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How Long Does It Take To Detox From Alcohol?

If you’ve been drinking excessively and then stop abruptly, it’s normal to have withdrawal symptoms within a few hours or even days. Further, if you’ve not been drinking for a long time, your alcohol withdrawal symptoms may be somewhat uncomfortable.

Individuals who have abused alcohol for several years may experience extreme and, in the worst cases, fatal symptoms. As such, it’s crucial to speak to a competent alcohol rehab facility for detox support. While at it, here’s everything you need to know about what can affect your alcohol withdrawal timeline.

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What Should You Expect When You Get Sober?

According to Magnified Health Systems, an accredited addiction treatment facility, the onset of withdrawal symptoms in terms of timing (how long it takes to detox from alcohol) and severity depends on several variables, including a person’s age, duration of alcohol use, and body weight. In addition, you may feel some of the milder detox symptoms as early as two to six hours after your last alcohol consumption.

These symptoms often peak in one to three days for people who drink less. However, they can last up to seven days for people who drink heavily. Persistent withdrawal symptoms, on the other hand, can last a month or longer, but they are rare. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that most people who go through withdrawal experience the following symptoms:

  • Anxiety and irritability 
  • Foggy thinking
  • Negative feelings like depression
  • A feeling of complete exhaustion
  • Trembling of the body
  • Irregular mood swings
  • Memory loss

Studies also show that during alcohol detox, individuals often have trouble falling or staying asleep through the night. When doctors evaluate patients for alcohol withdrawal, they usually look for certain physical symptoms and signs, which include the following:

  • Racing pulse and high blood pressure
  • Enlargement of the pupils
  • Increased fever or body temperature
  • Short, shallow breaths
  • Shaking hands

Additionally, SAMHSA reports that three to five percent of individuals who detoxify after excessive alcohol consumption experience delirium tremens, a condition that requires immediate medical attention. Below are some possible symptoms associated with this condition:

  • High fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe agitation and disorientation
  • Seizures

Without immediate medical attention, delirium tremens can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and in the worst case, death. Therefore, it is in the best interest of alcoholics not to attempt detoxing on their own without regular monitoring, ideally by a physician.

Even if you are only suffering from mild withdrawal symptoms, you should not attempt to detox at home. It’s important to have a doctor nearby to help you should any complications arise. You should also make follow-up appointments with your primary care physician. Inpatient treatment can be very helpful during this time.

It is important to know that the withdrawal symptoms that occur when an alcohol-dependent person suddenly stops drinking without undergoing medical detox can be extremely harmful and even fatal. Delerium Tremens can occur from stopping drinking cold turkey. That is why it is important to have a professional by your side.

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The Duration Of Alcohol Detox

There are several methods medical professionals can use to help patients safely withdraw from alcohol. The most important component of any detoxification therapy is the time it takes for the body to convert the alcohol into metabolites.

In the meantime, doctors give patients food and thiamine to replenish the body. In turn, that slows alcohol absorption in the stomach. It is worth noting that many alcoholics are thiamine deficient. Vitamin thiamine is very important for metabolism. Therefore, physicians always ensure to administer it to patients before food intake.

Doctors also often prescribe lorazepam to people suffering from ethanol withdrawal problems. Sometimes they also administer medications such as Ativan, a benzodiazepine used to prevent seizures, which is given to patients depending on the severity of their situation.

If this does not help, they try phenobarbital next. There are established safe treatment procedures that medical staff at treatment centers usually follow.

Patients who drink a lot and regularly should take more care during detoxification than those who drink less frequently. They need to see a doctor as soon as possible if they have any of the following problems:

  • Nausea
  • Respiratory distress
  • High fever

 Elderly patients suffering from the following conditions should not perform a detox without medical supervision:

  • Liver problems
  • Problems with drugs
  • Previous difficulties with seizure

It is not possible for the body to automatically turn alcohol “on” or “off.” It is either not processed or processed in the various body systems. However, research shows that the rate of alcohol metabolism is subject to a person’s age, weight, or gender and the amount of food they consume.

When a person consumes alcohol, the stomach and small intestinal mucosa are responsible for absorbing the alcohol into their bloodstream. This process can take up to 30 seconds. Nonetheless, depending on the person, it can take up to 20 minutes, with an absorption rate that reduces contingent on the food quantity in the stomach. After that, the blood transports the alcohol throughout the body and the brain.

Alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme is responsible for alcohol breakdown in the liver, at about half a liter of drink per hour. The standard drink consists of a 12-ounce beer with 5% alcohol content, a 1.5-ounce shot glass, or a 5-ounce wine glass with 12% alcohol content.

Your liver can’t keep up if you drink more than one standard drink per hour. The alcohol will still be present in your bloodstream. Therefore, the more you drink, the more time your body needs to metabolize the alcohol, leading to serious alcohol effects. 

What Are The Factors Affecting Alcohol Absorption in the Body?

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measures the amount of alcohol in your blood. Several factors can affect how quickly the body absorbs alcohol. Some of these factors include:


As you age, alcohol stays in your body longer. As a result, unprocessed alcohol stays in the bloodstream longer.


Unlike men, women often have a higher percentage of fat in their bodies and less water than men, which is why their bodies metabolize alcohol more slowly.

Duration Since Your Last Alcohol Consumption

If you have consumed a lot of alcohol, your liver will have difficulty keeping up with the detoxification process, making it longer.


Medicines such as antidepressants, antibiotics, allergy medications, and diabetic medications can affect alcohol absorption in the body.

Core Principles That Drive Alcohol Recovery

At Magnified Health Systems, we have developed important philosophies and core principles that each of us follows from our mission statement. We recognize that addictive disorders harm individuals and affect their loved ones and communities. Treating the patient is only the beginning of our work; from there, we move on to much deeper issues.

For an individualized treatment plan based on your needs and those of your loved ones, call us immediately at 833-930-3414. Better yet, visit our website at to learn more about our treatment options.

Magnified Health Systems

2635 Old Okeechobee Rd,

West Palm Beach,

FL West Palm Beach FL, 33409



Questions And Answers How Long Alcohol Detox Takes

How quickly does alcohol leave your system?

Using BAC, the excretion of alcohol normally occurs at a rate of 0.015 per hour. At a BAC of 0.08, it takes the body approximately 5.5 hours to metabolize and flush out the alcohol consumed.

How long can a drug test detect alcohol?

Using BAC, the excretion of alcohol normally occurs at a rate of 0.015 per hour. At a BAC of 0.08, it takes the body approximately 5.5 hours to metabolize and flush out the alcohol consumed.

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Allan, C. (2000). Detoxification from alcohol: A comparison of home detoxification and hospital-based day patient care. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 35(1), 66–69.

Hayashida, M., Alterman, A. I., McLellan, A. T., O’Brien, C. P., Purtill, J. J., Volpicelli, J. R., Raphaelson, A. H., & Hall, C. P. (1989). Comparative effectiveness and costs of inpatient and outpatient detoxification of patients with mild-to-moderate alcohol withdrawal syndrome. New England Journal of Medicine, 320(6), 358–365.

Nadkarni, A., Endsley, P., Bhatia, U., Fuhr, D. C., Noorani, A., Naik, A., Murthy, P., & Velleman, R. (2016). Community detoxification for alcohol dependence: A systematic review. Drug and Alcohol Review, 36(3), 389–399.

Stephens, J.R., Liles, E.A., Dancel, R. et al. Who Needs Inpatient Detox? Development and Implementation of a Hospitalist Protocol for the Evaluation of Patients for Alcohol Detoxification. J GEN INTERN MED 29, 587–593 (2014).

Nall, R. (2022, July 6). How long does it take to detox from alcohol? timeline and more. Healthline. Retrieved December 22, 2022, from

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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.

Picture of 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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