alcohol addiction

Classified as a depressant, alcohol like any other depressant, slows vital functions which results garbled speech, wobbly movements, disturbed perceptions and failure to react swiftly. In fact, the effects of alcohol on human body makes it at par with any illicit drugs. Quantity of alcohol consumed determines the effect it has on human body.

People typically drink a moderate amount of wine or beer for getting a stimulating effect, in other words, to loosen up. But if the amount exceeds the person’s capacity to handle it, then alcohol takes the role of a depressant. Once this effect kicks in, the person starts feeling stupid about drinking it and loses control and coordination of various faculties.

alcohol addiction

Alcoholic overdose can even result in severe depressant effects like alcoholic toxicity, fainting and losing ability to feel any pain. It can also cause coma or even death on account of severe toxicity from overdosing. However, these depend on the amount of alcohol that is consumed and the rate at which it is consumed. Due to its ability to make a person addicted to it, alcohol is also treated at par with drugs. Along with addiction, comes behavioral changes and feelings that is unacceptable to the person when he is sober as well as the society.

There is no best time to let go of this habit and a person can decide to sober up any time. However, to have best results the person should seek help to detoxify and rehabilitate oneself. This helps him/her to get back to normal life and also stay clean. Giving up alcohol is a lengthy process and the alcoholic needs support (counseling, medication, behavioral therapy etc) for detoxifying and cleanse the body from it.

How to detox and how long does it take

If one is a chronic drinker, the very thought of handling alcohol withdrawal symptoms and detox process would give jitters. How long the withdrawal symptoms would last depends on how long the person has been drinking, how often and how much is consumed. Generally speaking, a person would have acute withdrawal symptoms for 2 to 4 days after last drink, with the worst being second and third day. This, however, varies from person to person. Though detoxification period is not that long, for most individuals, it takes about a week to cleanse the body completely of alcohol.

Each person experiences alcohol withdrawal symptoms differently. If a person has drunk in large quantities and very frequently, and last drink has been high alcohol concentrate, then the chances of getting intense withdrawal symptoms is higher. However, factors like body type and individual metabolism also play a major role. It is not easy to predict the duration and severity of alcohol withdrawal prior to initiating detoxification process. If one has been a chronic alcoholic, it is best to get prepared for the worst when it comes to alcohol withdrawal.

The worst here is being in the medical detox unit of an alcohol rehabilitation facility, where proper medical care would be provided with focus on getting treated for symptoms and addiction itself. The binding or commitment of the addict towards the treatment is the focus and person getting frustrated during the process can worsen the symptoms further.

About 30 million Americans are reported to abuse alcohol and 17.6 million adult Americans have AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder), but only a fraction of them actually seek professional help. Professional help can benefit even those who have worst case scenarios. How long will it take is generally the first question asked when it comes to considering detox for overcoming alcohol addiction, as Americans are used to quick results in many walks of life and want the same for treatments also.

Overcoming anxiety of person who gets started on detox process is the most difficult part of becoming sober. One should not forget that detox is just an initial step on a long road of recovery and detox marks an abrupt end of alcohol intake and is important to get the body cleansed from all traces of alcohol. The detox process usually takes seven to 10 days and the rehab programs last minimum of 30 to 45 days.

Some of the patients/clients benefit from a 60 to 90 days stay at inpatient centers. Again, length of the stay depends on following conditions – the specific addiction, addiction history, addiction severity, presence of other medical or mental health conditions (any comorbid diagnosis), and the person’s emotional, physical, mental, social or spiritual needs.

Certain medical complications like increase in blood pressure, respiratory, or cardiac conditions may increase time for getting through alcohol detoxification process. In majority of the cases, medical intervention stabilizes the person. The person undergoing detox can have mental health issues like anxiety, depression, agitation, confusion, fatigue, paranoia, mood swings, and insomnia which would need medical attention and again lengthen the detox process. These symptoms may worsen during detox process; however, with proactive treatment, the road to recovery gets less bumpy.

Despite all these obstacles, the good news is that alcoholism is highly treatable condition, though there is nothing else that is positive about this disorder. While no cure has been developed for it as of now, but treatments based on evidence have been found effective. The challenge, however, is identifying the best and most appropriate treatment plan for every individual. Just as detox experience is not same for two patients, the treatment plan also cannot be the same for two different patients.

In order to deal with alcoholic withdrawal, the best thing is to check oneself into a drug rehab center and get detoxed there, as detoxing at home may get little risky and is generally not advised. A person who wants to detoxify can take this approach when alcohol treatment centers do not take cases immediately and a prior appointment has to be booked, before getting to meet them for admission. Though not be possible every single time, but getting right help at right time is the key for detox treatment. Calling a detox center with a minimum wait time while getting self-medicated with moderate treatment until detox process begins under proper medical supervision is priority.

Detox is not a Rehab

A crucial thing to remember is that detox is not a rehab, but detox is necessary to begin a rehab and it is a beginning of the road to recovery and not the journey itself. For the best recovery, it is important that the individual gets a proper treatment after the detox and best way to achieve it is following up detox with an inpatient treatment program. This actually teaches different tools as one recovers from alcohol addiction. A majority of individuals need a strong support system for maintaining their sobriety following rehab process and for that it is necessary for these serious addicts to seek out a 12-step program like AA for their recovery.

The challenge is staying sober for the first few months and even for the first year out of rehab, when chances of relapse are extremely high. Being fearless to ask for help and building a strong support system for oneself, staying clean and sober would be the difficult thing to do, but chances of success is much greater if one has others to lean on and the support system is strong and of his/her own people who love him/her. Do not damage yourself trying to get the addiction sorted on your own alone without any help as this can cause more harm than good.

Alcohol Detox Treatment

One of highly abused substances in human society, alcohol does not do any good to its users and what starts initially as a small peg becomes one to two glasses which goes on increasing until the person becomes an addict. A study by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism shows that of all Americans who binged on alcohol, about 43% are male, with duration prolonging to state of severe alcoholism, with several devastating consequences tagging along. Alcohol dependency has always resulted in affecting both physical and emotional health of a person. The best gift a person can give to oneself is choosing to give up the bottle.


Detox or Detoxification is primary step in the phase of recovery for the substance abuse. It encompasses the period after the last drink a person had to ridding the body of all toxins or alcohol from the body in order to start the treatment from scratch. The main aim of detoxification process is to ensure that the alcoholic can embark on a path to abstinence safely and comfortably once recovery process starts. The moment the person’s body is rid of all traces of alcohol, recovery begins.

Why Proper Detox is Essential?

Besides toxic drugs, alcohol can also become a very hazardous stuff to detox a person from. Once the detox process is initiated, withdrawal symptoms has the potential to turn fatal, hence medical monitoring becomes important. It holds true in almost every abuse and alcohol dependency case. While it is important to physically rid the body of alcohol, evaluation of the person for any psychological factors is also necessary. Its’ important as these factors tend to tag along with severe alcohol dependency, and could result in treatment complications and send detoxification plans for a toss.

Some detox centers providing exclusive luxury programs including personalized care can makes assessment of a person’s psychopathology during detoxification process, so as to better manage any psychological situations which can crop up during later stages. An alcohol addict has to understand the fact that merely making a decision for detoxification doesn’t end the struggles, but it is just the starting and treatment could become uncomfortable as it progresses. Detox can become the extremely difficult segment of treatment program as the body begins to struggle without the alcohol, which it has become habituated to, thus, leading to withdrawal symptoms.

Expectations from Alcohol Detox

Severity of withdrawal from detox depends on how long and how severe the person’s addiction was. It is critical to be aware of the fact that one person’s detox experience, its duration and severity can be very different from another person. The progress of an individual’s detox process is determined by several factors, so accurately determining the course is difficult. However, its’ possible to obtain a general timeframe for detoxification process based upon symptom progression.

First Hour

First hour of detox would result in person craving for alcohol, a clear indicator that body has started detoxifying. Cravings generally occur within few hours after the last drink and can continue well into the process. Other symptoms that could show up are physical malaise, anxiety, irritability, depression, increased blood pressure and heart rate, insomnia, nightmares, tremors (similar at all stages) and in cases of severe addictions, symptoms can persist and/or even get worse through the detoxification process.

First and Second Day of Detox

The initial two days of detoxification show severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms like hallucinations and even deadly seizures. Symptoms that happen in these two days can turn fatal once brain starts reacting to alcohol being removed from the system. Hallucination happens on the first one to two days and seizures may possibly occur, within the initial 12 hours to nearly 48 hours following final drink and can last for many days even after initiation of treatment process.

Heart rate increases and the person can also have pain in the chest, indicating a spike in blood pressure and heart problems. A dangerous effect called Delirium Tremens (DT) occurs too. For most people, the detoxification process continues even beyond 48 hours. Longstanding alcohol addiction cases would probably require close supervision for many days even after the detox decision is taken.

Detoxification can go on for days after development of early withdrawal symptoms and the craving grows with physical discomfort. If not managed properly, seizure activity begins and continues with severity. Nearly 48 hours after detoxification process, the seizure risk lessens in most of the cases. However, medical observation would still be required since likelihood of cardiovascular events (stroke, heart attack) and extreme confusion remains high. Symptoms typically happens between 48 and 96 hours following final drink, but can occasionally set in late, sometimes starting 7 to 10 days following final drink.

Delirium Tremens include body tremors, irritability, agitation, fever, sweating, confusion disorientation, mood swings, hallucinations and seizures. Mortality rates for cases of unmanaged DTs are very high, so sedatives, careful supervision along with supportive care becomes extremely important till risk subsides over the next several days during detox process and rehabilitation routine. DT risk factors are not prominent in every single recovering addict, but since is very dangerous, a recovering addict should have either the addiction professionals or the physician asses the risks so as to ensure appropriate treatment in case it is needed in the future.

Severity of Delirium Tremens generally depends on the quantity and frequency of drinking. Risk factors for DT to occur during the withdrawal phase would include not having adequate food during heavy drinking session, infection, head injury, illness, history of withdrawal symptoms experience, drinking for over 10 years and cessation of drinking after a time of drinking too much. Alcohol detoxification and subsequent withdrawal could physically and mentally drain a person and cravings, health complication, mood swings become common. Though it seems like a scary proposition, it is important to learn about detoxification process thoroughly, particularly for those with severe alcohol dependency.

Physical symptoms of alcohol detox

Alcohol withdrawal is experienced differently by different people, however, most people experience some of these withdrawal symptoms at least at some point as alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These would include racing heart beats, fever, sweating, mood swings, headache, anxiety, increase in blood pressure, confusion, agitation and seizures. Seizures is the most treacherous of these acute withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms occur because brain cells begin to change as they start adapting to presence of alcohol and its sedating effect throughout the system.

When alcohol is withdrawn from the system, the brain struggles to adjust to rebounding level of stimulation. Sometimes, the brain cannot cope with this new excitatory neuronal activity, resulting in a seizure. Risks of seizure remains high for several days following the last drink, hence making it more important to begin treatment with detox and have all alcohol removed from the body first. Beginning treatment for alcohol abuse after safely completing the detox is the best way to set oneself up for maintain sobriety. This way the entire physical discomfort part is broken and one can begin to focus on the recovery part.

Other alcohol detoxification symptoms may begin with nausea, mild headache, with worse being Delirium Tremens, which is marked by hallucinations and seizures. If the addict has no comorbid conditions, nor uses any other drugs, or is on other treatment, process of alcohol withdrawal would follows three phases –

1. Acute withdrawal
2. Early abstinence and
3. Protracted abstinence.

In the first phase, the person gets severe tremors, has hyperactive autonomic nervous system and carries risk for seizures and DTs. Second phase is more of having low mood, feeling anxious, as well as having disturbed sleep. Women take a longer time to transition from this phase than men. Third phase is the last step where there is increased dysphoria (state of uneasiness or dissatisfaction), anxiety, and irrelevant challenges can trigger negativity, cravings and relapse.

Long-term Effects of alcohol on Human Body :

The entire body pays a heavy price for alcohol consumption. Heart is affected since drinking alcohol results in arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, stroke and spikes in blood pressure. Liver faces major consequences including alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver, cirrhosis and liver fibrosis. Immunity level weakens tremendously in the addict, making the person susceptible to diseases like tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Risks of oral, throat, esophageal, breast and liver cancer increases due to excessive drinking. Excessive drinking causes the addicts to eat less and subsequently become malnourished and this along with physical challenges of detoxification heavily compromises nutrition.

Rehabilitation centers in their program use vitamin B1, iron and folic acid supplements for boosting overall health of an individual. Herbal tea and broth also are served for maintaining hydration slowly and gently. Medications that reduce pleasures of consuming alcohol and cravings are prescribed by doctors at these centers. Both physical and psychological aspects are addressed in order to achieve person’s sobriety. Initial cleansing is then followed by rehab program and focus begins on healing emotionally with therapy and education.

Coping skills are honed along with the treatment. When the person has stopped drinking, the person starts having emotional repercussions as side effects and then person feels fatigued, depressed, anxious, gets nightmares or experiences mood swings. It is here where coping skills come into picture. Meeting the spiritual need of the person is one way to help people who are on path of recovery to gain inner mental peace.

Rehabs also focus on helping such people develop new social skills along with practical strategies to not only avoid relapse but also avoid situations that can trigger any relapse. After the addict gets sobered down from detox process, he/she would be at high risk for getting a relapse and can become susceptible to any type of system failures. Hence, continuous care is crucial to get a successful recovery and prevent relapse.

Treatment for Withdrawal

Typically, all it takes is five days for acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms to dissipate, though some might require few more days. Any other serious symptoms that are present are supervised medically at detox centers. Detoxification that is medically assisted involves addiction treatment professionals monitoring the detoxification phase for ensuring that the person negotiates through the risky phase without any undue problems.

Traditional alcohol withdrawal treatments offer supportive therapies that would help in preparing him/her to get back to routine everyday life. Luxury treatment centers provide quality treatment for substance abuse, with focus primarily being comfort and privacy. Amenities like recreational entertainment, internet access, private rooms and personalized care among others are provided in these facilities. Since initial stage of the recovery gets uncomfortable, luxury treatments settings becomes ideal for these recovering alcohol addicts.

Traditional alcohol withdrawal treatment programs also use comparable therapeutic approach and these also can be equally beneficial. However, cost can become a factor since luxury treatment centers turn out to be more expensive than traditional ones where amenities are provided at low costs. All said and done, the choice one makes should eventually ensure that health (physical and psychological) of an individual is given topmost priority throughout the treatment process.

Experience during the alcohol detox

The worst experience is life-threatening experience if alcohol detox is not handled or treated properly. Technically, the brain’s neurotransmitters are being heavily suppressed when alcohol is consumed and once it is stopped, it rebounds in the body and mind naturally, causing adverse effects on the brain and the body. Some of the effects that one has to be cautious of are fatigue, sweating, vomiting, nausea, rapid heartbeats, dangerous dehydration, tremors, DT (Delirium Tremens), depression, irritability and seizures.

Addiction treatment professionals or doctors play a vital role in addressing the alcohol abuse and the detox process in the safest way possible. Sobriety from alcohol is a hard path to begin on, but by seeking help from resources and with education, one can find ways and means to recover. Detox process is typically lengthy in terms of actual days, but they are intense and temporary that won’t last forever. When complemented with other set of treatments, there is progress seen when compared to just trying detox process alone. A customized recovery plan is best way to stay sober.

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Dr. Ezerioha completed his Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) in 2016 from the Medical University of South Carolina. He is the founder and CEO of Ranvia Group, which is a consulting group for healthcare companies that produce healthcare related consumer technology.