people?
People respond differently to the withdrawal process. Some exhibit all the classic signs of withdrawal while others exhibit only a few of them. Symptom severity also varies from one person to the next.
How important is medically supervised detox?
It is very important. Due to the potentially serious consequences of alcohol withdrawal, we always recommend medically supervised detox.