It is believed that some 17.6 million people in this country have AUD (alcohol use disorder). Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of these people get professional help. Even in certain cases, where the AUD is severe, those affected simply do not turn for help.

We live in a world where we are always looking for instant gratification. This is one of the reasons why so many people develop an AUD, because alcohol is a readily available, legal, and socially acceptable drug. But it also means that people don’t consider treatment relevant, because they expect results today, not in a month or more. We want quick results in every element of our life. Hence, if people do take the important step of seeking help with their AUD, they often feel very anxious because they know it will be a lengthy process.

Alcohol Detox & Coming Down – How Long Does It Take?

Detox is just the first step towards recovery and a long road is ahead of you. When someone detoxes, they suddenly stop consuming any alcohol, allowing the body to clean itself of all the chemical residues. This usually takes between seven and 10 days. However, the rehab program itself usually lasts at least 45 days, although some people benefit from far lengthier programs, sometimes up to a day.

A number of factors will determine whether someone requires inpatient or outpatient treatment and how long for. Those factors include:

  • What they are addicted to
  • Their history of addiction
  • How bad their addiction is
  • Whether they have other medical, behavioral, or mental health issues (co-occurring conditions)
  • What the individual’s spiritual, social, emotional, mental, and physical needs are

Alcohol Detox & Coming Down – Symptoms

Every individual experiences alcohol detox in a different way. Some people only have mild symptoms, such as nausea and headache. Others have severe, potentially lethal symptoms, such as hallucinations, seizures, and delirium tremens (DT). If someone does not have any co-occurring disorders, however, withdrawal usually goes through three distinct phases. These are:

1. Acute withdrawal, where people tend to experience autonomic nervous system hyperactivity and tremors, and where they are at risk of seizures and DT. Usually, tremors and seizures happen some 48 hours after the last drink, and they can continue up to 72 hours after the last drink. A number of physiological symptoms are associated with this, including increased blood pressure, increased heart rate (tachycardia), irregular body temperature, profuse sweating (diaphoresis), nausea, and vomiting.

2. Early abstinence, at which point most people experience low mood, anxiety, and disrupted sleep, but there are no more acute physical symptoms. Within three to six weeks after someone stops using alcohol, they should no longer suffer from elevated anxiety. The second phase is generally slightly longer for women.

3. Protracted abstinence, which is the final phase. Here dysphoria (a profound and general state of dissatisfaction and unease) and elevated anxiety are not longer obvious, although people may relapse or start to crave alcohol when they are faced with relatively insignificant challenges.

During the early stages of abstinence, people often experience strong psycholgical anxiety, and this can be overwhelming. It often remains long after they have stopped experiencing the physical symptoms. Researchers believe that this is one of the reasons why so many people continue to relapse, and why people continue to use and abuse alcohol as well.

How Alcohol Affects the Body Long TermBecause alcohol is legally available, many of us see it as safe. However, long term AUD can have significant effects on the body. It may have an impact on the heart, leading to cardiomyopathy, irregular heart beat (arrhythmia), high blood pressure, and stroke. The worst affected organ is often the liver, leading to alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver, cirrhosis, and fibrosis. The immune system is also generally weakened, which means people with AUD are more likely to catch tuberculosis and pneumonia. Furthermore, excessive alcohol consumption is linked to cancers of the breast, liver, throat, esophagus, and mouth.

Nutrition Deficiencies in Alcoholics

Additionally, alcoholics usually have a poor appetite, which means they are often malnourished. This in particular makes detox difficult to go through, as they are compromised nutritionally. This is also why vitamin B1 supplements are almost always used in detox. Additionally, patients will be provided with iron and folic acid supplements, so that their overall health is improved. They may also be served broths and herbal teas, which ensure they remain both nourished and hydrated. During detox, doctors may also prescribe some medication to stop people from feeling pleasure when they consume alcohol, or to stop cravings.

Need to Address Both Emotional and Physical Addictions

To truly become sober, both the emotional and physical addictions must be addressed. After undergoing detox, patients will still have to go through rehab as well. Therapy and education will be offered to heal the emotional scars. Additionally, they will learn more about the effects of drinking to excess and the residual psychological and physical symptoms will also be looked at. Therapy helps people to identify what triggers their addictive behavior, and they are then taught to respond to those triggers differently.

When people stop drinking, they often go through serious emotional turmoil. This includes mood swings, nightmares, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. They must learn how to refocus their mind and deal with stress, which can also be achieved through a focus on spiritual needs.

The main focus of rehab is to deal with the emotional and physical needs of the addict. However, social habits also need to be investigated. Patients learn how to develop new and healthier social interactions. They are supported in rebuilding relationships with people who care about them, learn new and more appropriate social skills, and are shown how to avoid potential trigger situations.

Alcohol Detox & Coming Down – Staying Sober

Even after people have undergone detoxed from alcohol and are discharged, relapse rates are incredibly high. The danger is that after having undergone detox and people start drinking again, they are more likely to die as a result of it, because they are more likely to immediately return to the dosage of alcohol that they used to require just to feel some effects. This can lead to alcohol overdose and even death. It is vital, therefore, that aftercare, including linkages to 12 step programs or other recovering alcoholic programs, are provided.