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Alcohol Detox Process And Protocols

If you drink alcohol heavily for weeks, months, or years, you may have both mental and physical problems when you stop or seriously cut back on how much you drink. This is called alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms can range from mild to serious. The process where the human body is going through withdrawal is called detox since the body is physically removing the alcohol from its system.

Detoxing from alcohol without medical monitoring can be dangerous and many times symptoms include life-threatening seizures and other serious complications. Individuals who have become mentally and physically dependent upon alcohol can experience overstimulation of the brain without alcohol because it is a depressant.

Alcohol also puts heavy stress on the kidneys and livers and when the alcohol is no longer being funneled through the organs, there can be significant side effects.

Recovering alcoholics that are just taking the first step to overcome alcohol abuse, choose a medical detox so that they can safely go through the detox process, lessening the withdrawal symptoms to make them more bearable. If you have been drinking alcoholic beverages regularly for more than two years then you should seek help during this first stage of your recovery.

The Importance Of Alcohol Detox

Detox is the first stage of recovery from alcohol use disorder and the most difficult time both mentally and physically. During this time the alcohol is removed from your body. Removing the alcohol is the first step and must be closely medically monitored in order to avoid seizures and other symptoms with come with alcohol withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms begin to subside after 1-2 weeks so it is important to also have therapeutic support from licensed counselors and a strong support system to avoid relapse.

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There are three stages that you will go through when you are withdrawing from alcohol. The first stage will last for about twelve hours after your last drink.

During these hours, you may experience some of the following effects:

  • Insomnia
  • Poor appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting

Stage two lasts 12 to 48 hours. The symptoms in this stage are more intense than during stage one and include:

  • Tremors and seizures
  • Hallucinations and even
  • Delirium tremens

There is a third stage of withdrawal that occurs during the first 72 hours after stopping drinking. The symptoms in this third stage include:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Concentration problems
  • High blood pressure and heart rate

Alcohol detox must be monitored by a medical professional so that they can watch for any changes in the symptoms and address them as needed.


There is the essential need to not take care of withdrawal alone as it can be a harmful process. Alcohol detox is most effective when managed by a medical professional. They can watch for any changes in the symptoms and address them with medication if need be.

Medication is generally not used for alcohol detox because it can be very difficult to decide which medication would work best as well as the fact that there will be withdrawal symptoms of its own. Counseling is considered an essential part of treatment during alcohol detox.

Detox from alcohol should only be done at a medical facility where the patient can be observed for changes in symptoms and treated accordingly. Doctors can also prescribe medication that will ease withdrawal symptoms and make the process much safer to go through. Also, inpatient detox with medical supervision is the method that has been proven to be more effective than other methods.


Benzodiazepines are a group of sedative drugs that are used to treat anxiety, panic disorders, and various seizure types. Benzodiazepines are physician-prescribed agents that are frequently utilized to manage the majority of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

The beneficial effects of benzodiazepines for severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms include a reduction in the intensity of tremors and seizures.

Benzodiazepines can be an effective part of minimizing alcohol withdrawal symptoms if chosen correctly and monitored closely.

All of these medications are effective for severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms. However, some researchers argue that certain benzodiazepines exhibit greater effects than others

Other seizure medications are also sometimes given to assist with the management of acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome. During severe alcohol withdrawal, doctors may give other seizure medicines in addition to benzodiazepines.

Doctors choose one or more types of medications based upon the severity of withdrawal symptoms and other medical conditions. The goal is to provide medications that will calm the patient and reduce withdrawal symptoms, without causing excessive sedation or interfering with the brain’s ability to interpret events happening around him or her.

Get The Best Alcohol Detox

Seeking help for alcohol use is a huge step toward living a new life of happiness and sobriety. That’s why the decision on where to get treatment should not be taken lightly. At Magnified Health Systems, we are here to help.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does Alcohol Detox Last For?

How much you drink, how long you've been drinking, and whether you've previously gone through alcohol withdrawal all affect how long it takes to detox. After their final drink, most people stop experiencing withdrawal symptoms four to five days later. Within hours of finishing a drinking session, alcohol withdrawal might start. But not everyone will experience withdrawal symptoms in the same way; for instance, some people will have milder symptoms than others. Alcohol withdrawal normally starts eight hours after the last drink, but it can occasionally take several days to start, as reported by the National Library of Medicine. If you are wondering how long alcohol detox takes, the majority of the time, the symptoms peak between 24 and 72 hours, however, some may last for several weeks. The timeline for alcohol withdrawal is commonly thought to have four stages: stage one (first six to twelve hours), stage two (next twelve to forty-eight hours), stage three (last forty-eight to seventy-two hours), and stage four (three to seven days).

How Much Does Alcohol Detox Cost?

The cost of addiction treatment varies depending on the institution. While some services are completely free, others charge thousands of dollars every day. For every budget, there is a facility available. Anyone who is conscious of the resources at their disposal has the potential to heal. The average cost of rehab in 2021 was:
  • Drug detox for 30 days: $240–850 per day
  • $1,450 to $10,000 for three months of outpatient therapy
  • $3,100 to $10,000 for a 30-day intensive outpatient program
  • $5,100 to $80,000 for residential therapy

If I Go To Alcohol Detox Do I Get To Speak To My Family?

Family members are welcome to visit you while you are in drug and alcohol rehab programs. Both during scheduled visiting hours and during family therapy sessions, members of your family are welcome to visit. In most cases, you are also permitted to call your family members.

Can I Detox Myself From Alcohol?

Each person has a different threshold for safety. Depending on how heavily you drink. At-home detox can be an option for you if your withdrawal symptoms are not too severe. However, alcohol withdrawal is a medical emergency for a lot of folks.

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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Naltrexone. November 2016.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Acamprosate. November 2016.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2012). Disulfiram. November 2016.

Merrill, D. J. (2022, September 15). Call the 24/7 drug abuse & addiction hotline. National Drug Helpline. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Alcohol withdrawal: Medlineplus Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. Retrieved December 21, 2022, from

Helander, A., Böttcher, M., Dahmen, N., & Beck, O. (2019). Elimination characteristics of the alcohol biomarker phosphatidylethanol (PEth) in blood during alcohol detoxification. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 54(3), 251-257.

Liappas, J., Paparrigopoulos, T., Malitas, P., Tzavellas, E., & Christodoulou, G. (2004). Mirtazapine improves alcohol detoxification. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 18(1), 88–93.

Medical Advice Disclaimer

Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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